Keffiyeh

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Iraqi man in 2003 wearing a keffiyeh
Saudi Arabian bedouin man wearing a shemagh

The shemagh (شُمَاغ šumāġ) also known as a ghutrah (غُترَة), , ḥaṭṭah (حَطَّة), mashadah (مَشَدَة), chafiye (Persian: چفیه‎), dastmal yazdi (Persian: دستمال یزدی‎) or cemedanî (Kurdish: جه مه داني‎), is a traditional Middle Eastern headdress fashioned from a square scarf, usually made of cotton. [1] It is commonly found in arid regions as it provides protection from sunburn, dust and sand. Toward the end of the 1980s, the shemagh became a fashion accessory in the United States and, during the 2000s, it became very popular among teenagers in Tokyo, Japan, where it is often worn with camouflage-style clothing.[2]

Varieties and variations[edit]

During his sojourn with the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, Gavin Young noted that the local sayyids – "venerated men accepted ... as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad and Ali ibn Abi Talib" – wore dark green keffiyeh (cheffiyeh) in contrast to the black-and-white checkered examples typical of the area's inhabitants.[3]

Many Palestinian keffiyehs are a mix of cotton and wool, which facilitates quick drying and, when desired, keeping the wearer's head warm. The keffiyeh is usually folded in half (into a triangle) and the fold worn across the forehead. Often, the keffiyeh is held in place by a circlet of rope called an agal (Arabic: عقال‎, ʿiqāl). Some wearers wrap the keffiyeh into a turban, while others wear it loosely draped around the back and shoulders. A taqiyah is sometimes worn underneath the keffiyeh; in the past, it has also been wrapped around the rim of a fez. The keffiyeh is almost always of white cotton cloth, but many have a checkered pattern in red or black stitched into them. The plain white keffiyeh is most popular in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf – in Kuwait and Bahrain, to the exclusion of almost any other style. The keffiyeh is worn by men of all ages, whether on the head or around the shoulders.

In Jordan, the red-and-white keffiyeh is strongly associated with the country and its heritage, where it is known as the shemagh mhadab. The Jordanian keffiyeh has decorative cotton or wool tassels on the sides; the bigger these tassels, the greater the garment's supposed value and the status of the person wearing it. It has long been worn by Bedouins and villagers and used as a symbol of honor and/or tribal identification. The tasseled red-and-white Jordanian shemagh is much thicker than the untasseled red-and-white shemagh seen in Persian Gulf countries.

In Yemen, the keffiyeh is used extensively in both red-white and black-white pattern and in some traditional Yemeni designs and colours. Before the 1950s, multi-colored tribal shemagh were used widely; nowadays, these are mostly worn only in Yemen and Oman, while the black/white, red/white or pure-white styles have come to dominate in the countries of the Persian Gulf and Levant. The shemag is part of an ancient Middle Eastern headgear tradition.

In Malaysia, the keffiyeh has been worn by Muslim women as one of hijab fashion and during Palestinian struggle against Israel that has caught the attention of international media, many Malaysians wore it to show solidarity for Palestine.[citation needed]

Styles of Dastmaal

The keffiyeh, especially the all-white keffiyeh, is also known as the ghutrah. This is particularly common in the Arabian Peninsula, where the optional skullcap is called a keffiyeh. The garment is also known in some areas as the ḥaṭṭah, roughly speaking:

Ordinary keffiyeh 
A piece of white/orange/black cloth made from wool and cotton, worn primarily by Palestinians.
Shemagh 
A piece of cloth, usually made of cotton or flax and decorated with many colors, but usually red and white; worn primarily by Saudi Arabians, Jordanians, and Iraqis.

Dastmaal Yazdi

The King of Morocco wearing a rezzah

A traditional scarf in Iran, originally from the Yazd region of Iran.

Chafiyeh

A style of Keffiyeh that originated in Iran, based off the Iranian Dastmaal Yazdi with influences from the Palestinian Keffiyeh. Often worn by Shi'a Muslims in Iran as well as Iraq and Lebanon to express support for Shi'a Political parties. The scarf gained popularity during the Iran-Iraq war as a sign of Shi'a resistance against Saddam. The Chafiyeh is also worn by Basij members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as occasionally by members of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces.

Ghutrah 
A piece of white cloth made of cotton mild, worn in western Iraq and by the Arabs of the Persian Gulf states.
Rezza 
It is worn by inhabitants of North Africa and Egypt.

Westerners in shemagh[edit]

T. E. Lawrence at Rabegh, north of Jeddah, in 1917

British Colonel T. E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) was probably the best-known Western wearer of the keffiyeh. He wore a plain white one with agal during his involvement in the Arab Revolt in World War I. 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 1920s 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.[citation needed]

Military use[edit]

For decades, keffiyeh have been issued to British soldiers who now almost exclusively refer to them as shemaghs (from Arabic شماغ šmāġ).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.

Due to its utility it was adopted by the Palestine Police Force, the Transjordan Frontier Force, the Sudan Defence Force, the Arab Legion, the Jordanian Armed Forces, the Libyan Arab Force, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps

British SAS soldiers, 1943

In the North African campaign of WWII the irregular raiding and reconnaissance units of the Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service and "Popski's Private Army" wore them while operating in the Western Desert. 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.[4]

Their practicality in an arid environment, as in Iraq, explains their enduring popularity with soldiers. 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 is also commonly done by 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. Keffiyeh, called chafiyeh (چفیه) in Persian, was extensively used by Iranian infantrymen in Iran–Iraq War.

Fashion trend[edit]

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 1980s, at the start of the First Intifada, when bohemian girls and punks wore keffiyehs as scarves around their necks.[2][5] In the early 2000s, keffiyehs were very popular among youths in Tokyo, who often wore them with camouflage clothing.[2] The trend recurred in the mid-2000s in the United States,[2][5] Europe,[5] Canada and Australia,[6][7] when the keffiyeh became popular as a fashion accessory, usually worn as a scarf around the neck in hipster circles.[2][5] Stores such as Urban Outfitters and TopShop stocked the item. (After some controversy over the retailer's decision to label the item "anti-war scarves," however, Urban Outfitters pulled it.) [5] In spring 2008, keffiyehs in colors like purple and mauve were given away in issues of fashion magazines in Spain and France. 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.[8] The appropriation of the keffiyeh as a fashion statement by non-Arab wearers separate from its political and historical meaning has been the subject of controversy in recent years. 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 2016 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[9]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ J. R. Bartlett (19 July 1973). The First and Second Books of the Maccabees. CUP Archive. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-521-09749-9. Retrieved 17 April 2013. traditional Jewish head-dress was either something like the Arab's Shemagh (a cotton square folded and wound around a head) or like a turban or stocking cap 
  2. ^ a b c d e Lalli, Nina (15 February 2005). "Checkered Past: Arafat's trademark scarf is now military chic". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. 
  3. ^ Young, Gavin (1978) [First published by William Collins & Sons in 1977]. Return to the Marshes. Photography by Nik Wheeler. Great Britain: Futura Publications. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-7088-1354-2. There was a difference here for nearly all of them wore dark green kefiyahs (or cheffiyeh) (headcloths) instead of the customary black and white check ones. By that sign we could tell that they were sayyids, like the sallow-faced man at Falih's. 
  4. ^ Rick Atkinson, Crusade (1994), p.400, HarperCollins, ISBN 0395602904
  5. ^ a b c d e Kim, Kibum. "Where Some See Fashion, Others See Politics" The New York Times (11 February 2007).
  6. ^ Arjun Ramachandran (30 May 2008). "Keffiyeh kerfuffle hits Bondi bottleshop". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Arjun Ramachandran (29 May 2008). "Celebrity chef under fire for 'jihadi chic'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 21 September 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "What do Arabs wear on their heads". UAE Style Magazine. 
  9. ^ "Topshop pulls 'keffiyeh playsuit' after row over cultural theft". middleeasteye.net. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Philippi, Dieter (2009). Sammlung Philippi – Kopfbedeckungen in Glaube, Religion und Spiritualität,. St. Benno Verlag, Leipzig. ISBN 978-3-7462-2800-6. 
  • Jastrow, Marcus (1926). Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. ISBN 978-1-56563-860-0.  The lexicon includes more references explaining what a sudra is on page 962.

External links[edit]