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Wave Cap vs Durag: Which Should You Wear?

The biggest difference between a wave cap vs durag is whether you’re trying to keep your hair in place or create a new hairstyle entirely. 

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What Is A Wave Cap?

Wave caps live up to their name. They’re skull caps that give you 360 degree wavy hair.

They haven’t been around as long as the durag. Wave caps first came into fashion in the 90s, and they were originally made out of the same material as women’s stockings, so some people call them “stocking caps.” They’re primarily used to style Black, African American hair (as are durags).

In the 2000s, they became a fashion statement among some Black rappers.

Most guys are probably more familiar with durags than wave caps – the biggest functional difference between the two is that a wave cap doesn’t have ties to secure it around your head. Visually, it looks more like a swim cap made out of nylon or polyester with an elastic band. And, unlike a durag, it’s made to not only protect your hair, but style it.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Wave Caps?


• Wave caps don’t just hold your hair in place – they style your hair for you, creating 360 degree waves.

• Wave caps are breathable.

• Wave caps protect your hair from direct sunlight, which keeps your hair and scalp from drying out.

• Rappers like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg made the wave cap fashionable.

• You can wear a wave cap underneath your hat to avoid hat hair.


• Wave caps don’t have a super secure hold on your head. Lots of guys say they have trouble keeping their wave cap on while they’re asleep. You might need to tie a knot in the elastic to secure it.

• Wave caps don’t work well on long hair.

How Do You Wear A Wave Cap?

If you’re wearing a wave cap for the style of it, then put it on and head out the door. To give your hair those spiraling waves, you’ll need to throw in a few extra steps:

  1. Start with clean hair for best results. Shampoo and condition.
  2. Brush your hair outward from the center of your head. (E.g. brush the top of your hair forward, and the sides and the back down.)
  3. If your hair doesn’t curl easily, use a texturizing product. Try something like pomade, gel or sea salt spray. Brush more as needed.
  4.  Once you’re ready to put on the wave cap, handle it gently if it’s made of a thin material so that it doesn’t tear. Make sure the seam runs down the center of your head, and pull it evenly over your hair.
  5. Wear it for several hours to let the waves set. (You can try wearing it overnight, but lots of guys find that it falls off while they’re asleep.)
  6. In between wash days, you can put your wave cap back on to keep your waves intact.

Youtuber 360juice has a great tutorial, if you’d like a demonstration to go with the directions.

What Is A Durag?

Durags a.k.a. Do-rags have been around longer than wave caps, and they’re arguably more well-known. 

From the front, visually, they look somewhat like wave caps. But in the back, durags have a longer piece of cloth that hangs over your neck with ties to secure it at the base of your skull. They’re typically made of satin, silk, or velvet.

While it’s primarily Black and African American guys who use them to protect their hair, Durags are also common in construction and athletics. They keep hair out of your face while you’re sweating, and they protect you from bad hat hair.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Durags?


• Durags protect your current hairstyle. If you have braids, waves, or curls, a durag will keep every strand in place.

• Durags are especially useful for athletes. They secure your hair so that it’s out of your face and won’t get sweaty.

• A durag has ties so that you can fit it to your head. You can wear a durag while you sleep and it’ll stay on all night.

• A durag can improve the texture of your hair by locking in moisture, keeping your scalp hydrated.

• Lots of guys wear durags to protect their hair while they’re growing it out. (Especially if you’re growing out an afro.)


• Durags won’t style your hair for you. They’ll just keep your existing style intact.

• Durags are heavy. Your head might feel hot if you wear a durag in warmer climates.

How Do You Wear A Durag?

  1. Think of the durag like a hood – pull it over your forehead and let the material in the back dangle.
  2. Take the ties and knot them at the base of your skull, behind your head, over the length of extra fabric.
  3. If you have excess hair hanging out, that is a-okay.
  4. Wear the durag as a fashion statement, while you’re asleep, underneath a hat, or however else you please.

Durags are fairly secure, so you don’t need to worry about it slipping off. Some guys complain that the ties leave lines in their forehead, so don’t knot it too tight, and check on your skin to make sure it’s not irritated.

Wave Cap vs Durag: Final Verdict

Remember the difference between a wave cap vs durag when you’re choosing between the two. Do you want to style your hair, or protect your existing style?

You might even decide to use them both in conjunction.

To style your hair in a cool pattern, apply some hair product and wear a wave cap. Then, to protect those waves overnight, put on your durag (unlike the wave cap, it won’t fall off while you’re asleep).

Really, the two can be a power team.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.