We all take a towel for granted. Right? A towel is a tool. One of the first textile tools invented. It is almost certain that the original towel was hand loomed from linen.
The towel was used for drying after bathing long before soap was invented. Then approximately 600 years ago, the Turks began to weave the first towel that is still recognizable today, the pestamel. There are still some small factories hand weaving these flat woven cotton towels, used primarily in the Hammans. These pestamels have become popular recently outside Turkey.
As the Ottoman Empire grew, so did the use of the towel. Weavers were asked to embroider more elaborate designs, aided by their knowledge of carpet-weaving. By the 18th century, towels began to feature loops sticking up from the pile of the material.
So the looped cotton Terry towel that we know today was original invented as a decoration. Having said that, it was invented in Turkey and Turkey still makes the best looped terry available.