The Keffiyeh Craze – Sociofashionpolitical whaaa?

Intense, isn’t he?

*ahem* Moving on. 

The keffiyeh craze – old, but so not over. I’ve been meaning to mention both it and Adbusters on here for quite a while. Abusters, Canadian btw, was the only magazine I religiously followed back in Canada. Since Syria, my subscription has been chaotic at best, and often limited to the cover story/editorials/blog posts on their website. Anyway, their homepage featured this, which I found really disappointing. Not only the topic *hipsters? shudders* but also the obviously inaccurate statement below:

Take a stroll down the street in any major North American or European city and you’ll be sure to see a speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about and sporting a number of predictable stylistic trademarks: skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh – initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory.

What the…? Ignorance? Racism? I have no words.

To correct you, the keffiyeh is a traditional headdress for Arab men, originally worn to protect farmers and fisherman from the sun. Then, come the 1960s, Yasser Arafat and his keffiyeh turned it into a sign of solidarity with Palestinians. Sympathetic “Jewish students and Western protestors” then picked it up.

Anyway. For more on the keffiyeh craze, check this out. And no, I’m not referring to the model. The link refers to KABOfest  – who ranks under ‘brilliance’ in my books, by the way – and their keffiyeh archive (that’s the first link. The second is to their homepage). You could also google keffiyeh + rachel ray + dunkin’ donuts. But I warn you, you’ll be wading waist deep in hate, racism, and fanatical spewing in less time than your google search finishes (a none too shabby 0.11 secs for me)

I personally own two keffiyehs. One from the days when they were a standard, red-and-white show of solidarity and the other bluish-grey one (pictured here) from when they became what they are today.  

Interesting side note: I’d like to add Damascus to the streets you can stroll down to see the “speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about.” Only here, we breed them early. Fourteen tops and they’re out all night, decked in their “skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh.”



Filed under Cultural Observations, islam, Palestine, Tags

11 responses to “The Keffiyeh Craze – Sociofashionpolitical whaaa?

  1. I liked when it was just “Sympathetic “Jewish students and Western protestors” because then it meant something. Did you hear about that whole kefeya thing with Dunkin Donuts and Rachel Ray a few months back?

  2. AGREED!!! One day, on the Syrian news, you may just hear of a Syrian-Canadian who went berserk and started ripping keffiyehs off people’s throats left, right, and center while shrilly asking “WHY?!”
    I’d ask first because I have a ‘fashionable’ one, but I believe (inshAllah) that I wear them both for the right reasons. I don’t wear them so much anymore, though. Maybe a few years down the road I can take it out again and wear it with pride. Hopefully =)

  3. Molly

    mmm yes… keffiyehs… model… I almost bought a keffiyeh from khan el khalili the other week… yummy model… but they were really expensive and cheaply made, will buy one in the future though inshAllah… model…

    who is that model btw? he’s super yummy. And don’t tell my husband I said that.

  4. Lol!! Your secret’s safe with me =P
    Isn’t he? I have no idea who…. but I’ve got my fingers crossed 😉
    After all, you never know what Santa may decide to drop down the chimney! Not that I have a chimney…. crap. Guess I’ll have to pass =(

  5. Very enlightening. I was told that the black/white and red/white scarves were representative of Fatah and Hamas and was thus worn to show one’s political affiliations.

    Nonetheless, its actually sad to see it being mainstreamed and commercialised. Its funny because the Palestinian Canadian Student Society on our campus promoted a Kaffiya Day on campus where they encouraged everyone to wear one of those to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. A lot of people did end up wearing one but a significant amount of students ended up participating inadvertently without knowing it; they wore the “stylish” ones and ended up helping the cause. I personally don’t wear one, partly because it has become mainstream.

  6. You’re so right! ‘Mainstreaming’ the kuffiyeh is really, really sad. When I first started seeing them, I would go up to random people wearing one, play it dumb and be like “Ohh… that looks so familiar! I know I’ve seen it before! What is it?” Half had no idea =(
    I like the idea of a kuffiyeh day though. Yesterday I wore mine around, after what happened in Gaza. Pathetically small effort, I know but it reminded me that while I was existing peacefully, there are people dying not too far away =(

  7. mashallah times a million.

  8. Aww! Thanks, Naseem. That is, of course, assuming you’re referring to me, and not Mr. Model up there 😉

  9. prowler

    lol how is the sentence you quoted from that article wrong? they don’t claim that the “Jewish students and Western protesters” were the first to use them, obviously Arafat and the Arabs were first. read it again.

  10. I can see how you may think I’ve misunderstood, or maybe even jumped the gun on this. But, in all honesty, I can’t say I have. I find it quite degrading that they sum up the history of the keffiyeh in that one little line. A line that completely disregards its diverse history and current symbolism within the Arab world. That, at best, can be said to gloss over the fact that way before the aptly named “keffiyeh craze” ever started, and way before “sympathetic Jewish students and Western protesters” wore it, Muslims and Arabs were there, wearing their standard black-and-white keffiyehs, waving their Palestinian flags, and demanding that Palestinians be given their basic rights, their land, and their dignity back.

    Call me sensitive but this entire affair doesn’t sit right with me. I’m not one for the use of symbols to ‘get at’ another person or group of people. I’ve never been a flag-burner myself, and do not condone the burning of flags to convey a message. There are more effective ways. In this case, the ‘keffiyeh craze’ has done nothing but breed misunderstanding and emphasize stereotypes. It has either led to the reduction of the keffiyeh to a meaningless piece of cloth or to the transformation of the keffiyeh into a symbol of terrorism and hatred (slightly reminiscent of the swastika, as public figures who have worn the keffiyeh have had to apologize afterwards, and feign ignorance as to its true meaning – or they could just honestly not know.. either or).

    I hope that made clear the reasons why I objected to that line. Thanks for the comment =)

  11. prowler

    dude i totally get what you’re saying about the “keffiyeh craze” and you have every right to be against it, but i just think you overreacted – i don’t think the article meant any disrespect, and it definitely didn’t condone the whole fad.

    oh well, i guess we just read it differently

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