Oh my! Here we go again… guess what kiddies? Keffiyehs, the chequered patterned, traditional Arab headdress is cool! Again. The International Herald Tribune just ran not one, but two articles wherein the keffiyeh features prominently in the collections of two Ã¼ber-cool designers. The first article, titled A Neo-Rebel Cool, discusses the resurrection of vintage Black Panthers iconography for use on oh so hip t-shirts and other apparel. Also discussed was Nom de Guerre, an upscale New York retail store with its own clothing line, featuring “hoodies covered with Nom de Guerre written in Arabic script and wool scarves with the distinctive keffiyeh honeycomb pattern, the brand’s rough and tumble basics are just the thing for chic urban rebels.” Yeah, like the skate punks pictured below right. The fact that they know nothing about the intricacies of Middle-Eastern politics, and likely don’t give a rat’s ass about the plight of the Palestinians, does not in any way diminish the chic-ness of the scarf.
And so even without one’s own clearly defined cause, it’s still possible to look and feel like a rebel. And in this nostalgic time, when vintage has revolutionized the way we look at fashion, even an old cause can make a modern statement.
And what might that statement be? I can hardly guess.
On the left we see an image from Reykjavik streetwear label Dead, the subject of the second International Herald Tribune article. Designer Jon Audarson says that wearing the Keffiyeh makes a statement – but when asked what that statement was he responded “I’m an artist … It’s much better for people to reveal that on their own.”
“I think a lot of people really picked up on that look. It really developed into a style,” says Josh Hickey, an American jeweler living in Paris and a fond wearer of the keffiyeh as a neckerchief. “I have two. One amazing multicolored one from Jordan and another red and white one that I’ve dyed hot pink.”
Hot pink huh? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I would counsel Josh against wearing that in say… Gaza. Not such a good idea. Nope.
“I tend to think that all those different people wear it for different reasons,” says Markus Strasser, owner of the hip Vienna boutique, Park, who also wears the keffi. “In Western society it stands for, among other things, revolution; for being against the system. And that appeals to fashion people because fashion often likes to work with that mood.”
Well, I know those hot, sweaty, olive-skinned men shouting in the streets with their AK-47s are certainly, um… compelling. But perhaps it might behoove fashionistas to look at the sentiment and ideology behind the mood before trying to make a statement. Unless of course what you’re trying to do is make an ironic statement – witness the lovely Kathleen up top looking fierce in her Keffiyeh and “I Love Israel” t-shirt in both English and Arabic. Also quite ironically, it turns out that the scarf , traditionally worn by desert dwellers is awesome protection against the cold, as I have always known when trudging through Montreal in the winter.
So bottom line? Wear a keffiyeh or don’t wear a keffiyeh, it’s your choice. As the keffiyeh becomes more and more popular, its underlying significance will become more and more watered down. Unless you are in Iran of course, where the wearing of keffiyehs is seen as a symbol of Arab nationalism, and such symbolism is viewed as a threat by the Persians in power. How much of a threat? Oh, they’ll arrest and maybe even shoot you for it:
Security chiefs have previously indicated that the wearing of the keffiyeh – a traditional Arab headdress – was forbidden. In November’s Eid-al-Fitr demonstrations in Ahwaz, Governor General Heyat Mojadam ordered all those wearing keffiyeh be arrested. An Ahwazi Arab youth freed from prison following his arrest during the Eid-al-Fitr protests spoke of how the prosecutor, Mr Farhadi-Rad, argued that the wearing of the red keffiyeh was a “political statement” that indicated support for secessionism.