Shemagh or Keffiyeh?

Photo © Scott Schuman/The Sartorialist (

Arab scarf, Arafat scarf, Desert Scarf. What ever you call it. It's chic and practical.

It's called Keffiyeh or Shemagh, This is my newest accessory and a must-have whenever I travel. Very useful and practical. I bought a Keffiyeh/Shemagh because I need something to cover my neck and nape when I am shooting outdoors and taking photos under the sun. I can also use this during long travels - e.g. going home to the province, camping, and simply for "extravagance and fashion" purposes. Hehe.

The keffiyeh (Arabic: كوفية, kūfīyä; plural: كوفيات, kūfīyāt) is also known as a shmagh, shemagh or yashmag ( شماغ, šmāġ), a ghutra ( غترة, ġuträ) or a hatta ( حطّة, ḥaṭṭä), and is a traditional headdress of Arab men, made of a square of cloth ("scarf"), usually cotton, folded and wrapped in various styles around the head. It is commonly found in arid climate areas to provide protection from direct sun exposure, as well as for occasional use in protecting the mouth and eyes from blown dust and sand. -(

It comes in different colors and patterns. I'm planning to buy a couple more. Wear it just like a giant bandana. ---No, I'm not going to wear it like this.

Researching for my Keffiyeh over the Internet, I came across this interesting:

"Sharia Chic"

Related Post: Men in Shemagh / Keffiyeh
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October 19, 2007 at 8:56 PM

Cannot stand hipsters and teens in Britain wearing this knowing they havn't a clew what it symbolises. It is for support of the Palistinians, end of. NOT a fashion statement.

October 20, 2007 at 7:29 PM

so your saying that every person wearing them is supporting Palestinians?. so do the us/uk armies that wearing them in desert automatically support palstinian?
does fashion symbolize anything?

November 2, 2007 at 12:02 AM

The scarf has lots of different meanings for many different people. It has become a fashion item, much to the shagrin of many, but something positive that can come out of that is that the scarf has, too long, been associated anti-semitism by those who do not understand the Palestinian solidarity movement. Please read the following post to learn more.

I bought my first kuffiyah at an anti-war rally in Los Angeles a few years before. For me, and for many other peace activists, wearing it does not stand for anti-semitism. It stands for Palestinian solidarity, which translates as taking a stand against the state of Israel's oppressive and racist policies toward Palestinians. Being pro-Palestinian does not mean anti-Jew. The difference between the people of Israel and the government of Israel is acknowledged by the peace movement as two separate entities. Much like much of the world recognizes that the attrocities the Bush administration commits do not represent Americans as individuals.

November 4, 2007 at 10:27 PM

Well said.

March 26, 2008 at 5:11 AM

Actually, you're all wrong. It is a garment worn by many different peoples of desert nations. It doesn't represent the plight of anyone. It has, since being worn by Arafat, come to represent the plight of palestinians in some circles, but was around way before either Isreal or the Palestinians held claim to the same parcel of land.

It IS a fashion accessory, and for people who live and have traveled through the desert for centuries, a clothing necessity.

May 13, 2008 at 1:26 AM


May 18, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Shemaghs of Keffiyehs are not FASHION ACCESSORIES in the middle east and other nations. These are mainly worn to protect against sand storms and heat from cooking your head. Also, in extreme cold temperatures, shemaghs help to warm the blood coursing from your neck to your brain. Therefor giving the user a sensation of warmth. Not to look stylish in western cities..

May 29, 2008 at 6:43 AM

NEWSFLASH PEOPLE!! no matter what you think about your peace activism or "palestinian" solidarity...the keffiyeh is the scarf of death. it is worn by and and a symbol of radical jihadi islam whose intention is the destruction of israel, the jewish people, america and the west.

if you think otherwise then you have been drinking waaay too much kool-aide.

when conscious jewish people and other conscious people see this item we understand what it really means. we are not duped by the so called peace activists.

tell you what.... why don't you take a peak at "from time immemorial" by joan peters or bostom's latest book on the history of islamic antisemtism. joan peters is a british journalist who set out to write a pro arab book and the deeper she got into the research the truth made her see differently. read it for yourself.
esp. the photos of the nazi leader with his buddy the mufti of jerusalem.

yeah buddy, it's pretty deep. much deeper than a so called fashion statement.

when conscious, aware people see americans with the keffiyeh we understand that you are either: supporting the "palestinian" death machine directed at israel or, you are clueless.

oh, by the way, there is no such thing as a "palestinian"..they admit themselves that the entire ruse of this "national" identity was created as a tool to de-legitimize israel.

read about it.

then see how you feel about your so called "peace scarf".

i lost family to the nazis in ww2, i don't need to see americans supporting the jihadi death machine against israel and the west.

wake up and stop supporting what you really don't understand.

June 1, 2008 at 11:38 PM

you're just bitter about what the nazi's did to your family and too stubborn to realize that israel is doing the same thing to Palestinian families. You of all people should be more sympathetic to the palestinians and realize the israeli government is the new nazi government.

June 3, 2008 at 1:44 AM

anonymous number one:

did you SERIOUSLY just spell 'clue' wrong?

June 4, 2008 at 11:12 AM

If you really want to know about the Keffiyeh read this article:

Its a bit more serious than the timeline posted above and a quick read.

June 9, 2008 at 7:42 AM

It is ridiculous that such a useful tool will be destroyed or ignored because of the meaning some people give it.

Just like the so called "Swastika" a good, peaceful Buddhist symbol. It is now a symbol of hate that nobody can use because the Nazi decided to use it themselves. Now nobody can.

The Shemagh/Keffiyeh, unlike the Swastika, is EXTREMELY USEFUL, so there is NO WAY we can just STOP USING IT because SOME PEOPLE think it's EVIL or something. Newsflash for you: OBJECTS ARE NOT EVIL. OBJECTS CANNOT SYMBOLIZE EVIL BY THEMSELVES. FOR EACH PERSON, IT CAN ONLY BE EVIL IN THEIR EYES, AND THEIR EYES ALONE. We are not FORCED to despise a mere item of clothing because YOU dislike it.

June 11, 2008 at 6:25 AM

Many jihadists, Palestinians, and terrorists wear pants. If you wear pants you are clearly supporting terrorism and anti-semitic.

June 16, 2008 at 11:51 AM

what;s all this BS about shemagh or keffieyah symbolizing death,, what the hell,,,ur soo controlled by the media,,and self involved,,you guys need to educate urself before saying all that BS

i'm from the United Arab Emirates, DUBAAAAAAAAAAAAAI not palestine,,and men here all wear shemaghs and keffiya its our traditional men's wear,,we're certainly not terrorists,,,

again DUBAI ,,look it up

so ignorant i swear

June 25, 2008 at 6:14 AM

you guys are arguing about the underlying subtext of a piece of checkered broadcloth.

It's time to get a life.

October 20, 2008 at 10:39 AM

The Keffiyeh has been worn by many peoples (mostly Arab) for many years. It can be a lifesaving piece of clothing, OR a fashion accessory if you want it to be. I wear one, and I am an American. I do not support or speak against any group of people. Like someone above said, it is a piece of cloth, and ANYONE can wear it for ANY reason

October 21, 2008 at 6:04 AM

I've been wearing keffiyehs since I was a kid, and I'm by no means anti-semitic, or pro-Palestinian. Everyone on our farm in Turkey wore them throughout the year, and I still wear it when it's cold as hell out. Kinda sucks that a select few put a bad spin on it, and everyone explodes in anger. I even got slapped by a complete stranger for it.

October 21, 2008 at 6:10 AM

You got slapped?! ohh that's bad.
There's nothing wrong wearing one. It's there for a purpose, its functionality.

October 21, 2008 at 7:27 AM

EXACTLY! I'm tired of hearing the politics behind a piece of clothing. It's a piece of cotton/wool that keeps my neck comfortable and keeps the dirt out of my face.

November 11, 2008 at 2:10 PM

I'm far from an expert, but I know that the large scarfs under discussion (shemagh or keffiyah or whatever you wish to call them) are used from North Africa all the way to Afghanistan, and surely beyond all that. It is a very functional and versitile item. Any claim that it means a particular thing cannot possibly be correct. Many more millions wear them than support any given political cause.
The basic fact is that it keeps the sun and wind and rain out of your face. It is comfortable. It's cheap.
If you want to wear one, go for it! And wear it in any manner you see fit!

November 24, 2008 at 5:30 AM

All I have to say is that some of you have way too many biases towards Muslims. Calm your selves down and stop being narrow minded. Some of you are making your own opinions seem like facts.
Hey, if you lost someone in WW2, that doesn't mean we didn't lose people too!!!!!!
But do you see us being a pain about it?

January 13, 2009 at 2:11 AM

To the prick who lost his family in WWII...

You're an ignorant piece of shit. I'm definitely not anti-semitic and I have many Jewish friends who are against the Israeli occupationg.

"jihadi death machine against israel and the west"
You stupid fuck. Shemaghs have been worn by many people of the middle east previous to the occupation.

123 Israeli children have died since 2000. 1,050 Palestinian children were killed since 2000. Who are the opressed ones again?

"oh, by the way, there is no such thing as a "palestinian"..they admit themselves that the entire ruse of this "national" identity was created as a tool to de-legitimize israel."

Are you shitting me??? This is officially THE MOST outlandish arguement I've EVER heard concerning the occupation. Is that how you justify the zionists hypocracy??

How'd Israel get that confession? tear down a few hundred houses, torture some children, bomb some schools, then starve the nation? I think by then I'd be ready to admit to anything as well.

You are just as vile as the nazis who killed your family. Even now Zionists are ethnically cleansing the land that was stolen from the Palestinians.

America is the sole funder of Israel and without us, they would be floundering. Israel has the third best nuclear weapons programn in the world. We give them sixty five billion dollars a year so they can westernize themselves and decimate a whole nation of people. This money could be going to schools in america or to create more jobs.

For those of you who haven't much idea on what's going on, myabe you should watch the movie Occupation 101. It's well done and not antisemetic in the least bit. A lot of my friends have been to Israel as well as Palestine and they say that documentary is about as close as it gets.

For more statistics you can go to:

January 14, 2009 at 3:24 AM

What if we called it a Krama, or a Tagelmust? How do you know what they are wearing is a keffiyeh if this article of clothing looks so similar to other culture's articles of clothing?

What if someone decides to use a rectangular piece of cloth used for style (or a rectangular piece of cloth with tassels) does it then have to be called a keffiyeh, whether they are pro this or con that?

If someone places a meaning onto something for them then I can understand that it has that meaning for them, but it doesn't necessarily mean that no one else can use it for another meaning/purpose.

June 17, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Wearing keffiyeh's NOT made in Palestine is in no way standing in solidarity with Palestinians.
Palestinian keffiyeh makers have been put out of business because of out sourced keffiyeh production. And remember, the Israeli apartheid keeps Palestinians barred from many other industries.

I guess this is unimportant if you are just wearing it because it's fashionable. That being said, you'd be just another privileged, narcissistic hipster.

May 21, 2013 at 10:23 PM

ohh wow... theese comments so cute.

bottom line is shemagh is just a piece of cloth with alot of utility not to mention a good look and thats that.

everything rest is just silly... it maay have radical meaning somewhere to what? some place wearing a red or blue shirt gives some1 a reason to kill you... meanwhile in other place ur just wearing a red or blue shirt. thats the end of it.

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