The turban is just a convenient handy way to keep the hair neat and clean.
Now interestingly, time was all respectable men wore turbans. My grandfather did not, but his father and grandfather probably did. And to remove a man’s turban forcefully is considered great dishonor.
There are of course Sikhs that cut their hair. We have a special term for them. Where I was growing up it wasn’t a big deal but it can be a big deal.
Please note that in answer to your followup, Sikhs can most certainly be as “native” as anyone here. Even Sikhs born here sometimes take on the trappings of their religion. That doesn’t make them any less American. Also you can convert to Sikhism, so non Indians could also be wearing the turban.
Some Arab and North African cultures also wear turbans, but of a different type to Sikh dastar. There are also other Indian ethnic and religious groups that wear them, like the pheta, worn in Maharastra (at least historically and on special occasions.)
The above responses seem to ignore the turbans commonly work by Muslims, especially prominent Muslims. Is the Muslim head covering (or some of them anyway) also properly called a “turban”? Or is a proper turban distinctly not that?
As far as male Muslims keeping their heads covered, I’ve always assumed the tradition has descended from the Jewish tradition of keeping the head covered. Is this correct?
I was referring to them when I mentioned “some Arab cultures,” though I don’t think a keffiyeh or guthra strictly meets the definition of a turban. As far as I know, turbans are not generally worn by Muslims outside N. Africa, the Arab states and South Asia.
I assume you mean primarily Sikhs and other cultures originally outside of the US. Otherwise, there are women who wear turbans as a fashion accessory. I don’t know if it’s that common now but it used to be.
Turbans are worn by many cultures ( including historically a few eccentric westerners ) and there is no rhyme or reason to it across them. Sikhs for example were mentioned above as a faith where wearing a turban is a religious requirements. In some Muslim cultures certain turban colors had social meaning - for example sayyids ( claimed descendants of Muhammad, of which there are approximately eleventy billion ) in the old Ottoman state wore green turbans, in modern Twelver Shi’a societies they wear black turbans. In other places ( including other Muslim societies ), such colors mean nothing other than sartorial choice.
There are no universal rules or meanings. You have to drill down everywhere you go where people wear them to find different ones.
While I was a student at Defense Language Institute, there was a US Army Staff Sergeant studying there also. He was a caucasian convert to Sikhism and wore the turban, beard, and the other Ks, even when in uniform. This was in the mid-1980s.
Some ethnic groups in the Sahara and the Sahel will wear turbans and turban-like garments, some of which denote status or rank.
A head covering is practical in that climate, and a head wrap is more practical than a simple hat-- it can cover the mouth to protect from dust or shield the eyes if warrented. Veils serve the same purpose for women. High-quality cloth can also be quite expensive, and a turban is a handy way to show off extravagant quantities of it.
The portrayal of Caliphs and one of the wise men, etc. seem to show them with very Sikh-style bulbous turbans.
The ayatollahs or some other clerics seem to wear a more Muslim-looking turban - it looks like the headpiece for an Easter Island statue rather than the traditional/Sikh dome or inverted onion look. The style of wrap too is different - the Sikh-looking turban tends to be interleaved at the front, wrapped alternatingly deeper on one side of the head then the other; the Muslim look seems to be just one continuous circular wrap.
You see a more rough version of the circular wrap in pictures of Taliban and other country people - is this a more an indicator of “country roots”? Is an imam wearing that big flat wrap turban sort of like city slicker dudes wearing cowboy hats to look like they belong out in the countryside?