Bye Bye, Hair! Hello, Turban Chic

A mockery is being made of all the time and money that women spend on their hair. If you want to keep up with the fashion elite, ladies, hide those locks and hide them well. May we suggest throwing on a head wrap that looks like your after-shower towel, only a little prettier?

This spring, high-end designers like Prada, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren, as well as chain stores like H&M, are offering turbans for women.

Oh, and by the way, start saving. The fancy ones cost $700.

The full-on headscarves, which have been worn in various forms by Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Mendes and, oddly, Prince at the Super Bowl, are made with lusciously glam fabrics like silk and satin with rich, shimmery colors. Some are even festooned with a broach or other bauble for a little extra oomph.

Photo Essay: Turban Chic

"It's one of those 'Has fashion gone completely mad?' moments," said Marie Claire magazine style director Cleo Glyde, a former model who predicts turbans won't take off among the general public.

J-Lo gave "turban chic" a whirl last summer at the MTV Video Music Awards, gliding along the red carpet in a silver dress with a glittery head cover to match. Not one strand of her hair managed to escape.

Though feminine turbans are a throwback to rich-and-famous fashion of half a century ago, Lopez's rendition didn't exactly wow today's critics, who ferociously mocked her fancy bathing cap.

"If J-Lo didn't look sexy in it, you're not going to, either," Glyde said. "It's not for the mainstream. It's the jump off the fashion cliff."

Other fashion insiders predict that even women in New York and L.A. won't brave the world of turbans — never mind those who live everywhere else.

"If it's not going to translate here, it's definitely not going to translate to Middle America," said Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour magazine's executive fashion editor at large.

Click here to read Suze Yalof Schwartz's Glamour blog.

While the high-end turban (Prada's costs $695) has been made affordable for ordinary women at stores like H&M, so far, the general public doesn't seem too enthused about going out with fabric piled high atop their heads.

"I'm skeptical," said Shawna Kurlychek, 27, of Philadelphia. "I like the long headscarves but not the ones that look like turbans."

Men, for their part, are mixed on whether they'd go gaga over a gal in a turban. Kurlychek's husband said he might find it attractive.

"It could look pretty on some women" said Justin Kurlychek, 33.

Other guys say they'd shy away from hair-hiding fashionistas.

"It wouldn't be my cup of tea," said John Schultz, 37, of New Jersey. "I like women with hair."

Some speculate that turbans are popping up on women because of India's increasing influence on Western pop culture and a growing post-Sept. 11 interest in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East. Still, it's a dramatic trend that's only for the gutsy.

"The turban is a bit severe-looking. You have to have chutzpah to do it," said Elycia Rubin, the former style director for E! Networks. She predicts that turbans' best shot at popularity with the average Jo is on the beach or at the pool.

But Westerners have worn hair covers in the past simply because it was a style among the glitterati.

Flappers routinely donned turban-like headpieces with their swingy fringe dresses. Bathing beauties, pinup girls and actresses from the 1940s, '50s and '60s like Joan Crawford and Ava Gardner also threw their hair up in haute wraps and caps.

More recently, the style has been adopted by hippie chicks on the one hand and women embracing their African roots on the other (think India.Arie and Erykah Badu), who pull off the look with finesse, said Yalof Schwartz.

"You can only get away with it if you're hippie chic or ethnic," she said. "India.Arie can wear it and look fabulous, but I don't think it's going to be on the red carpet. I don't suggest celebrities show up to the Oscars with this."

Others, she warns, need to be careful not to offend people for whom turbans have religious or cultural significance.

Glyde plans to try the turban out at the office one day, probably with a sleek black suit — and a whole lot of confidence.

"You have to own it," she advised, for those thinking of doing the same. "If people smell fear, you'll be laughed off the street."

Aside from fashion and religion, there is another compelling reason to favor extreme head-covering before venturing out in public.

"I would recommend trying it on your bad hair day," Rubin said.