Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


An Adaptable Accoutrement
January 11, 2013 9:15 AM   Subscribe

A keffiyeh (also known as a kufiya, shemagh, and a ghutrah among its numerous other names) is a scarf commonly used in the Middle East for protection from the weather and elements, as well as for fashion and cultural identification. They are amazingly versatile and can be worn and utilized in many different ways.

There are a variety of different ways to tie them:

From a shop owner in Jordan

How to wrap a Shemagh (for airsoft)

For fashion

Male and female styles

Other uses

Wrapping your Touareg turban (a similar garment)

How to wrap a Tagelmust / Shemagh / keffiyeh / pashmina

[previously on AskMe]
posted by quin (38 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
They can even be used by Rachel Ray to send covert signals to embedded terrorist cells! Of course, those signals are only perceivable if you are out of your goddamn mind.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


I was just going to mention Rachel Ray. It's a shame because the keffiyeh is a beautiful and functional garment (not to mention cheap). I was going to pick one up in when I was in the UAE last year during a dust storm but was worried about making an unintentional political statement.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2013


So, what makes a keffiyeh different from a scarf? Is it primarily cultural factors, or is a keffiyeh defined by certain patterns, dimensions, and materials?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:30 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I prefer the Tagelmust.
posted by Freen at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2013


They're especially good for getting free treatment for impacted bowel at all good international airports near you.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm getting pretty sick of seeing television presenters wearing them on camera to appear worldly, adventurous modern versions of Indiana Jones, like the archaeologist who presented that BBC4 show about the Oracle of Delphi the other night.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:45 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I bought one for my portable first-aid kit; I can wrap up everything inside, and (having learned from experience) one can make arm-sling for even a very large person from a shemagh, which in the case of my own is 42 inches square. (~107cm)
posted by Sunburnt at 9:57 AM on January 11, 2013


I have several now, after my first burn. They are a life saver during a dust storm. They are also great at keeping the sun off your head and neck. An amazingly functional thing made from a simple bolt of cloth.
posted by daq at 10:06 AM on January 11, 2013


worldly, adventurous modern versions of Indiana Jones, like the archaeologist who presented that BBC4 show about the Oracle of Delphi the other night.

To be fair, they're pretty much standard kit if you're excavating in a lot of countries-- our dig crew wouldn't let me on the mound without a Turkish scarf on, because I'm super pale and the sun in June is super killer. I'm a little more wary of the number of them I've seen on campus in cold, damp Philadelphia lately...
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:06 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had a long Touareg scarf a while back, I think it was called a 'shesh' or something similar. Got it in southern Morocco. The original ones were died with indigo.
posted by carter at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2013


“Nothing says, ‘I spent a lot of time in a country whose name ends with ‘-stan’ shooting cool photos of bearded people… and i’m bothered by all the stressful shit I saw thru my lens while being there,’ like a cool ethnic scarf around the neck.”
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


“I like the guy in the white American Apparel shirt with the glasses.”

“Which one? there are eight.”

“The guy with the keffiyeh.”

“Oh yeah, you’re right. He does look smarter and more political than the other guys. He’s clearly more sensitive to wind, so he’s probably more sensitive in general. You should totally date him.”
posted by Dasein at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went to a John Edwards event in 2004 when he was running to be the Democratic nominee. The press photographers, about a dozen of them, were all clustered together in one pack. They were a very eclectic looking bunch, but fully one-half of them, men and women, were wearing keffiyahs -- including the guy with the Indiana Jones hat.
posted by Pistache at 10:30 AM on January 11, 2013


I've got two. They're much more versital than scarves in the winter. I never think to use them in the summer, oddly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:35 AM on January 11, 2013


A couple of years ago I was visiting friends in Cairo (Egypt, not Illinois) and we went camping for 3 nights in the desert. My pitiful Panama was woefully inadequate for the conditions, so I was given a keffiyeh. Talk about the perfect solution! An amazing garment that just sits on my shelf now because it doesn't seem to work for me in Wisconsin.
posted by Floydd at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hadn't realised that the red and white version implies Marxism: even more subtle risks of making a political statement.
posted by titus-g at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, what makes a keffiyeh different from a scarf? Is it primarily cultural factors, or is a keffiyeh defined by certain patterns, dimensions, and materials?

It's the dimensions. Different cultures will have different widths and lengths for that culture's preferred style of head wrap. Patterns will be regional.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:05 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Military surplus stores have some cool ones... Including an M16 patterned one among others.
posted by nutate at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2013


That one with M16s looks like a camo pattern out of Metal Gear Solid.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:38 AM on January 11, 2013


In college in the late '80's, I wore one in the winter. Not out of any political statement, but because they were warm, inexpensive, and comfortable.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2013


They're very practical but I've always been a bit leary about wearing one, particularly after some time working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

You make an intensely political statement in wearing one. Black denotes Fatah, red the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
posted by dmt at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2013


I bought one as a high school kid and wore it as a cold-weather scarf through one Minnesota winter. (It looked dashing with my purple-and-gold letter jacket, you betcha!)

When I got to college, a friend who grew up in Israel & the Midwest said, "You're wearing it wrong. Here, let me fix it." And she did. And then she reminded me that our campus near Boston -- a third Jewish, a third Arab Muslim, and a third Christians (and a large portion of each from outside the US) -- might be a poor place to experiment with a fashion item that many viewers perceived as a political message.

Good point!

I had very little opinion on the issue, and didn't want to start experimenting there and then. Now, years later, I have a Buff!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2013


On a related front, is there some sort of fabulous German word for the act of attempting to make yourself seem superior by offering disdainful criticisms of what you perceive to be others' poseurism? Surely. The German language has wonderful linked-together words for things like this. Something that roughly translates to Arrogantsnarkinsecurity? Oh, yeah, P.S., you can now no longer go to that ironic truck stop on the outskirts of town you "discovered" because more than three people know about it. I saw a guy out there wearing a keffiyeh of all things. Pfft. You're SO much cooler than that guy. YOU'RE. SO. REAL.
posted by SinAesthetic at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


(above obviously not directed at the OP)
posted by SinAesthetic at 12:34 PM on January 11, 2013


Metafilter: the act of attempting to make yourself seem superior by offering disdainful criticisms of what you perceive to be others' poseurism
posted by zamboni at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Floydd : An amazing garment that just sits on my shelf now because it doesn't seem to work for me in Wisconsin.

Huh. I just got one a while back specifically because I wanted it for our (surprisingly mild so far) Wisconsin winter. Thus far, it's handled the few really cold days we've had much better than my normal scarf.

Probably because the embroidery seems to help it keep it's shape a little better and it stays around my mouth without needed to be knotted really tightly. I have yet to see how it performs in summer, but I know they are popular for keeping bugs off your ears, and come warm weather, anything that'll keep those damnable mosquitoes at bay will become a cherished item in my house.
posted by quin at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2013


THey are incrediably popular among SCA in the southwest. To the point they mark you as from either Atenveldt (Arizona) or Caid (California) kingdoms (chapters to the non SCA geeks reading this). I have even been called out in semi-derisive terms when wearing mine in other kingdoms. So the political statement is true even outside of the middle east (In a strange, geeky way).

They also are the best damn accessory after sunglasses when hiking in the southwest. Soak in water and wrap and instant aircon. wrap around face for dust storms or double wrap around head after sun goes down for warmth. Great, great item.
posted by bartonlong at 1:12 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Caid (California) kingdoms

I beg your pardon, but half of California is in the Kingdom of the West.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Neckties, khaki, and pea coats (among other things) are all every-day items that have entered wider public usage by way of soldiers returning with some new useful thing they've discovered. It's kind of interesting to watch it as it happens.
posted by lekvar at 2:09 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


In college in the late '80's, I wore one in the winter.

I was going to ask if anyone remembered how common, and frankly how trendy, these were in the mid-late 80s. They were almost a uniform in and around New York, de rigeur for the art students and punks that I knew, and I doubt that anyone had much strong idea of their political resonance - only that they cost $5-7, seemed bohemianish, and were big and versatile. WIkipedia says:
As the Palestinian liberation movement became increasingly popular amongst leftwing activists in western Europe during the 1960s and 70s the Keffiyeh soon became symbolic of socialist activism, transformed into a general symbol of rebellious behaviour after being adopted by Punks during the 70s and 80s and was still considered synonymous with socialisminspired antiliberal opinions during the wave of anti WTO riots in the early 2000s.[15] Keffiyehs became popular in the United States in the late 1980s, at the start of the First Intifada, when bohemian girls and Jewish punks wore keffiyehs as scarves around their necks.

I had a blue and white one, and wish I still did. Interesting that the Wikipedia article mentions the 1920s being another wave of keffiyah fashion.
posted by Miko at 2:41 PM on January 11, 2013


And they come in pink!
posted by deborah at 2:57 PM on January 11, 2013


My mother used to wear a headscarf. They were all the rage back in the sixties.
posted by Decani at 3:24 PM on January 11, 2013


The girl up there who does the "men and women styles" is doing it wrong. Nobody who really wears one would leave the house like that, it looks like you let a 3 year old do your hair.

Here is how a typical Arab male ties one if he's not wearing an agal. (the rope circlet)

This is a good explanation of how it is tied for a female hijab. For more examples, search the utubes for "square hijab".
posted by dejah420 at 4:00 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


On a related front, is there some sort of fabulous German word for the act of attempting to make yourself seem superior by offering disdainful criticisms of what you perceive to be others' poseurism?

Authentizitätpolizeigeringschätzigkritiksuperioritätfreude should be the joy of superiority (derived) from disdainful criticism by the authenticity police. Weirdly enough I can't find it in my Hipster-German dictionary.
posted by ersatz at 4:45 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: the act of attempting to make yourself seem superior by offering disdainful criticisms of what you perceive to be others' poseurism

Once in a while these cut a little close to the bone.

posted by brennen at 11:27 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just watched the other uses video and noticed that the wrap he demonstrates will cover all the parts I want covered when I'm riding a bike in cold weather. Are these things actually warm, and is there any way I could go riding in these without making a statement?
posted by d. z. wang at 9:16 PM on January 13, 2013


Are these things actually warm, and is there any way I could go riding in these without making a statement?

Yes and Fuck 'Em, respectively.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:42 AM on January 14, 2013


I don't really think they're that warm. At least not northern-US warm. I remember when I was wearing one as a teenager, that I was pretty conscious there was a tradeoff being looking cool in it and being as warm as possible. For "warm as possible" I would have been better off with a good wool scarf. These are thin cotton. They're a good spring or fall scarf with a light jacket. In snow and rain, they quickly get waterlogged (unlike wool) and become chilly. In wind they feel pretty thin. They're in the streetwear, "better than not having a scarf" category but I'm not sure they want you want for performance wear.
posted by Miko at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2013


« Older "The screenplay keeps so many balls in the air tha...  |  Morgan Freeman:... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments