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History of the Towel - From Turkish Baths to Southern Charm

History of the Towel - From Turkish Baths to Southern Charm


Sweet Tea.

With ice.

And...bless your heart.

These things are southern charm through and through.

It's about extending yourself just a little more than necessary. A door held open for the next person. A nod of appreciation for a job well done. A plate piled high with warm biscuits signaling the start of the day.

Or a stack of fluffy towels placed on the foot of the bed welcoming guests like they're royalty.

The towel is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. We mostly take them for granted (until we forget to bring one to the shower!).

Yet, when you use a really nice one, you just know it. And then all other towels pale in comparison.

The Towel and Turkish Baths

Most historians give Turkey, and specifically its city of Bursa, the credit for creating the first bath towels in the 1600s. The towels, a thin woven piece of linen or cotton then, played an important part in Turkish culture because, well, baths played an important role.

There were bathing rituals for every significant life event. A bride-to-be participated in a ceremonial bath on her wedding day. Babies received their first baths on day 40. There were even bathing rituals for mourning.

And there through it all...the towel.

The Ottomans ruled Turkey during this time and were known as expert carpet weavers. It was their influence that brought about elaborately designed towels and loops rising from the pile. (Ancestors of today's towels!) Of course, these early towels were hand-woven and, thus, not available to ordinary folk due to the cost.

The Towel and the American Household

Fast forward to the 1800s and industrialization where machines revolutionized the textile industry. Cloth goods were made quicker and, therefore, became more accessible to the average consumer.

By the early 1900s in the U.S., cotton towels could be purchased by the yard or as finished products in most general stores and mail-order catalogs. 

Today American households spend almost $55 billion a year on home textile goods (sheets, bedding, and TOWELS). One could say that towels play a significant, albeit a mundane role in our modern lives.

Leighton Towels from Red Land Cotton

At Red Land Cotton, we are working to make our towels the exceptions...far from mundane.

We can't help but add some southern extend ourselves just a little more than necessary.

We use our longest fiber cotton, which makes our Leighton Towels softer, more absorbent and more durable. Since most "100% Cotton" towels are made with short cotton fibers, we wanted to make a higher quality product. As Anna wrote in a previous post, "It's not necessary, but we believe it's worth it."

We also ply our yarn, making our towels 2-ply. Two is really better than one. This step further ensures softness, durability, and absorbency. (Read here for more about how our towels are made.) 

Our towels are the only American made 2-ply towels on the market!

We know we weren't the first to make towels. But, Y'all, we are aiming to be the best.

The Leighton Bath Collection

Leighton Bath Sheet

 Leighton Bath Towel

Leighton Hand Towel

Leighton Washcloth


By: Rachel Eubanks, a girl blessed with a small-town Alabama raising. She grew a deep appreciation for farming as she watched her father, an extension agent, work alongside farmers for over 30 years. She now lives outside of Huntsville, AL and loves writing for farm-to-product companies like RLC.

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