A Short History Of The Modern Keffiyah

الأربعاء 08 آب 2007

The Keffiyah has progressed from a piece of clothing used to protect from heat and cold, wind and sand, to a political statement. Now, the keffiyah is becoming a tourist must have and a fashion statement. The Arab-American blog, KABOBfest, contributed this time line of the keffiyah’s history.

Editor’s note: We’ve chosen to spell keffiyah this way. It can be spelled countless different ways. But rather than steal the thunder from one of the points below, we’ll refrain from listing them here.

While conducting thesis fieldwork in Syria and Palestine, T.E. Lawrence discovers keffiyahs to be useful both for keeping out the cold and for keeping out the heat.

Rudolph Valentino and his keffiyah star in silent film, The Sheik.

Keffiyah and Valentino reunited for The Son of the Sheik. Still no sound.

Mid-to-Late 1930s
The keffiyah becomes symbol of Palestinian Nationalism and an expression of class struggle against British occupation. British army chief proposes jailing any Palestinian who wears the keffiyah. Is overruled by his superiors who kindly ask him to bloody shut the f*ck up already, you chattering hen.
Tea, anyone?

Peter O’Toole in white keffiyah as T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. Oscar goes to… Gregory Peck.

Mid 1960s
Keffiyahs begin to appear in U.S. within anti-Vietnam war movement. Activists on anti-imperialist left declare solidarity with Palestinians.

Arafat adopts scarf. Drapes it over shoulder into the shape of Palestine.

Leila Khaled gives gender the finger by wearing previously masculine keffiyah in style of hijab; Is immediately re-gendered by prepubescent schoolboys by becoming their pin-up sensation of choice.

Professional wrestler, The Iron Sheik, signs with WWF to personify every negative stereotype about the Middle East in case you didn’t already have them. At autograph signing event in Detroit, reports surface of a five year-old brat named Will repeatedly yanking keffiyah off of Sheik’s head.

picture from flickr. Lincensed under CC

After several unsuccessful attempts, Fayyad finally consults the Guide to Wrapping your Keffiyah into a Mask so you can Creep the Streets of Jenin Spraying Anti-Occupation Graffiti. The event later inspires him to author his own series of “How To” guides while in college, including the Guide to Campus Divestment from Israel, the Guide to Stirring Creamer in Coffee, and the Guide to Stirring Creamer in Salma Hayek’s Coffee.

Three months into Palestinian intifada, CBS reports being puzzled by keffiyah sightings on Americans. Time magazine teaches Americans how to pronounce “keh-fee-yah” and assures parents: “It’s just an accessory… The ethnic type of look is in right now… The idea that it’s political is ridiculous.”

Street keffiyah-wearing wanes around the U.S. in light of Persian Gulf War. Arab Americans report feeling afraid to wear it. Scarf remains ubiquitous among anti-War movement.

April 2001
Sting performs in front of pyramids at Giza. Unable to decide which color keffiyah best matches his eyes.

June 2001
Raf Simons takes up keffiyahs on Spring 2002 collection. Simons says: “They are not terrorists. They are fighters for independence and freedom.”

September 2001
Hate crimes against U.S. Arabs increase. Peace activists intensify keffiyah-wearing in solidarity.

May 2002
Columbia University students wear keffiyahs to graduation ceremony in solidarity with Palestine.

March 20, 2003Bloody Keffiyah
At Baghdad’s Fashion Week, George W. Bush’s new ready-to-wear line introduces the “Blood-stained Keffiyah.” Continues to be hottest accessory on streets to date.

November 2003
Never one to turn down a dare (especially not after last call) Fayyad (KABOBfest contributor) masks himself in a keffiyah and walks up and down Madison’s State Street. Freaks out drunken university students.

January 2004
AP photographer snaps a picture of Howard Dean wearing a keffiyah during Presidential primaries. In spin control, Dean’s Jewish affairs adviser, Matt Dorf, explains scarf was thrown over Dean’s shoulders by a young supporter, and assures AIPAC and friends that it was yanked off “after four seconds.”

November 2004
Keffiyah gets her own Wikipedia page. Fights begin over her history, symbolism, and most importantly – her spelling and variations. Official KABOBfest Style Guide: “Spell it every single way to increase search engine returns!” keffiyeh, keffiye, keffiyah, kefiyah, kefiya, kefiyat, kaffiyeh, kaffiyah, kaffiya, kafiya, kufiyah, kuffiyah, kufiya, shmagh, shemagh, gutra, hatta

January 2005
Hugo Chavez dons keffiyah at World Social Forum. Does not apologize.Ronaldo wears a keffiyah

February 17, 2005
Village Voice reports: “Arafat’s trademark scarf is now military chic.”

May 2005
Brazilian soccer star, Ronaldo, wears keffiyah while visiting Palestine during 57th Al Nakba.
July 2005
Ricky Martin poses for photos with keffiyah draped over shoulders while visiting Jordan for Arab Children’s Congress. Announces support for the Palestinian cause and for refugees’ right of return.

August 2005
After his people ask him to remember “just who signs your paychecks around here,” Ricky Martin apologizes for wardrobe malfunction. Blames Jordanian children for putting keffiyah on his shoulders without realizing what it represented. Insists he was taken advantage of and as a special gesture, promises to play a concert in Israel on his next world tour the following spring.

December 8, 2005
Matt Lauer suspected of wearing keffiyah to keep warm during filming of Today Show episode. Sparks Keffiyah-Gate.

January 2006
Jon Audarson of streetwear label Dead transforms keffiyah pattern into western shirt. Snaps photo of Quentin Tarantino rocking the mishmash of cultures.

International Herald Tribune reports, “Scarf morphs into iconic accessory.” Chief editor of British GQ insists scarf has not lost its original political meaning.

April 2006
In LA Times article, “‘Terrorist Chic’ and Beyond,” writer Daniel Hernandez examines the keffiyah kraze by wearing one. Looks in mirror and startles himself.

May 2006
Days before scheduled performance, Ricky Martin cancels Israeli debut due to low-ticket sales. Promises to visit to Israel at an unspecified future date.Jamal's design

June 2006
Palestinian-American fashion designer Nemi Jamal spins keffiyah (hatta) into new forms of attire. Expresses desire to “take it further, expand on its possibilities and use it as clothing… I want to make the hatta into the bandanna of today.”

July 2006
Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero wears keffiyah at rally for young Socialists. Accuses Israel of using “abusive force” in its military operations.

Anti-Defamation League condemns Zapatero for his racist comments and wardrobe.

November 2006
Top Shop markets minimalist version of keffiyah: “The Table Cloth Scarf.”

December 2006
As part of spring fashion accessories line, Urban Outfitters begins sale of $20 keffiyahs marketed as “Anti-War Woven Scarves.”

Manager of one New York Urban Outfitters store reports it to be his top selling scarf.

January 2007
Commodification takes unexpected turn with “Kaffieyh Yisraelit.” Like the fate of hummus and the hookah, Israeli entrepreneurs now appropriate keffiyah, adorning it with miniature Stars of David. “It’s going to be like the falafel,” scarf-designer brags. Gets AIPAC, CAMERA, and Alan Dershowitz on speed dial to help convince Americans into believing keffiyah was Israel’s first.

Urban Outfitters halts sale of keffiyah per Zionists’ careful instructions. In lieu of pulling scarves, Canadian Urban Outfitters renames them “Shemagh Scarves.” Continued commodification of Arabic culture assured in five fashion-friendly color variations.

February 2007
Anne Frank spotted all over Amsterdam in keffiyah. Chooses traditional red/white pattern over Kaffieyh Yisraelit.

French designer Nicholas Ghesquiere’s “Balenciaga Scarf” appears in his collegiate-inspired ready-to-wear collection.

Keffiyah fad is “dead,” declares fashion student Whats-Her-Name in New York Times article.

March 2007
Urban Outfitters near UCLA continuing sale of keffiyahs. Maytha(KABOBfest contrubitor) dons undercover cultural reporter disguise (read: Maytha pretends to know nothing) and asks sales boy what “this” is. Salesboy responds with, “Oh, I think these are handmade, one of a kind, something special like that.” (read: Salesboy pretends to know something)

Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor in keffiyah for latest video, “Survivalism.”

April 2007
“Balenciaga Scarf” makes it on Style.com’s must-haves for Fall 2007.

David Beckham spotted wearing blue keffiyah in Madrid.


July 2007
Urban Outfitters’ Keffiyah Kraze, Version 2: The Heart Woven Desert Scarf is “the Shemagh scarf with a girly touch.” Available in bink and burble.

Teen clothing catalog, Alloy’s version: “The Riviera Scarf”

ASOS capitalizes on keffiyahs in the style of Carl Barat and David Beckham with the “Libertines Check Scarf in the style of Carl Barat and David Beckham”

Teen Vogue proclaims Kirstin Dunst’s brown number to be “Breezy, Global Chic.” Right-wing blog visitors proclaim to now hate Kirstin Dunst.

Check out more about the keffiyah:

Stock photos
Interesing Read
The rage continues

And of course, KABOBfest’s original article.

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