Outside of the Middle East and North Africa, the keffiyeh first gained popularity among activists supporting the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel. The wearing of the keffiyeh often comes with criticism from various political factions in the ongoing Israeli—Palestinian conflict.
This term may have first appeared in print in an article by Bradley Burston in which he writes of "the suburban-exile kaffiyeh kinderlach of Berkeley , more Palestinian by far than the Palestinians" in their criticism of Israel.
European activists have also worn the keffiyeh. While Western protesters wear differing styles and shades of keffiyeh, the most prominent is the black-and-white keffiyeh. This is typically worn around the neck like a neckerchief , simply knotted in the front with the fabric allowed to drape over the back. Other popular styles include rectangular-shaped scarves with the basic black-and-white pattern in the body, with the ends knitted in the form of the Palestinian flag. Since the Al-Aqsa Intifada , these rectangular scarves have increasingly appeared with a combination of the Palestinian flag and Al-Aqsa Mosque printed on the ends of the fabric.
Today, this symbol of Palestinian identity is now largely imported from China. With the scarf's growing popularity in the s, Chinese manufacturers entered the market, driving Palestinians out of the business. Mother Jones wrote, "Ironically, global support for Palestinian-statehood-as-fashion-accessory has put yet another nail in the coffin of the Occupied Territories ' beleaguered economy. Lawrence better known as Lawrence of Arabia was probably the best-known Western wearer of the keffiyeh.
This image of Lawrence was later popularized by the film epic about him, Lawrence of Arabia , in which he was played by Peter O'Toole. The s silent-film era of American cinema saw studios take to Orientalist themes of the exotic Middle East, possibly due to the view of Arabs as part of the allies of World War I , and keffiyehs became a standard part of the theatrical wardrobe.
These films and their male leads typically had Western actors in the role of an Arab, often wearing the keffiyeh with the agal as with The Sheik and The Son of the Sheik , starring actor Rudolph Valentino.
Erwin Rommel also commonly wore a keffiyeh around his neck during the Western Desert Campaign for practical reasons. Their use by some units and formations of the military and police forces of the former British Empire and subsequent Commonwealth dates back to before World War II. After the war, their use by the Army continued with the shemagh being worn in both desert and temperate environments in theatres such as Dhofar. Australian Army forces have also used the shemagh since the Vietnam War , and extensively during Iraq and Afghanistan , particularly by Australian Special Forces units.
Since the beginning of the War on Terror , these keffiyeh, usually cotton and in military olive drab or khaki with black stitching, have been adopted by US troops as well, a reversal of previous policy which saw them strictly forbidden during the Gulf War. Their practicality in arid environments, such as Iraq , explains their enduring popularity with military personnel. Soldiers often wear the keffiyeh folded in half into a triangle and wrapped around the face, with the halfway point being placed over the mouth and nose, sometimes coupled with goggles, to keep sand out of the face.
This practice is also common among armoured, mechanised and other vehicle-borne troops, who use it as a scarf in temperate climates to ward off wind chill caused by being in moving vehicles. British soldiers deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan are now issued with a tan-colored shemagh. As with other articles of clothing worn in wartime, such as the T-shirt , fatigues and khaki pants, the keffiyeh has been seen as chic among non-Arabs in the West.
Keffiyehs became popular in the United States in the late s, at the start of the First Intifada , when bohemian girls and punks wore keffiyehs as scarves around their necks. After some controversy over the retailer's decision to label the item "anti-war scarves," however, Urban Outfitters pulled it. In UAE, males are inclining towards more western headgear while the women are developing preferences for dupatta —the traditional head cover of the Indian subcontinent. While it is worn often as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, the fashion industry has disregarded its significance by using its pattern and style in day-to-day clothing design.
For example, in Topshop released a romper with the Keffiyeh print, calling it a "scarf playsuit". This led to accusations of cultural appropriation and Topshop eventually pulled the item from their website . Jordanian Bedouin forces officer wearing shemagh in Petra From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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My brother-in-law happened to be wearing a Keffiyeh. This man also happens to be an ex-army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I commented that that was an interesting choice of symbols to wear he was surprised. He said that he bought it because he saw people wearing scarves like this in Germany and he just thought it "looked cool.
I wear a keffiyeh black and white with sharp waves as a scarf here in the United States. I purchased the keffiyeh while stationed in Iraq. I had dealings with many of the Iraqis and often asked of its meaning.
I could not find a single Iraqi who could tell me any significant meaning of the keffiyeh beyond that it keeps the sun off your head. I wear mine as a reminder of the war. I completely believe in the war I was an infantryman , and believe that we need to help the children of Iraq. I do not want to forget what my brothers died for, but I also do not want to forget who they died for. They died protecting the children of Iraq. I was walking down a busy street the other day, through an inner city college campus just as classes were dismissed, and I was struck by the quantity of this black and white checker design.
To me, a long-time advocate for Israel, it was obvious that the motif was borrowed from the Palestinian Keffiyeh. In reference to your speculation concerning the reason American troops wear the keffiyeh, I would have to disagree. As a service member who has done quite a bit of desert time, I can tell you that we are wearing them for practical purposes.
Keffiyehs keep the sun off of our necks and prevent sand from getting into our cammie blouses. We can wet them down and pace them inside of our brain-buckets to keep cool as well. It sucks worse when you have sand in your eyes and mouth. I will be headed to Afghanistan soon and I, for one, will be taking my keffiyeh with me. Lots of my guys swear by them.
We love them because they are useful But seeing the design on scarves, purses, and even rain-boots, as if it had become the latest fad to replace or join the ranks of the Burberry plaid, is cause for a question: Is this checkered pattern an entry point to discussion? Or a conveniently colored item to match with the rest of an outfit? US troops wearing keffiyeh get a similar kick that other tourists in the Middle East get from putting kohl on their eyes and dressing up in hijab.
To Americans and Europeans, Arabs have long been exotic, mysterious, and free whether or not our images reflect accurately on their reality. Skip to main content.
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