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Because I Am Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

By Amalah

Don’t forget, we’re spreading out the questiony goodness this week, so each question will be its very! own! entry! Yesterday’s question can be found here, while tomorrow’s question only exists IN THE FUTURE, like, whoa, man. WHOA.
Dear Amalah,
First of all, the baby of yours is divine.
Second, I have a problem. Either my head is too oddly shaped, or my hair will not hold a head scarf. Am I not intended to wear a beautiful head accessory? I have all these beautiful silk scarves, and not ONE of them will stay on my head for more than five minutes (you know, unless it’s tied SO tight that I look as though I have no hair what-so-ever, and really that’s not a good look for me). Even WITH hair pins the dammed scarves won’t stay on. My hair is straight, thick, and slick. I don’t generally wear any product in my hair, as it just ends up in a pony tail. However, I am really, really, really wanting to wear a scarf. It will allow me to show off my mane, and also keep it the heck out of my face ( i.e. the ponytail). Plus, I look really cute with a head scarf on. Even if it is just for five minutes. Do I need to add some texture to my hair before I tie it up? So I guess my question is this; How do you properly tie a headscarf and am I missing a key point in head preparation before putting it on? In any style. Headband stylie? Bandana-like? African queen? And so on.
Scarf Lover

Going on my own limited scarf experience, I don’t have any magic tips for keeping scarves on your head. Mostly because I am completely unable to keep scarves on my head.
The last time I really tried was a few years ago when those little crocheted kerchief things came back into style. I bought a couple and oh man, they were adorable. For the whole five minutes I was able to keep them on before they slid right off my straight and apparently uber-slippery hair. Sigh.
And you know, I still kept them. I still have them. Along with an absolutely gorgeous silk scarf from Coach that someone gave me as a gift. It’s meant to be word headband- or gypsy-style and knotted at the back of your head. And I have never worn it outside the house ONCE because it just doesn’t stay on, period.
I did some Googling and pretty much came up empty, although I admit I gave up early after slogging through so many religious-garb-type sites to find one seemingly regular headscarf fashion site, only to realize it was actually some kind of…um…erotic scarf-tying light bondage site and people, I CAN ONLY BEAR SO MUCH.
So then I asked Amy, of the AlphaFoxyMama Squad, who was the only volunteer who mentioned anything about hat-and-scarf knowledge, furthering my suspicion that headscarf-tying is quickly becoming a lost art. Or something only the curly-haired girls seem to be able to do. Or maybe evolution has changed the shape of the human head since the days of Grace Kelly and we’re all a bunch of weirdo-skulled mutants.
Anyway, here’s what Amy had to say:
I’ve never really encountered this problem, as I tend to only wear scarves on my head when I’m doing housework or riding on the motorcycle (to help prevent helmet hair). Hope this helps.
I generally tie my scarfs on extremely tight, as they will loosen up during the day. Usually I do find myself readjusting the scarf fairly often during the day, so I think this is just part and parcel of wearing a scarf on your head as opposed to wearing it around your neck.
Another problem may be the material. A really slippery scarf will not stay on your head (Like a silk scarf from Coach? Wah! — Amalah). I usually grab a more crepe-like material (if that’s the right term)–something with more a little more grab. Wearing a scarf over slightly dirty hair may help as well.

Readers? Commenters? Are we missing something? Some special kind of styling product or hairpin? Staples? Paste?

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • cary

    October 12, 2006 at 10:45 am

    Craziness I say. Last week while I was fighting the head scarf battle, I was pondering on tossing this same question your way.
    I have curly hair which doesn’t do any better with scarf traction. The only solution I could even think of (which I haevn’t tried yet) is to attatch the scarf to a small plastic headband. That may be an experiment I need to try this weekend, unless someone else has a better idea.

  • labellenina

    October 12, 2006 at 11:00 am

    I wrap my scarves around a headband and it works great. It also keeps the headbands from pinching behind your ears. I,too,have thick,long hair and I always thought that perhaps my head was just too flat in the back (!) to wear scarves. Just wrap it around and doubleknot in the back. Mine stays all day. A friend of mine pins her hair back first and then ties on the scarf, but my hair is way too thick and heavy for that, and your’s probably is too.

  • mom2werogers

    October 12, 2006 at 11:27 am

    I have a lot of fine straight – really slick hair as well. The trick that’s worked for me, is to use three steps:
    1 – put your hair in a low ponytail while putting the scarf on.
    2 – tie the scarf so tight that you may see stars.
    3 – keep the scarf more close to your forehead than you think. It’ll work it’s way back to the right place in no time. Right before it falls out.
    I agree that having to re-adjust the scarf during the day does seem part and parcel.
    Happy scarfing!

  • April

    October 12, 2006 at 11:38 am

    OK, this is the weirdest thing ever and I haven’t tried it, but do you think maybe if you cut a tiny strip of that foamy crap that keeps rugs in place on a hardwood floor and then put it between the hair and the scarf – that might work? I have no idea! But I just kept thinking of rug on hardwood when I read this!

  • leahkay

    October 12, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    I hate to say it, but I think it’s time for you, like me, to accept that we just have funny-shaped heads. My hair is also straight and slick (but also thin); I can’t even get frickin’ bobbypins to stay in my hair. So. I’ve accepted that the back of my head is just too “shallow” for head scarves and they’re just one of those things that aren’t for me (see also: skinny jeans).

  • Heather

    October 12, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    What about giving up on the scarf thing altogether, and instead trying one of those headbands that looks like a scarf (i.e., a hard, u-shaped headband that’s loosely covered in fabric). Here’s an example (although not a very good one because it’s: a) super-wide; and b) super-expensive . . . but you’ll get the idea):
    That way, you can still get the look of a scarf, but without having to deal with the whole slippage issue.
    (Sorry, Amy….I know this does nothing to help your Coach scarf problem.)

  • andrea0418

    October 12, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    Three Chickadees has great “ribbon” headbands…looks like fabric, but really a headband:

  • jomama

    October 12, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    I don’t have slick hair at all, but I have the same problem. I find the best way to keep the scarf from sliding off is to part your hair and brush it down. If you’ve already tried that, then you may want to buy scarves made of more textured material. I just bought some faux suede scarves from Target and they work great. Hope this helps.

  • Vicki

    October 12, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    I also have very straight, usually slippery hair, but I’ve found a few things that work for wearing headscarves.
    First, I only tie them on when my hair is wet. I don’t use product because in addition to making my hair more slippery, it can damage a lot of the delicate fabrics that scarves are made of (I am sensitive to this, as I paint my own silk). If the scarf can take it, it helps to spritz it with some water so that it can be tied tighter – it will dry into place, along with your hair.
    If the above doesn’t work (though it usually does), two strategically-placed bobby pins behind the ears will usually keep scarves from slipping past the point of no return.
    Lastly, if all else fails, there are plenty of other ways to incorporate your lovely scarves into your outfits (heheh):

  • NinasMom

    October 13, 2006 at 9:57 am

    This is a neat trick that works especially well for silk or smooth scarves. Pull your hair into the style you want, spray a little bit of hairspray where the scarf will be sitting (spray gel works pretty well to) and then put the scarf in place. Make sure you do this before the hairspray dries. You don’t need alot, just enough to cling to.

  • Sahar

    October 15, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    Here are Haya Desings Ideas of wearing silk scarves:

  • Anne Glamore

    October 16, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    As I was walking down the street in NYC this weekend, NOT purchasing a fake purse, I noticed that they are selling headbands covered with a variety of cute fabrics. The fabric is a lot longer than the headband so you can tie the ends like a scarf any way you want. Genius, and $5.

  • PaintingChef

    October 17, 2006 at 9:18 am

    This may be what the last commenter is talking about but I, too, adore the headscarf as I recently went in for a hair revamping and ended up in the chair of someone who thought “longish layers around my face” meant BANGS!! and have had to adopt many new methods of holding back the BANGS!!
    This is one of my favorites…
    Its kind of a perfect combination of the headband and scarf in that it really does stay put like a headband but give the appearance of a scarf.
    Also? SERIOUSLY affordable…

  • Kelly

    October 18, 2006 at 9:25 am

    I second the “tie it when your hair is wet” comment, and I, too, have slipppery, fine hair. Only my hair is also somewhat wavy and tends to stay in the position that it dries in. So when it dries in scarf position, it tends to hold the scarf in, though a little looser. Maybe you could try that? Also, humid, non-windy days are good days for scarves and very light, textured, gauzy scarves made from natural fabrics are best for wearing in your hair. Depending on how willing you are to get gook on your scarf, try experimenting with some product such as a curl enhancer.
    Another trick is to wear a headscarf and a ponytail together. Put your hair in a low ponytail, wrap the scarf around your head and tie the scarf over the ponytail holder. If you go this route, don’t tie the scarf TOO tight as this will encourage sliding.

  • b

    October 18, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    The headband/scarf is the way to go–or else it is all about the material. Because unfortunatley unless you have thick, wavy to curly, quasi dirty hair (like my coveted sister in law) anything of silk resemblance will not stay!

  • mary ann

    October 19, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    This works for long hair:
    Take the hair that you want the scarf to hold back. Run it behind your ears, under the rest of your hair and secure it in the middle of the back with a rubberband or barrette. Like you’re using your own hair as a headband.
    Get all of the rest of your hair out of the way and then tie on the scarf. Put the ends through the barette or rubberband if it’s a fabric that can take that.
    Then secure the scarf to the hair it’s supposed to be holding back that you’ve ensured is not inclined move. Make sure the snappy barrettes or bobby pins are opening toward your face and are behind your ears.
    If it’s a folded scarf, you can hide a bobby pin or two between the folds all the way around. I don’t normally do that unless it’s a really slippery material.
    Then put the rest of your hair down, hiding all the implements and making it look like that darling scarf is actually doing something.
    For shorter hair it really helps if you can bring yourself to tease it just a little bit at the crown. Like a speedbump. And pin your hair back so the scarf doesn’t have to do any work. And secure it along its route with whatever pins you can sneak into the folds.

  • Lynn

    March 2, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    If you are trying to keep a scarf around a ponytail, I have found this trick to work fairly well. I have long, straight hair that is fairly thick.
    For whatever band you are using to secure the hair in a ponytail—take the scarf and tie it to the band. Then put the band with scarf tied to it around the ponytail.
    Then you can twist and tie off the scarf and unless the “band” comes out of your hair, the scarf will stay attached.