The Keffiyeh-Shemagh-Desert Scarf Returns at Urban Outfitters

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The Keffiyeh was made publicly famous by the late Yasser Arafat, as he covered his head with it and fold it in the shape of Palestine.

When the keffiyeh was a smashing fashion hit, 20 years ago, it had no political involvement. Now it’s associated with Palestinian cause and it’s more than just a style touch.

Keffiyeh - Shemagh - Desert Scarf at Urban Outfitters

From the black and white one worn by the Palestinian late president (and most specific to the rural peasants) to the plain white one (worn especially in the Gulf States), the red and white one (associated with the Jordanian army), the keffiyeh-inspired scarf is de retour at Urban Outfitters.

Almost a year ago they had to pull them off and issue apologies, now it’s all up and running again.

I think that having to take them out again it’s too much. I’m not looking at them religiously, I couldn’t ever, nor do they remind me of a special ideology. I see them as scarves and that’s the end of it.

Sometimes people just make too much of a deal from subjects that are not meant to occupy all that talk space and thinking area. It’s just fabric!

What’s your take on this? (via racked, photos urban outfitters)

(You can buy one here)


#1 Adriana on 03.26.08 at 4:05 pm

I own one for years and it is a present bought in Palestine since I do support the Palestine cause. I’ve a bit slow down on this matter the last years……but that’s a political issue….back to the topic. My scarf which do I use daily, at home, for very practical reasons because it is great when it’s cold as a stola and it summer when it is very hot i use it as a sheet. It does isolate as well cold as heat! Wonderful quality. Now these new ones have not that desert-quality which I love so much. It is a trend I will not wear. Indeed it is just a scarf and I’m still really surprised how small our world has become, that I see it everywhere, in the streets here and in every magazine wore by models, celebs etc. etc. So just it is just a very popular trend scarf world wide now. Nothing less, nothing more.

#2 Adriana on 03.26.08 at 4:09 pm

P.S. Ah, I see my beloved Gucci Bacall High Heel Sandal now in black/ white as Editor’s Choice…hmmm…..I was already in love with the green/black ones…..

#3 Arnoldo Valerio on 03.27.08 at 2:52 pm

Adriana, wearing such a scarf is an political statement. I respect that, but isn’t it a little bit crazy that such an design is now world wide a trend?? Do people really know what is the background/history of the Arafat scarf? It’s just what Kpriss said it’s just fabric, and in my view a hype. I really don’t like this trend, whatever color or material they use. Now these days people don’t have any knowledge of history and especially not about the history of Fashion, that’s a pity.

#4 kpriss on 03.29.08 at 1:17 am

I’m a scarf fan myself. I can find a fit moment and a place for each and every one of them, even two at a time. However, bringing symbols to the state of fashion trend will always get controversial. Being just a scarf like any, but worn to protect from the environment conditions, the keffiyeh doesn’t bare more of a meaning. It was enriched, in time, not by itself, but by those wearing it. I can only imagine it’s a difference between the original one and those over-trended right now and this must be in the quality of the tissue itself. Is it?

Why would it be crazy to have become such a world embraced fashion? Scarves have been in high style for few years already, why not wear them all? I think people would even wear a sari if it would become a trend sometimes. We couldn’t ever teach them all fashion history, at least we could let them know (it could be done, either with a campaign regarding the product, either by writing on the product’s label fragments of the original product’s history. Why not, after all? since we’re losing all that material and involving all that technique when designing and producing a label, at least investing a meaning into it, more than marketing).

#5 Rj on 04.07.08 at 11:20 pm

The scarves look very similar to what special forces use in Afganistan. It seems that this whole miltary look is stemming from what is seen in alot of the US military types in the Afgan mission.

#6 Nabeel on 06.21.08 at 10:19 am

I personally love these scarves. I’m of Persian descent, my ancestry is traced back to the last king of Persia and I know very well the history behind the scarf, but that does not decide why I wear it. There is history behind every article of clothing, every color, every cut and every stitch. But just because Hitler wore red and black, doesn’t mean that anyone who wears red and black support nazism. It just means that they found a way to reinvent that color to suit themselves. Thats exactly what the scarves are. I personally like to fold them like bandanas and hang them out my back pocket while many of my friends like to wear them around their necks and some wear it as a hood with a jacket over it. Its fashion. And fashion is the ability to mold your surroundings to make yourself stand out… stop making everything political people.

p.s. These scarves are not worn as a symbol of power, oppression, militarism etc. They are worn to protect people in countries with extreme heat and or wind from the elements. So all those who say that the scarf is worn by the Afghany military, its also worn by the traders in Saudi. Its worn by he guys who pump your gas for you in Pakistan and its worn by store owners in Iran. Its not a political statement, its carrying culture across seas. If you dont wanna wear it, don’t, but don’t condemn others for it.

#7 kpriss on 06.25.08 at 6:32 am

That’s exactly what made me write about it… It’s so sad when fashion goes political and when people taint the true meaning of something that’s supposed to bring beauty, diversity and proof of creativity in one’s mixed outfit. It’s a way to control minds without being too obvious – tell the people that what they’re wearing represents something they potentially hate and there you have a little revolution on your hands.

#8 Ana on 10.05.08 at 9:55 am

If you want to support the murder of innocent Israelis, like women, children and grandparents blown up at Pizza places, you should wear this scarf every day.

It is a political statement whether or not you see it that way. These scarves should be sold dipped in blood, because that’s what they symbolize.

#9 Nabeel on 10.05.08 at 4:58 pm

What is up with you people and getting offended on behalf of others??? If Iranis, Afghan’s, and Iraqi’s have no objection to others wearing these scarves, who are you to say that it is a symbol of oppression or that it supports murder? I have yet to see anybody but a white American condemn these scarves.

Like I said before. These scarves are worn by many people in the Middle East, and then some. Just like in the U.S. if you wear a red bandana or shirt, or blue bandana or shirt, you aren’t necessarily supporting the Bloods or the Crips. You just happened to like those colors and like to accessorize with bandanas/rags/scarves.

#10 taj on 12.16.08 at 1:15 am

ok, despite my persian name, i’m a white american. i travel a often! i first bought a red & white one on the beach in turkey in ’96 to keep the sun off of me but also used it for years to fit in while i was in palestine and egypt. then i found a green and black one, the so-called “afghani military” version. again, for the sun, the cold and sometimes also to fit in. not so much as any kind of statement. it’s just a normal thing that anyone else would wear in those parts of the world. and it’s extra useful if you’re in a pinch. it’s not a big deal. wear it & be comfy.

#11 dski on 12.16.08 at 9:09 pm

Wearing these scarves without understanding what they represent is an insult to the culture, end of story.

Stop acting like since everyone is wearing them now they have magically lost what they symbolize. They are not simply scarves. They have a rich history which is VERY rare in the fashion trends that rise and fall.

Supporting the ignorant brandishing of these items is the same attitude that killed the status of Che as an actual revolutionary, and trend whore’s disregard for the importance of history and understanding is pitiful.

Hipsters make me want to f***** throw up they are so oblivious to things.

Get educated and don’t talk about it, be about it.

#12 Bash on 01.08.09 at 5:02 am

Ref:#8 Ana on 10.05.08 at 9:55 am

You must be israelie lol, in fact its other way around you brainwashed person pitty on you .

Buy the scarf support freedom and look good !!

#13 Sasha on 01.08.09 at 6:13 pm

Bash, you are the brainwashed person. i pitty YOU. Ever read the Koran? muslims want to take over the world and that is their main goal. you wearing that scarf is sending them a message that they’re winning. i’m not Israeli, I’m a person who actually knows what freedom means. you don’t.

If your neighbors continuously launched rockets into your apartment building or neighborhood and sent people in to randomly blow themselves up in your restaurants or shopping malls, you’d be angry and fight back too. Get educated…learn what you’re supporting and don’t be so ignorantly blind.

Oh…and by the way, by wearing that scarf, you’re supporting murder, not freedom. Get a clue.

#14 Nabeel on 01.09.09 at 6:27 am

Wowww… being a Pakistani Muslim, I take complete offense to your level of ignorance. First off, that scarf has nothing to do with Islam, so you can go ahead and get that idea out of your head right now. Second, Muslims dont bomb people over Islam. Men who claim to be Muslim bomb people for their own agenda. We, like every other religion on the face of this earth, would like people to be Muslim, but believe that at the end of the day, people are judged on how well they followed their OWN religion. But in the same token, lets talk about Israel and the Crusades where the Jews and Christians waged war on Muslims and killed hundreds. Now I’m not here to bash any religion, or support any. I’m simply here to clear up your ignorant misunderstandings.

Now, about the scarf, which this blog is about. I hope you are aware that the Christians and Jews in the Middle East, Europe and Africa also wear it on a daily. And yes you idiot, there are plenty of Christians, Jews, and tribes all over those areas as well as Muslims. It is simply something worn to protect people from the elements. A lot of armies used it as a part of uniform because HEY, GUESS WHAT, those armies face the elements too. Get off your high horse and open your eyes to the actual facts.

#15 Sasha on 01.09.09 at 9:37 am

Good, be offended. However, it’s not to my “level of ignorance” as you say, it’s at my “outing of islam” as it truly is. I have read the koran and studied it and have realized that it is basically a war manual. Explain how this verse from the Koran is peaceful and how you said: “We, like every other religion on the face of this earth, would like people to be Muslim, but believe that at the end of the day, people are judged on how well they followed their OWN religion” faces up against it (and many other verses and laws within the koran): “When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”. !!! -Quote 8.12, Surah 8-65.

How do you explain the lowering of other religions to second class status within Sharia law? How anyone who has actually read the koran can say Islam is a peaceful religion is a mystery to me.

if you want to moan and groan about the crusades (which happened hundreds of years ago, btw for any of you non-history buffs out there) and how the Christians and Jews killed “hundreds” as you stated, then lets talk about the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS to MILLIONS that muslims have killed in the past few decades alone. How do you explain the Madrassas in Pakistan and elsewhere who teach people to blindly follow the koran verbatim and to hate the Western world? You say it’s only the actions of a few men who call themselves Muslim, but these “few men” are following the koran verbatim as it was written. I can go on and on if you want.

About the scarf, yes, it started out as use against the elements, but it has since turned into a political statement and you know that is true. The keffiyeh became a symbol of the Palestinian resistance movement in the 1960’s and of the Arab revolt in the 1930’s. Please explain why the protests all over the world are filled with people wearing Keffiyeh scarves and calling for the destruction of Israel and of the West? It is a symbol of hatred and destruction and intolerance.

Maybe YOU should get your facts straight.

#16 Adriana on 01.09.09 at 9:43 am

Nabeel the only reason why I use my scarf is to ‘face the elements’ in fact. That someone else gave it to me as a present because I’d support the Palestians refugees and their fight for their own rights is another thing. That was HIS idea to be supportive and/or nice to me in this case.
I’m very much aware that this scarf has nothing to do whatsoever with wars, religion or nationalities!

#17 Adriana on 01.09.09 at 9:58 am

Sasha the keffiyeh has been made a symbol by Western people as a symbol! That’s the reason I’d never ever have wore it outdoors. If I like to make a statement I rather do that verbal or write it down. Although I think this blog is not really the place for this kind of arguments.
The Koran and the Bible can be interpret the way you want to read things. I own them both. I don’t have a religion. Or better said I don’t belong to a religious group. Thanks. I was once a Roman Catholic I didn’t like the way they scared the hell out of me with the way they read and explained the Bible! Same goes for the Koran. These holy books were and are often abused for the wrong reasons. And that’s all I’ve to say about it!

#18 Sasha on 01.09.09 at 10:04 am

I don’t abide by any one religion either and I have studied many different ones over the years. What concerns me here is that people don’t realize that something as simple as a scarf can symbolize something they don’t quite understand and probably would not want to be a part of if they truly did understand what it symbolized. I believe that is what this blog is about. Religion, specifically Islam, is tied to that scarf, so that is why it came up as part of the debate. I was challenging Nabeel’s post with facts, which is why the koran was quoted.

#19 Sasha on 01.09.09 at 10:06 am

I also, do not call people “idiots” as Nabeel felt the need to call me, and I don’t insult people. I simply state facts and call things as they are and relay information that I have found through my in depth studies and research.


#20 Nabeel on 01.09.09 at 12:56 pm

Sasha, first off, I’d like to apologize for calling you an idiot. I guess harsh temperaments are part of being 19. And I will admit to these Madrassas all over Pakistan, which many Muslims, including myself and my family, are fighting to stop. But if you have read the Qu’Ran you know that half the acts these people are committing are nothing near what is written in the Qu’Ran, namely suicide. Suicide is something one might call a “cardinal” sin under ANY circumstance unless it is to SAVE another life. Also, Sharia law applies only to those who wish to follow it. I don’t believe in it, mostly because it has less to do with faith than it does politics. Now that verse you quoted, I don’t know by heart, and admittedly there are a few verses in the Qu’Ran that I cannot explain. But I have also read the bible and come across a few verses there that I could not explain. I didn’t memorize them, nor do I use them against people. Islam, as well Christianity, has had a very bloody history. Unfortunately for Muslims, because our religion is a tad bit younger, we are still going through some extremist changes. But if you were a part of the Muslim community you would see the progress being made from the inside to stop these misinterpretations, extremists, and oppression of women.

Now I don’t want to rule the world, nor does any Muslim I know. But the people who commit suicide, or go to those madrassas are poor, and uneducated. And in a MAJORITY cases, it has been shown that the teachers misrepresent the Qu’Ran to these uneducated children, for their own gains (one of the strong points in our fight against them in Pakistan). And most of the men committing suicide do it so their families could get money (also discovered in some of the US military finds). Now, I’m not saying the ends justify the means, but there is a reason they say one mans terrorist is anothers freedom fighter… I’d appreciate if you took that all in context though because it could easily mean that I’m supporting suicide. But I’m not.

And lastly, I’m open to criticism against Islam. It’s not the perfect religion, just the one I personally feel to be the best. But straight out insults towards any persons religion are bound to get some heated responses.

#21 Nabeel on 01.09.09 at 1:01 pm

Oh, and Adriana. You are right, the scarf is a symbol only because people made it one. I’ve said this before, if you chose not to wear one, or buy one, then by all means, its your right. But I don’t agreeing with the condemning of others for wearing it. If anything, wearing the scarf as a fashion accessory takes AWAY from its strength because the power given to it in any riots, wars, resistances, etc is being stripped by the people who are wearing it for the simple fact that they think it looks good. Palestine gets no money for the purchase of these scarves, so its not even indirect support…

#22 Sasha on 01.09.09 at 1:07 pm

I appreciate your post. I’m VERY glad that you and your family are fighting against the extremism that seems to be occurring at a rapid and growing rate these days. It’s encouraging to know that there are people within the Muslim community who do not agree and would like to fight against extremism and intolerance. I do have friends who are Muslim, believe it or not, and have talked over many verses in the koran with them. They agree that many verses warrant discussion and concern. When I see terrorism that includes suicide bombings, rockets launched into peaceful neighborhoods and violent rallies/demonstrations calling for the destruction of Israel and the West and etc. all carried out by Muslims, it makes me feel very concerned, as I’m sure you would imagine and probably feel also.

Again, thank you for agreeing to disagree. That is what debate is all about.

#23 Adriana on 01.09.09 at 4:58 pm

Nabeel okay.
Ah well, in this kinds of discussions things can heat up as you know of course. No hard feelings here at all.
Its such a complex problem and who has the solution and who is right or wrong…..I [almost] yelled loud in the supermarket today that feeling supportive towards the helpless Palestinians is not the same as agree what Hamas [and Israel] has done and is doing….but….well, let’s say I wish Rabin and Arafat hadn’t die? When Rabin was killed I lost really all hope for peace in that area. And I was so sad Arafat had to to pay his respects in silence to Mrs. Rabin…..sighs…I leave it to this if you don’t mind.

Thanks all that we can agree to disagree. Let there be at least a place where people can do that in peace.

#24 Bush on 01.11.09 at 11:35 pm


Islam is a RELIGION BASED on PEACE. If you have read into it so much you would know that the very meaning of ISLAM means SALAMTEE which means PEACE. Plus Muslims greet each other by saying SALAMALAIKUM which means PEACE BE UPON YOU.

Now for references in Quran. Please read the following and think which one is supporting “taking over the world” as you put it.

In Quran 2:256; God said “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error…”

Verse 10:99 “If it had been thy Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!” These verses and many others show how much emphasis Islam places on the mind of people, Muslims or non-Muslims.

Verse 60:08 “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.”

Another prominent example referring to concerning the just treatment of Islam to non-Muslims; is the fact that while a husband is allowed to ask his Muslim wife not to go to the Mosque; he has no right to ask his wife to go to Church or Synagogue if it happens that the wife is a Christian or a Jew.

There are MANY other references. Please I would advise you to do your research again.

Thanks and peace be unto you as well.

#25 Rumi on 01.28.09 at 11:54 am

I think the bottom line is that people shouldn’t make so many assumptions about other people just because what they wear. Sure, we wear certain things because we want people to see them, but let’s face it, I don’t remember many specific things that people wear from day to day. I think the way that some people respond to certain symbols represents their own insecurity with their beliefs, and projecting their own negative feelings or notions about that symbol somehow for them bolsters their beliefs. And I’m not talking about Jewish people, I’m talking about the time that I assumed this chick was a whore because she was wearing a really short skirt. I shunned that girl, when in fact, I was just really insecure with my own sexuality. Let’s face it, it’s easier to feel like a victim than to be a rational human being. The truth is, no one is discriminating or trying to say anything to you, they don’t even know you. For example, I don’t like dogs, they tried to kill me as a child, but if I see a stranger wearing a dog t-shirt I’m not going to assume that he/she wants to kill me. They’ve just had a different experience with dogs, and getting to know them might help me understand that experience more than making face value assumptions. It would yield a much richer dialogue for both of us.

The truth is, this whole thing isn’t about religious principles, it’s about human nature and how we all try to have ownership of certain things. You’ll feel much better once you learn to let it all go.

#26 sasha on 01.28.09 at 12:02 pm

If Islam is a religion based on “peace” then why is it so violent!???

#27 Adriana on 01.28.09 at 12:08 pm

Oh PLEASE, its like all wars: please stop it…..its unbearable…..

#28 sasha on 01.29.09 at 12:13 am

I actually have a right to any opinion I want to have, as you do also. I won’t stop it until the violence stops. Nobody should tolerate violence. No matter what.

#29 muslim on 05.14.09 at 4:11 am


please dont assume that everyone who calls themselves a muslim follows islam. its like every other religion. i know christians who lie, does that mean that christianity supports lying? Islam does not support violence. But consider the poverty in muslim countries- most children dont get to go to proper schools and they end up being brainwashed by people who have their own political agendas.they teach these kids that suicide bombing will take them to heaven. Please dont be so narrowminded not to realize why this is happening. these people are extremists and definitely not true followers of the religion,despite what they may say. and it is sad how due to such extremists, the image of such a beautiful image is beng distorted in the West. I hope educated people know better than to easily believe what the media wants them to. Its not like the west doesn’t have their own political agendas u know.

#30 muslim on 05.14.09 at 4:19 am

For once i think we should keep our own bias aside. We are the people who can think for ourselves. If we are so openly hostile to people who have different religious beliefs, there’s no hope left in the world. Being a muslim and a very proud one, it really hurts me to see what a wrong impression people have of Islam. It’s not an argument over who is right or who is wrong. But you really think that because you have read a few verses of Quran, you know more about Islam than someone who has spent 20 years of their life following it? Dont jump to conclusions without first getting your facts straight. Go to an Islamic scholar and you will realize the pure beauty of Islam.

#31 Perldog007 on 09.11.09 at 1:46 pm

Responding to Muslim,

. I have a shemagh, and burmese style tube sarongs because they are handy and versatile especially for any outdoorsperson.

That doesn’t mean that I support Burmese or Arabs/Persians over any other groups. It means that they have devised useful pieces of cloth.

Because some people take symbols so seriously, my shemagh is sand colored, and I don’t walk around the mall with it tied up as for a sandstorm. I certainly don’t wear it with an egal.

If somebody wants to wear red and white because they are proud of being Jordanian, or black and white to support Palestine, that’s fine by me. It’s freedom of speech AFAIAC. I believe in defending that too.

I think the OP is a zillion percent correct, it’s a scarf and a pretty cool looking versatile one at that.

#32 sarah on 10.29.09 at 4:25 am

but i dont know how to wear it would someone please help me

#33 Gard on 12.28.09 at 4:00 pm

Americans, how would you feel if people wore the American flag as a fashion accessory without knowing what it was or where it came from?
Thats the same level of ignorance people exhibit today when they wear the scarves.

#34 TheJakeyl on 03.19.10 at 2:10 pm

Everyone has the answer, everyone is right. Ever sit back and take it all in, you’re all acting like individuals who sift through the deep, dark secrets of humanity, blasting holes through the evil, letting the light shine in. Then the one person who realizes that it is HE who has the answer. The people fighting evil are actually working for evil fighting good and do not realize it! The horror. Finger pointing, the “no YOUR” name calling starts. You can quickly tell who is thinking out loud on a message board, and those who are typing their image into words, who they see themselves as. The savior. The adjuster. The one from the crowd, stepping out in front of it, to exclaim their undivided, and uniformed opinion on you, the ignorant, singled out fool who has been mislead by evil. Evil, shall it only consume ONE, or has the masses been tricked by a trick on top of a trick? Whats more evil, just look in the mirror and ask yourself. Do you really see beyond the bubble? How many people stand out of a crowd for their intelligence? One in how many? So how is it that on matters such as this, involving thousands of years of history and control of the worlds resources and all of its wealth be so easily known to so many, that the agenda be so clear and precise. You’ve all been molded like a life long script, and the one that stands out, the one intelligent enough to come forward and object to the masses that “it is they who have been betrayed by man, money and power, that good is led by evil, don’t change paths, jump off the darn mountain!”

#35 Booger on 03.25.11 at 7:05 pm

I think it is an ugly trend. Keep it for what it is made for, keeping cool in extreme temps.

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