The question has plagued my mind ever since I started watching and reading Demon Slayer: why does Tengen Uzui wear a white headwrap?
Throughout the time I’ve been reading through the manga and since finishing season 1 and watching the movie, I’ve been thinking about if there’s a reason why he wears his white headwrap.
*PLEASE BE AWARE THERE’S MANGA SPOILERS AHEAD*
The thoughts had crossed my mind that Tengen is canonically a very handsome character. Perhaps the author wanted him to wear a headwrap to suit his flashiness? But this didn’t seem like the right answer since when he wears his hair down in the series, he received more attention. He receives so many compliments about his appearance when he is dressed in civilian clothes. I thought that maybe then it helps to conceal attention from himself but as a trained shinobi, I think he could conceal himself well with or without one so this doesn’t make much sense to me.
I then thought that maybe just wants his hair out of his way then while fighting? Yet during fights the warp is shown to be not that durable and his hair falls out of it, and he already keeps his ponytail out of it anyway. And after his retirement he wears his hair down so his hair seems to not bother him. I had been thinking that maybe the ponytail didn’t bother him but the headwrap helped him to keep hair out of his face but this also didn’t make sense, since his post-retirement hairstyle has his hair not tied back/up at all and in his corps outfit he wears a large headband with gemstones arranged in a line framing his face – so it must not bother him.
And it is not a mandate for demon slayers to wear one. It is also most likely not a part of his clan’s beliefs, since he doesn’t wear it after he retires so it’s most likely not a sign of marital status or something of the like.
This really just made me wonder if what the purpose of his headwrap is.
I then looked to his character facts sheet and found nothing about his headwrap’s purpose. I did find however that in his preliminary design Tengen wore bandages that covered a lot of his face. It’s hard to tell if the bandages are also his headwrap or separate, but I thought that his initial design could support the idea that he wears them to conceal his identity since that is a typical outfit trait of a shinobi.
But while doing some research I found out that shinobi didn’t necessarily wear headwraps. Although the popular image of a shinobi is someone wearing all black with little to no features visible this idea has been proposed to be something that was rooted in artistic convention rather than evidence. There is little evidence for such attire of shinobis, and it was more common for them to be disguised as civilians (or even merchants or workers). It’s been suggested the black they’re typically seen wearing is to artistically convey their ‘invisibility’ – an idea borrowed from the puppet handlers of burraku theatre, who dressed in total black to try to simulate props moving on their own. It’s most likely that what shinobi used were attire similar to a samurai but with loose garments tucked into their trousers that were secured with belts.
Shinobi are also thought to have worn a tenugui. A tenugui is a piece of cloth with many functions shinbo could make use of such as: covering one’s face, forming a belt or assisting in climbing. These cloths are a thin hand towel made from cotton. They are usually 35 x 90cm in size, plain woven and usually dyed with a pattern on them. They are used in a variety of ways by people such as a washcloth, worn as a headband, placed as decoration, and used to wrap bottles. Tenugui are also used in kendo as a head covering to function as a sweatband and to provide extra padding beneath headgear. (If you’re interested in reading more about tenugui I’d suggest checking out this website: https://www.tofugu.com/japan/tenugui/).
So perhaps Tengen’s headwrap is actually a tenugui that can be used in varied ways if needed for slaying demons, help give him some extra protection and minimise sweat!
Additionally, headwraps are usually worn for a variety of purposes such as protection of the head and/or hair from rain, dirt, wind, cold, warm weathers and more. Wearing one therefore could be helpful to Tengen since the demon slayers seem to travel a lot and they do very physical work. So he could just taking precautions to project things like his scalp and hair.
In conclusion, I do think the reason Tengen wears a white headwrap during his time in the Demon Slayer Corps is because it’s most likely a character design choice made by the author. But theoretically, it could be a tenugui which would help help cover his face, form a belt, assist him to climb, and other activities that are useful for shinbo. It would also help give added protection to his head and/or hair from elements while on missions and even help minimise sweat while demon slaying.