Tignon Head Wrap Laws In Louisiana
I’ve decided to dig into the history of head wraps beginning with the tignon head wrap laws in Louisiana. The state in which I was born and raised. Occasionally I would see black women wear their hair with beautiful turban headwrap styles. The colorful headwraps will either adorn their facial features or complement their wardrobe. Also, there are common reasons why we cover our head whether it’s bad hair days or to protect our hair from the elements. There is a long history behind head wrapping in America. Therefore, I found some great articles on head wraps, turbans, and tignons in Louisiana.
Tignon Head Wrap Laws
This headdress was the result of sumptuary laws passed in 1786 under the administration of Governor Esteban Rodriguez Mir?. Called the tignon laws, they prescribed and enforced appropriate public dress for female gens de couleur in colonial society. At this time in Louisiana history, women of African descent vied with white women in beauty, dress, and manners. One of their most standout physical attributes that separated them from their white female counterparts was their hair. Women of African descent would often adorn their hair with colorful jewelry, beads, and other accents, demonstrating an exotic appearance which attracted the attention of white male suitors. Many of them had become openly kept mistresses of white, French, and Spanish Creole men. This perceived threat to white women’s relationships with French and Spanish Creole men incurred the jealousy and anger of their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and fianc?es.With the looming threat to the social status of white women growing. The attention garnered as a result of the jewelry adorned hairstyles from women of African descent, an action was required. To correct this, Governor Mir? decreed that women of African descent, slave or free, should cover their hair and heads with a knotted headdress and refrain from “excessive attention to dress” to maintain class distinctions.Historian Virginia M. Gould notes that Mir? hoped the law would control women ?who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who, in reality, competed too freely with white women for status and thus threatened the social order.? (Source)
The Tignon Law Was No Law At All
Contrary to popular belief though, this ?tignon law? was no law at all. In the late 1780s, Spanish governor Esteban Mir?
created the Edict of Good Government. An edict outlining the guidelines for creating a successful colony.
Mir? felt that women?s dress had become so elaborate and women of color had gained so much attention that he felt he needed to find a way to distinguish women of color and attempt to downplay their beauty to prevent free white men from pursuing these women. Due to the increase in relations between slave women and white men, it became difficult to distinguish between women of color and white, European women. Miro?s edict stated.? (Source)
In Other Words
The tignon of Louisiana’s past was meant to humiliate and differentiate black women from white women. Instead, it did just the opposite by enhancing African American women beauty.