The Shemagh

The Shemagh

The keffiyeh or kufiya (Arabic: كوفية‎ kūfiyyah, meaning "from the city of Kufa" (الكوفة); plural كوفيات kūfiyyāt), also known as a ghutrah (غُترَة), shemagh (شماغ šmāġ), ḥaṭṭah (حَطّة), mashadah (مَشَدة), chafiye (Persian: چَفیِه‎, 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. It is typically worn by Arab people, as well as by some Mizrahi Jews and Iranic nomads (especially Kurdish people).
It is commonly found in arid regions as it provides protection from sunburn, dust and sand. Its distinctive standard woven checkerboard pattern may have originated in an ancient Mesopotamian representation of either fishing nets or ears of grain, but the true origin of the pattern remains unknown.
Toward the end of the 1980s, the keffiyeh 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.

Military Use
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

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.

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. Irish Army Rangers use a green shemagh to conceal their identity while in the "green" role.

Keffiyeh, called chafiyeh (چفیه) in Persian, was extensively used by Iranian infantrymen in Iran–Iraq War.

 

In Fashion

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. In the early 2000s, keffiyehs were very popular among youths in Tokyo, who often wore them with camouflage clothing.
The trend recurred in the mid-2000s in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, when the keffiyeh became popular as a fashion accessory, usually worn as a scarf around the neck in hipster circles. 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
General Camping Use
The shemagh can be an invaluable article of clothing to have along for a camping trip.
A shemagh can keep the sun off of your neck on a long canoe trip, or can be dipped in the water to keep you cool. If you enjoy camping in the more arid regions of the world a shemagh can serve in it's originally intended role of keeping sand and dust out of your face and mouth.
Due to a shemagh's size it can also be used as an emergency sling or knapsack as well if the situation requires it.

Wearing A Shemagh

There are many ways to tie a shemagh and the internet is full of guides and videos showing different techniques and style.

Listed above is a step by step guide to one of the more popular methods.
The large size of a shemagh allows it to be used as a head-cover, mask, scarf, shawl or multiple combinations of these.

Pattern Variants

 


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