National Towel Day

Young woman wrapped in a colorful towel, sitting on a beach chair, with a book and sunglasses nearby..
National towel day illustration

Are you ready to get wrapped up in excitement? It's time to celebrate National Towel Day! This is not your average day devoted to linens. Oh no, we're talking about the humble towel that has saved us from countless embarrassing encounters with butt-nakedness in public places. So grab your trusty towel and get ready to dive into the fascinating history of this essential item.

When is Towel Day?

It's national towel day on the 25th May.

The Internet Unfurls National Towel Day

On May 25th, towel enthusiasts around the world unite to celebrate National Towel Day. This special day is a nod to the late great Douglas Adams, the beloved author of the sci-fi masterpiece 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' In his book, Adams extolled the virtues of always carrying a towel, for it is the most useful item any intergalactic hitchhiker can have. And so, a global celebration was born, paying tribute to both Adams' literary genius and the practicality of towels.

Getting to the Bottom of Towel Day

Why May 25th, you may ask? Well, it's not only the date when Douglas Adams left this earthly plane in 2001, but it's also a reminder of his incredible imagination. In 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' Adams revealed the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything as... 42! And what do you get when you multiply four by two? That's right, eight, as in May 25th! Coincidence? We think not!

A Towel for Every Occasion

Towels are more than just a way to dry off after a shower or a swim. They're versatile and can be used in countless situations, from beach picnics to impromptu capes. Not to mention the incredibly handy beach towel trick, where you can mark your territory on crowded sands by laying it out in a prime location. Who needs beach chairs anyway? Towels are the ultimate multi-purpose tool.

A Towel-Packed Day for Everyone

National Towel Day isn't just about appreciating towels; it's about embracing the absurdity and humor in life. So take a moment to wrap yourself in laughter and celebrate this unique holiday with your loved ones. Whether it's hosting a towel-folding competition, planning a towel-themed potluck, or even engaging in a friendly towel whipping battle, there are endless ways to commemorate this day.

Towel Trivia: Did You Know?

Your trusty towel is not only a practical item but also a fashion statement. In Japan, there's a trend called 'towelkini' where people fashionably wrap towels around their bodies, creating makeshift beachwear. Who knew a humble towel could become a high-fashion accessory? So next time you're heading to the beach, consider rocking a towelkini and turning heads with your towel-savvy style!

History behind the term 'Towel'

1st century AD

The Roman Origins

The term 'towel' traces its origins back to ancient Rome. During the 1st century AD, Romans used a cloth known as 'mappa' to wipe their hands and faces during meals. These mappae were usually made of fine linen or cotton fabric and were essential for personal hygiene.

15th Century

The Origins of the Towel

The term 'towel' originates from the 15th century and is derived from the Old French word 'toaille' which means 'small cloth'. At that time, towels were primarily used for personal hygiene and were made of linen or cotton. These early towels were usually small in size and used for drying hands and faces after washing.


Invention of the word 'towel'

The term 'towel' originates from the Old English word 'towele,' which referred to a piece of cloth used for wiping or drying. It first appeared in written language in the year 1340.

15th century

The Linten Clout

During the 15th century, a cloth known as the 'Linten Clout' was commonly used by people to dry off and wipe themselves. This early precursor to the towel was usually made from linen and was primarily used by wealthy individuals to clean their hands and faces.

2nd century BC

Early Origins

The term 'towel' has its roots in ancient times, dating back to the 2nd century BC. The word 'towel' is derived from the Old English word 'towelian', which means 'to twist'. During this period, towels were primarily made of twisted fibers and were used for various purposes, including cleaning, wiping, and drying.

3000 BC

The Birth of the Towel

Early civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt begin using woven fabrics made from linen to dry their bodies after bathing. These fabrics were the ancestors of the modern towel.

15th century

The Birth of the Towel

The term 'towel' originated in the 15th century and is derived from the Old English word 'towelian,' meaning 'to wash.' In medieval times, towels were primarily used for personal hygiene, particularly for drying the hands and face after washing. These early towels were made of coarse linen or fabric and were often small in size to conserve material.


The Birth of the Term

The term 'towel' is believed to have originated around the year 1625. The word was derived from the Old English word 'towle,' which referred to a piece of cloth used for drying or wiping. In the early years, towels were primarily made of linen fabric, which was highly absorbent and durable.

19th century

Birth of the Towel

In the 19th century, the term 'towel' first entered the English language. Derived from the Old English word 'towelen,' which referred to a piece of cloth used for drying or wiping, the term quickly gained popularity among English speakers and became a common household item.


Paper Towel Invention

In 1891, the Scott Paper Company revolutionized the world of towels by introducing the paper towel. Developed by Arthur Scott, these disposable towels were originally intended as a more sanitary alternative to cloth towels used in public restrooms. The invention was an instant success and soon found its way into households, changing the way we clean and dry.


The Industrial Revolution and Cotton Towels

During the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought significant advancements in textile manufacturing. Mass production techniques enabled the production of affordable cotton towels. Cotton, being softer and more comfortable than linen, quickly gained popularity as the preferred material for towels. The widespread availability of cotton towels transformed them from a luxury item to an everyday necessity in households.

17th Century

The Rise of Towels as Luxury Items

During the 17th century, towels started to become more widely used and began to be seen as a sign of luxury and status. Wealthy individuals would often have towels made of fine linen or silk embroidered with intricate designs. Towels were not only used for personal hygiene but were also displayed as decorative items in wealthy households.

18th century

The Rise of Terry Towels

In the 18th century, the invention of the mechanized loom revolutionized textile production. This gave rise to the creation of terry cloth, a type of absorbent fabric with loops or pile on both sides. The looped texture of terry cloth made it ideal for towels as it increased their ability to absorb moisture. Terry towels quickly gained popularity and became a standard choice for bath towels and other similar purposes.

15th century

Adoption as necessaries in monasteries

During the 15th century, towels gained popularity and became essential items in monasteries. They were used for personal hygiene, wiping hands, and drying dishes. Towels were made from linen, a material widely available at the time.

12th century

The English Connection

The word 'towel' entered the English language around the 12th century. It derived from the Old English word 'tawel,' which meant a small cloth used for various purposes, including drying hands and cleaning surfaces. Towels during this time were mainly made of coarse material like hemp or linen.

14th century

Emergence of a Specific Meaning

In the 14th century, the term 'towel' began to take on a more specific meaning. It started to refer to a piece of cloth used for wiping the hands or face. Towels during this time were often made of linen, a durable and absorbent fabric that was commonly used for household textiles.

17th century

The Turkish Peshtamal

In the 17th century, the Turkish bath culture became popular in Europe. Along with it, the peshtamal, a traditional Turkish towel, gained recognition. Peshtamals were woven from cotton and had a rectangular shape. They were widely used in Turkish baths for drying, lounging, and covering oneself.

17th Century

The Turkish Touch

Turkish culture introduces a new type of towel known as 'havadan', which are thin and lightweight. They gain popularity throughout the Ottoman Empire as a way to keep cool and fresh in the hot climate.

19th century

The Reinvention of the Towel

During the 19th century, the concept of the towel extended beyond personal hygiene. Towels began serving additional purposes, such as drying dishes and utensils in the kitchen. The increasing industrialization allowed the mass production of towels in different sizes, materials, and patterns, making them more accessible to a wider population. Towels became a household staple, not just for personal use, but also for various domestic tasks.

18th century

Introduction of the terry toweling fabric

In the 18th century, a new fabric called terry toweling was developed. This fabric had loops on both sides, which increased its absorbency. The terry toweling fabric revolutionized the towel industry and became the preferred material for towels.

18th century

The Terry Cloth Innovation

The 18th century marked a significant innovation in towel technology with the introduction of terry cloth. In 1848, a British textile manufacturer named Terry revolutionized towel production by developing a loom capable of weaving loops into the fabric, creating a more absorbent and softer material. This invention led to the mass production of terry cloth towels, making them more accessible to the general public.

19th Century

Industrial Revolution and Towel Production

The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century brought about significant changes in the production of towels. With the advancements in textile manufacturing, towels could be produced on a larger scale, making them more affordable and accessible to the general population. Additionally, the invention of the cotton gin and the introduction of terry cloth fabric revolutionized towel production, leading to the creation of soft and absorbent towels.


Terry Cloth Revolutionizes Towels

In 1925, terry cloth revolutionized the towel industry. Terry cloth is a highly absorbent fabric with loops or pile on both sides, creating a unique texture that enhances its absorbency. This innovation drastically improved the drying efficiency of towels, making them even more practical and functional. The development of terry cloth marked a significant milestone in the evolution of towel technology.

18th century

The Industrial Revolution's Impact

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, textile production became mechanized, leading to an increase in towel production. Towels became more readily available, affordable, and their usage expanded beyond personal hygiene. Larger and more absorbent towels were introduced, making them ideal for bathing and drying.


Terrycloth Towels Arrive

The year 1925 marked another significant advancement in the world of towels with the invention of terrycloth. Created by a British textile manufacturer, terrycloth featured long, looped piles of cotton, which provided superior absorbency and softness. Terrycloth towels quickly gained popularity and became the go-to choice for bath and beach towels.

18th Century

The Regal Trendsetter

The Scottish nobleman, Aeneas Macbeath, brings the towel to public attention by introducing it to his bathhouses. Towels start becoming a common amenity in luxurious bathing establishments across Europe.

17th century

Rise of Bath Towels

During the 17th century, the use of towels expanded to include bath towels. These towels, typically larger in size, were used for drying the body after bathing. The popularity of baths and personal hygiene increased, leading to the emergence of bath-specific towels. Towels made of terrycloth, a looped fabric known for its absorbency, gained traction during this period.

19th century

Industrial Revolution and Mass Production

The 19th century brought significant advancements in textile manufacturing, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Towel production shifted from manual labor to mechanized processes, leading to increased efficiency and lower costs. This facilitated mass production, making towels more affordable and accessible to the general public.


Microfiber Towels Introduced

The late 20th century brought about another towel innovation with the introduction of microfiber towels. Developed by a Japanese company, these towels were made from ultra-fine synthetic fibers, which allowed for exceptional absorbency and quick drying. Microfiber towels became favored for their lightweight and compact nature, finding uses in sports, travel, and general cleaning.


Mass production of towels

With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the mass production of towels became possible. In 1851, the first towel-making machine was invented, leading to increased production and accessibility of towels for the general public.

19th Century

The Industrial Revolution Impact

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the mass production of textiles allows towels to become more affordable and accessible to the general public. Towels become an essential item in every household for personal hygiene.

20th Century

Towels in Pop Culture and Sports

In the 20th century, towels started to gain prominence in popular culture and sports. In movies, towels became iconic symbols of relaxation, often used by characters to wrap around their bodies after a bath or swim. Towels also became an essential part of sports, particularly in activities like swimming and tennis, where athletes would use towels to dry themselves between matches or races.

19th century

The Advent of Terry Cloth

In the 19th century, a significant innovation revolutionized the towel industry - the creation of terry cloth. French weavers in the town of Roubaix developed this looped cotton fabric, which greatly increased a towel's absorbency and softness. Terry cloth became the standard material for towels, leading to higher comfort and functionality in drying off the body.


Paper Towels Enter the Market

The year 1949 witnessed the advent of disposable paper towels, which introduced a new level of convenience and hygiene. These single-use towels made from absorbent paper fibers gained popularity in various industries, including kitchens, bathrooms, and healthcare facilities. Their disposable nature significantly reduced the risk of bacterial contamination and created a more convenient alternative to traditional fabric towels.

20th century

Towels in Pop Culture

Throughout the 20th century, towels gained recognition in popular culture. From the iconic towel-clad movie scenes to humorous towel-related references in literature, towels have become symbols of comfort, relaxation, and even humor. Douglas Adams' science fiction novel 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' humorously describes towels as 'the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.' This depiction added to the cultural significance of towels.

19th century

Travelling Companions

As travel became more common in the 19th century, towels gained a new purpose as essential travel companions. The concept of packing individual towels for personal use during trips spread rapidly. This travel tradition helped to popularize the use of towels further, as they became a symbol of comfort and cleanliness while on the move.


Microfiber Towels Revolutionize Absorbency

Microfiber towels emerged in the 1970s, representing a breakthrough in absorbent technology. These towels are made from synthetic fibers that are much finer than human hair, allowing them to have increased surface area and superior absorbency. Microfiber towels excel at removing dirt, dust, and moisture from surfaces with remarkable efficiency. Their effectiveness in cleaning and quick drying capabilities made them popular for various applications, including automotive, household, and sporting activities.

20th century

Towels in Popular Culture

Throughout the 20th century, towels gained cultural significance. They appeared in literature, such as Douglas Adams' 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' where a towel was described as 'the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.' Towels have also been prominently featured in movies and became iconic elements in beach and spa culture.

20th century

Pop Culture and Towels

The 20th century witnessed the cultural significance of towels being immortalized in literature. British author Douglas Adams introduced the idea of the towel as a vital and multifunctional item in his science fiction book 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' In the book, it is humorously claimed that a towel is the most important object a hitchhiker can possess. This iconic reference transformed towels into a cultural symbol associated with adventure, practicality, and conformity to 'Hitchhiker's' fandom.

21st century

Smart Towels and Towel Technology

With the advent of the 21st century, the term 'towel' has expanded to encompass a wide range of advanced technologies. From smart towels that measure your body's moisture levels to antibacterial and eco-friendly options, the towel industry has continued to evolve. Towels have become not just functional items but also fashion statements, with a variety of colors, patterns, and designs available for every taste and style.

20th century

Towels in Everyday Life

In the 20th century, towels became an integral part of everyday life. They were not only used for personal hygiene but also for various purposes such as cleaning, sports, and decorative purposes. Towels became essential items in households, hotels, and other establishments around the world.


Towel Power in Tennis

Tennis player, Billie Jean King, kickstarts a trend by bringing colorful, logo-adorned towels onto the court during matches. This leads to a marketing boom in sports-related towels and helps solidify the towel's place in pop culture.


Introduction of the modern terry cloth towel

In 1892, John Mehlem introduced the modern terry cloth towel. This towel had the distinctive looped pile on one side, providing superior absorbency and softness. Terry cloth towels quickly gained popularity and became the standard for bath towels.

21st Century

Modern Towels and Innovation

In the 21st century, towels have undergone further innovation and transformation. Modern towels are available in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and designs to suit individual preferences. Microfiber towels, known for their high absorbency and quick drying properties, have become popular choices for travel and sports. Additionally, smart towels with built-in technology to track usage, moisture levels, or even play music have emerged as novel concepts in recent years.

Present Day

Towels as Fashion and Expression

In the present day, towels have transcended their utilitarian role and have become fashion statements and expressions of personal style. Towel designs range from simple solid colors to intricate patterns, reflecting individuality and personal taste. Beach towels, in particular, often feature vibrant designs and oversized dimensions to cater to the leisure and recreational aspects of towel usage. Towels have undeniably become an essential part of our everyday lives and continue to evolve in both functionality and aesthetics.


Innovation and Diversity

Today, towels come in various shapes, sizes, and materials to cater to different preferences and requirements. From traditional bath towels to hand towels, beach towels, and specialized sports towels, there is a wide range of options available in the market. Towels have become an essential part of our daily lives, demonstrating the profound cultural impact of a simple yet versatile tool for cleanliness and comfort.

20th century

Diverse range of towel types and uses

Throughout the 20th century, towels evolved to suit various needs. Beach towels, hand towels, and kitchen towels all became commonplace. Towels also became a medium for artistic expression, with vibrant colors, patterns, and embroidered designs.


Evolution and Innovation

The term 'towel' continues to evolve, encompassing a wide range of styles, materials, and functions. Modern towels come in different sizes, colors, and designs to suit various needs and preferences. Advancements in textile technology have led to the development of ultra-absorbent microfiber towels and quick-drying towels for convenience and efficiency. The role of towels in our daily lives remains vital, serving both practical and aesthetic purposes.

21st century

Innovations and Luxury Towels

In the 21st century, towel technology has evolved to offer even greater absorbency, softness, and antibacterial properties. Luxury towels made from high-quality fibers and Egyptian cotton have gained popularity among those seeking a more indulgent bathing experience. The market now offers a wide range of towel sizes, designs, and materials, catering to diverse preferences and needs.


The Hitchhiker's Guide Connection

'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' a popular science fiction series by Douglas Adams, humorously defines the towel as 'the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.' This references the towel's versatility and importance in various situations.

Present day

Towels in popular culture

Towels have become ingrained in popular culture, thanks to their versatility and everyday use. The iconic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams even humorously emphasizes the importance of a towel. Today, towels continue to be an essential household item and are often associated with comfort and relaxation.

Did you know?

Your trusty towel is not only a practical item but also a fashion statement. In Japan, there's a trend called 'towelkini' where people fashionably wrap towels around their bodies, creating makeshift beachwear. Who knew a humble towel could become a high-fashion accessory?


fun loved ones fashion

First identified

25th May 2015

Most mentioned on

25th May 2016

Total mentions


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