In praise of the bandana

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Monday, March 4, 2019

At lunchtime I read a wonderful essay in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal (yes, I’m days behind in my reading) called “In Praise of the Ever-Practical Handkerchief,” by Rutgers law professor Stuart Green.

I can relate to this for two reasons: First, my late father was a handkerchief guy. I never knew a day when he didn’t carry a carefully folded white hanky in his pocket, except for days when he was mowing the lawn, working in the garden, or clearing our fence row. Second, for probably better than 20 years now, I’ve had my own adaptation of this: I carry a red bandana with me everywhere I go.

I started doing this partly out of my admiration for railroaders, partly due to dad’s ever present hankies, and partly because my late mother kept a bandana on her person quite often. Why she did that, I do not know. But I still have and cherish the one she gave me.

Like essay writer Green and his handkerchiefs, I see bandanas as multi-use tools: Seat cover, instant hat, tourniquet, nose wipe, wet stadium seat drying towel. You name it. I once started a list of practical uses for a bandana. If you can imagine it, you can do it with a bandana.

I generally stick to red bandanas. They’re traditional, but the dresser drawer where I keep my stock has included solitary examples of safety orange and Carolina blue. The one pictured above was with me today; it bears the imprint of being stuffed into my left pants pocket next to my cell phone.

Almost 25 years ago, I was in a store in artsy New Hope, Pa. After paying respects to New Hope & Ivy land’s former Cliffside 2-8-0 No. 40, I stumbled into the business and locked my gaze on a silk necktie in bandana print. I’d never seen one before or since. You know where that one resides today.   




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