Maré Tèt: its history and evolution

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The tide tèt is part of the cultural heritage. However, the Tignon law served to mark the opposite. Discover his Le maré tèt , this style that we love to wear today has actually existed for several centuries. The art of tying a scarf in the West Indies actually comes from the Tignon law , in Louisiana. In the past, liberated black women would show off their beauty, but this trend was not accepted by white women. But what did the Tignon law say? How has the tide tèt evolved?

The origin of Maré tèt

It all started in the 1700s in Louisiana, during the colonial period, when Creole women began to wear the ancestor of Maré Tèt .

Free women of color dressed elegantly and adorned their hair with feathers and jewelry. They proudly displayed their femininity because they were finally free.

While most black women started their families with black men, they also attracted the attention of non-black men. Moreover, in 1786, the growing number of free blacks began to alarm the Spanish Colonists.

It was then that a new decree appeared, to recall the modest status of free blacks during this colonial era.

For this, Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró passed a law, requiring black women to hide their natural hair in a scarf called “ tignon ” (also pronounced Tiyon ). Black women were also prohibited from wearing the same jewelry as white women.

In fact, the tignon (or maré tèt in Creole) is simply a twisted fabric scarf, folded and tied around the head to cover the hair. Another piece of fabric, also called “ handkerchief ”, could be added to enhance this large scarf with a fan-shaped pattern. According to historian Barbara Trevigne, a maré tèt requires about 3 meters of fabric. The different ways of wearing this large scarf had a meaning on the identity of the wearer, such as marital status for example.

A simple scarf, once intended to remind the inferiority of black women

The Tignon law , was intended to reduce the influence on the growth of the free black population, but above all to remind them of their lower status. The edict mentioned specific sections including certain unacceptable behaviors of free black women, which drew the attention of white men. Namely, in addition to being slaves, black women were also the mistresses of white men.

At that time, the woman of color paid great attention to her hairstyle, making magnificent headdresses adorned with jewels and feathers. One thing that did not fail to stir up the jealousy of legitimate white women and brides. The latter saw these black women as a threat. And yet, the law served to differentiate women of color from white women and to inferiorize their beauty.

However, the Tignon law did not have the impact that Governor Miro had hoped for. Instead of wearing dull scarves that minimized their beauty, black women came up with the original idea of ​​sprucing up these head coverings. They chose shiny and eye-catching fabrics , adorning them with jewels and feathers at the ends as a form of resistance to the law.

One day, the United States took control of Louisiana. The Tignon law was certainly abandoned, but unfortunately reduced to slavery. Nevertheless, free women of African descent continued to wear them as a sign of resistance. It is a testament to their resilience. The women of New Orleans refused to let a piece of cloth humiliate them, erase their status or diminish their femininity. Instead, black women reinterpreted the hair bun as a symbol of empowerment .

The evolution of headdresses

 mare tet caribbean

Source: pinterest

With the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, these head coverings took a negative turn when advertisements in the United States depicted caricatures of black women donning the hairdo. These ads created the famous “ Black Mammy” stereotype, where black women only existed to serve masters as caretakers and cooks during slavery.

After hair straighteners were invented in the early 20th century, black women began to wear headscarves again. In contrast, women wore a pretty satin-lined fabric to protect their hair from heat and humidity.

Indeed, over time, headgear has taken on new meanings without forgetting their origin. Maré tèt can be worn on all occasions. Some women wear headwraps to protect their hair at night, as cotton pillows tend to absorb moisture and make the scalp dry.

Other women wear the headscarf at a wedding and even at funerals. Some women simply wear it to celebrate their heritage while making a fashion statement.

Maré tèt and headdresses continue to be popular and worn by black women to this day. It's a great example of taking that scarf, which is supposed to make black women inferior, and turning it into a powerful statement seen as a symbol of resistance, pride, and celebration of culture.

Maré Tèt is now part of our daily lives

Today, the maré tèt is worn by more and more women, regardless of color, religion or social class. A real jewel for a woman's hair, while allowing her to express her femininity. Maré tèt is today a true cultural heritage of the history of black Creole women.

It is all the know-how of our ancestors, which many existing West Indian associations want to perpetuate, through parades of traditional outfits and headdresses. All are proudly worn by Caribbean women of all generations. Workshops dedicated to tide tèt are spreading more and more to teach women how to wear headscarves in their hair.

A true symbol of freedom and expression for women, the maré tèt is today much more than a simple fabric to cover the head. Associated with customs, traditions and modernity, no one is insensitive to the art of tying a scarf.

The chignon, which was meant to be simple, understated while reminiscent of the lower status of black women, was made luxurious. Instead, it has become a real fashion accessory thanks to the use of Madras cotton, this magnificent colorful fabric with geometric patterns.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you too would like to be a fan of Maré tèt, discover our turban models by clicking on the link.

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Merci, je n’arrivais pas à trouver de site avec une explication exacte et dans les détails 🙏🏽!

Audrey Malemba

C’est superbement bien décrit
Et ce document m’apprend beaucoup de choses.

Yolande Copeau

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