Political Symbolism of wearing a Keffiyah / Shemagh

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Gear' started by enderwiggin, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. enderwiggin


    Nov 18, 2006
    I had a kind of interesting conversation with a friend of mine about the "hip," "urban" trend toward young adults wearing around either the black and white or red and white variety.

    A friend of mine who's over in Jordan doing mercenary work sent me one a few weeks back.

    I tend to think that they'll eventually just be discarded, or added in as a less politically charged item of civilian clothing, much like Khaki pants or Camouflage anything.

    I tended to think of them in association with the US Armed Forces, the Australian Special Forces, and the Bedouin, for some reason, and didn't remember that they were associated with Palestine as well.

    Apparently they have a lot more political meaning for some people than I was aware of. Comments, opinions, info, flames?
  2. Ken C.

    Ken C. Jack of all trades, master of none. Staff Member Super Mod

    Jun 14, 2000
    The Community Forum is not the place for this type of discussion. I'm moving this to Gadgets & Gear with the hopes that it doesn't turn into a politcal topic. If it does then I'll have to move it again.
  3. mwerner


    Apr 23, 2002
    There is an extensive article on the garment, it's history and political significance on WIKI:


    It can be seen as just a practical garment, or a political statement...
  4. Absintheur

    Absintheur Banned by Moderators Banned

    Jan 31, 2008
    Most likely most of the young adults wearing them are doing so simply because it is a fad, most probably can't tell you what it signifies or the history surrounding it...they do to be cool. It has become somewhat popularized in both movies and music videos so in order to be hip and in the kids have to wear what their idols do...it will soon pass and be forgotten.
  5. Ken C.

    Ken C. Jack of all trades, master of none. Staff Member Super Mod

    Jun 14, 2000
    I have used the shemagh while stationed in Saudi during the Guld War. It served a purpose and did it well. When I got out I found a use for it during hunting season and fall/winter hikes. I never wore it as a fashion accessory.
  6. j williams

    j williams

    Nov 14, 2005
    I use one for hiking in sun, and cold. Not as a fasion trend. Work well as dust mask too while cleanin garage or basement
  7. tknife


    Mar 18, 1999
    I have one in my pack and use it to cover my head and neck on the trail. Also makes a great towel and any other thing you'd use a really big bandana for.
  8. mycroftt


    Nov 13, 2002
    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar - it doesn't necessarily have to mean anything.

    I have a small collection of nwentoma (the real deal, hand and foot woven - not the replica stuff) just because its artistry and tactile beauty please me. Similarly with my pysanky display - the artistry pleases me; same with my hex signs. All of these folk art forms have deeper cultural relevance to the artist and people from the culture that produce them, and I appreciate that and this appreciation adds to my enjoyment, but the bottom line is I like them because I like the way they look.

    Maybe some wear the keffiyah just to keep their brains from frying in the heat.
  9. enderwiggin


    Nov 18, 2006
    Sorry, Ken. I just found the thread again to see if it had any replies. It occurred to me today that it might end up being kind of a hot-button issue, and I don't mean to "troll" by posting it.

    I'm just honestly curious, not knowing much about the symbolism myself, and seeing people who probably know much less sporting around a symbolic article of clothing because it's "cool and hip" to do.

    I asked my friend to send me one as a trail accessory, for just the uses that Tknife points out. I chose the black and white pattern because those are the colors I wear most often, on trail and off. Then I started wondering if it was such a great idea.

    I've found enormous utility in a standard handkerchief! I might just see if I can get a Keffiah in darker colors or a single shade, just so I don't feel funny wearing it.
  10. bobofish


    Nov 22, 2006
    The keffiyeh symbolizes at various times, and for various people, either membership in a certain clan of bedouin, or alternately common cause with the PLO and the successor Intifadah groups.

    It's not a cigar; it's either a lot like a Scots Tartan or a Muslim sword; it depends on the context, and can easily be misinterpreted.

    If you don't want problems, just get a blue one. No wait, don't do that if you live in LA. Get a brown one maybe.
  11. mycroftt


    Nov 13, 2002
    Just as a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, with no deeper Freudian implication, sometimes a hat is just a hat. The meaning, if any, is in the intent of the wearer, not the eye of the beholder. Probably most of the people wearing regimental tartans like Black Watch or Mackenzie have absolutely no idea at all of its meaning beyond "I like plaid", except, of course, in Scotland or when tossing the caber. Most probably don't even know the name of the tartan. Burberry is the only exception - everyone who wears it is a member of the Burberry clan. ;)
  12. bobofish


    Nov 22, 2006
    I agree with you, but for a guy who lives in OC with a lot of Jews, it's gonna be a big point of contention every time he laces it up. I'm a Jew and I caught a lot of crap a couple years ago when I cremated my father, just 'cause the Germans cremated Jews in the war.
    For that matter a lot of misguided hippies will go up to him and say "ya man, you hate Israel too? Far out!"

    So better to just lace up a brown one.
  13. Hammer27


    Sep 17, 2006
    I'm not so sure that it's "just a hat." Whenever the vast majority of Americans see a kefiyah on someone's head chances are the wearer also bears an AK and hatred of the "Great Satan" and "Little Satan." If someone is wearing a kefiyah around NY or LA and has no idea what it means...well that's just stupid. However, I think it's become the next Che t-shirt.
    PSC's, and members of the military wearing them are out of neccesity due to enviromental conditions, camoflaging in with locals, etc.
  14. Texas Slim

    Texas Slim

    Feb 12, 2007
    I have a green and black one that I keep in my BOB. It's handy and has many applications, fashion is not one of them as far as I'm concerned.
  15. Moodino


    May 17, 2006
    As in anything, context is everything.
    It's practical and it's also political. When I was a kid, I first saw a Shemagh close up on this guy I shared an elevator ride with. He caught my attention for sure. Not only did he look like Ringo Star in a weird outfit, but he also had this Gold plated Revolver stuck in his belt. That man I later discovered, was Yasser Arafat . Since then, I've always associated the B&W chainlink fence shemagh or any shemagh with him. I'll never wear one of those things in a pattern. It's the head dress of Middle Eastern conflict.
  16. Cougar Allen

    Cougar Allen Buccaneer (ret.) Gold Member

    Oct 9, 1998
    What are the dimensions? You can get oversized bandannas that might be big enough to do the same things with....
  17. joeshredd


    May 8, 2002
    They're about 42" square... I wear either a tan one or the kahki'n'black one... They make a great triangular bandage if ya need one, as well as a few other uses. And out here in Seattle, few people know what they mean, other than the older folk who know who Arafat was... :rolleyes:

    A link to Brigade QM... http://www.actiongear.com/agcatalog/shemagh.html
    Shows ya how to properly tie one on!!!
  18. SIFU1A


    May 12, 2001
    i suppose if i was in a desert environment, i might consider wearing one.

    other than that, i cant imagine wearing one for every day, or for a fashion statement, i mean come on.

    now if ya were from, say, jordan, and wore one, fine, but for some kid to wear one whos from west LA , trying for a fashion statement, imho he would be the butt of jokes lol.
  19. Esav Benyamin

    Esav Benyamin MidniteSuperMod

    Apr 6, 2000
    I don't think they tie them around their heads. I've seen them thrown over their shoulders like a shawl.
  20. enderwiggin


    Nov 18, 2006
    Unfortunately, the hipster culture in LA and OC, while the laughing stock of a lot of jokes, are still pretty prevalent. I've actually seen a more than a few people wearing the black and white pattern around their neck like a giant bandanna, or looped around like a scarf.

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