My understanding is that the Corinthian people used the phrase "women should have authority over her head." That was implying that a woman should have authority and freedom in her life-- including her hair or other matters. It is possible that women there, as it was a very cosmopolitan city, may have been taking great liberties with hair styles. This was one thing-- but in the local church, as those women were being saved, that apparently became come a distraction and a subtle sign of a rejection of the order of creation where God established the man as having authority in spiritual areas of pastoring and home headship.
It seems to me that the entire concept hinges on this issue.
So Paul wanted to ensure there was some understanding of this and that the problem was corrected, and that public worship was not violated by distrations and that church leadership wasn't jeopardized by an overemphasis on their women's freedoms that were, in some cases, being taken too far. It became symbolic because, at Corinth, there were many, many problems with the church, and most of it swirled around the issue of authority and leadership. So Paul stepped in.
When he addresses it in 1 Cor. 11:1-14ff, he is trying to make sense of the situation. He does so by tactfully using the Corinthians saying, but then turning it in a different direction.
He was tacitly (through v. 10-13) agreeing that women had a type of freedom with their appearance and could do what they wanted with their hair, that, at the same time-- (like he said elsewhere, that we can do all things, but all things are not beneficial), he argued that a woman should, as a sign of respect for the authority of man, restrict those freedoms by not distracting the service or woship or appearing to threaten the concept of male headship, by avoiding the issue through responsibly giving up their right to express every freedom they had with regard to hairstyle (just as he later addressed issues such as excessive jewelry, make up, adn the like). If you think deeply about this, in this way, I think the passage will begin to make more sense.
So Paul is essentially saying that, while yes, women do have freedoms, they should not flaunt them by interruping worship and openly challenging male headship in the church. So, then Paul says: 1 Cor. 10:13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
Here, I believe 1 Corinthians is speaking about hair "as" a covering, and not necessarily as a requirement for a second, additional covering. [LOOK AT V.15B, WHERE IT CLEARLY SEEMS TO STATE THIS.. THAT HAIR IS GIVEN AS A COVERING]. My understanding is that the AV/KJV translates that word "covering" throughout 1 Cor. 11, which helps clear up the confusion from other translations who apparently wanted to keep from it sounding redundant and used other words like "veil." My understanding is that, when it was originaly stated (like in v. 15), and when it was originally put in English, those words were perceived to be 'synonyms' and, thus, rendered as covering. So, in that sense, hair IS a covering for a woman, and it is a sign of glory. The woman would, then, maintain hair as God gives her, rather than to shave it off, which is described as dishonor. I think the sense of the passage is describing covering the HEAD "with hair" and not generally covering the "hair" with "a covering." Only when a woman had done something unusual with her hair, cutting it off, for example, might an external 'covering' come into play (a hat or wig in our culture, or another type of covering in theirs), so as to avoid controversy.
With that said, I think the entire head covering debate is really misunderstood. I believe if the Apostle Paul had wanted additional, secondary coverings to be used on top of hair, then several things would be clear:
1. There would be more time given to the issue in scripture. The fact that so little time was given, shows that it was an issue needing addressed, but that it was a regional or local issue not requiring additional attention in other epistles. Also, apparently no other apostles, nor James, felt like it was worth addressing.
2. If it were something Paul was instituting, it would have likely been written differently. It would have come off as a stand-alone teaching, rather than a brief response to a particular situation using common phrases and situations unique to Corinthian women.
3. If it were for churches then and now, everywhere, Paul would have given clear (not cryptic) instructions about the nature of such coverings. He wouldn't have confused it with 'hair' in v.15, but would have specifically told us (as he did on matters like the Lord's Table, church discipline, and other teachings in his Corinthian letters) things like: the nature of the separate covering; explanations as to when it was to be worn and under what circumstances; Should it be worn when a woman prays, and so on.
The sheer lack of this information indicates to me what the majority of the Christians church has practiced in principle all along. Namely, that external, additional hair-coverings are unnecessary, because hair is what gave women to cover her head and to glorify her beauty while symbolically it serves as some form of indicator of the order of creation.
One Final Thing
Persian (like Muslims, with face coverings too)