Flipping through a copy of the SL Magazine is rather annoying these days. The magazine is littered with photographs of hipster kids wearing square cotton scarves, identical to Arabian keffiyehs. They come in a variety of colours: purples, pinks and peuces made to match whatever huge sunglasses or bright skinny jeans they happen to be wearing, draped over their shoulders like some kind of hipster superhero cape. Their THC-drunk smiles relaying a kind of superficiality and ignorance usually reserved for the offspring of Hollywood celebrities.

The keffiyeh, for those that don’t know, is an Arab headdress for men, usually woven with a distinctive check pattern and lined with knotted tassels. It may not sound familiar, but trust me, you’ve seen one before: Yasser Arafat wore one, Lupe Fiasco wears them, and chances are that one third of postmodernism-loving Rhodes BA students wear them on a regular basis.

“So what?” you may ask. Well, bluntly put, the keffiyeh is a potent symbol of Palestinian nationalism. Much in the same way as the old driekleur flag is a symbol of Apartheid and repression in today’s South Africa, the keffiyeh represents a range of strong values: to Jews, it would represent terrorism; to Arabs, political resistance and nationalism; to young Western youth, a cute accessory to match with your edgy Che Guevara (“Oh, he’s that bicycle guy, right?”) t-shirt.

The keffiyeh began its ascent into Western fashion culture in the early 1980s when it caught on as a symbol of support for Palestinian freedom amongst politically-active non-Arab American students. Wearing the keffiyeh was a potent political statement to make too: The Independent called the keffiyeh “a symbol of Islamic militancy” while Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was criticized by opposition parties after posing with a keffiyeh and was accused of “anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and Israelophobia”.

At this juncture in history, however, the keffiyeh is usually labeled as “cute”, “stylish” and “edgy” by fashion kids who know nothing about politics or current affairs outside of what they read in underground Cape Town fashion magazines. Vacuous hipster culture strips any sort of historical or cultural significance from garments in a ridiculous race to find the most ironic or esoteric clothes available. While Hollywood celebrities and American rappers may find the keffiyeh a radical accessory, the mass production and ignorant wearing of the keffiyeh cheapens the very values that it stands for, good or bad. To put it into perspective, I would liken the wearing of the keffiyeh by politically-retarded youths to the story of a friend of mine who wore a silver ring from the Silver Ring Thing (a movement that persuades youths to promise to not have pre-marital intercourse) while she consummated her relationship with her 16 year old boyfriend for the first time: she said afterwards that she only made the promise so that she could get “the sweet-lookin’ ring”.

Dumbass hipsters wearing keffiyehs is equivalent to gorilla-brained gangster rappers spouting ineloquent and violent lyrics while wearing giant crucifixes and, better yet, encrusting them with diamonds and rubies. The keffiyeh is as ubiquitous with Western perceptions of terrorism as HAMAS is, as symbolic of Palestinian and Arab liberation in so much as Timothy Leary is symbolic of LSD. Instead now, the keffiyeh is now symbolic of the constant and indifferent ignorance of “indie” hipsters today, of disrespectful Western society and part of a symbolic dumbing-down of intellectual culture. Along with Nietzsche and Chuck Palahniuk, the keffiyeh is now on the road to hipster decontextualisation, cultural stripping and assimilation into a self- and image-obsessed culture that feeds off of its own vanity and superfluousness.

(Dunno what a keffiyeh is? Bloody look it up, then!)

14 comments:

  1. Rahrah80 said...

    This entire article is superfluous.

    You're speaking too much out of emotion and generalization to be taken seriously.  

  2. Anonymous said...

    I take it you're the kind of person who gets mad at straight people who want to wear clothing that feature rainbows?  

  3. Anonymous said...

    man i totally agree
    i was at a party, and before hand my girlfriend draped her keffiyeh on me (she is not muslim/supporter of palestinian nationalism) saying something like oh you look so cute in this. long story short this drunk and angry pseudo-intellectual basically rips me a new one for wearing it and not even knowing what it stands for. I had assumed it was just a weird scarf in my ignorant bliss. I do a little research only to find that if my poor 88 year old jewish grandmother were to have seen my wearing the wretched thing she'd have keeled over. So yes i think we all should be a little more educated about what we decide to wear and what message we display to the world.  

  4. V. Ajra said...

    @Rahrah:

    U mad?

    P.s. I agree with this article in its entirety, even if it is slightly emotional and generalized.  

  5. Anonymous said...

    The Keffiyeh is part of the U.S. military uniform in Iraq... Also, 90% of nations in the U.N. support Palestinian statehood. If you look at the statistics of the Isreali/Palestinian conflict, 15 times as many Palestinians have died, compared to Israelis. Palestinians are less than 10% of the population. They are being slaughtered. This is almost genocide, some say it is...

    You don't hear much about this on the news. Only the suicide bombers. Why do you think they do that? Because they are being slaughtered and fighting back.

    I don't condone terrorism, but this is what happens when people are brutally oppressed.

    I know, it is vogue in conservative American culture to suck up to Israel. Their lobbyists have lots of money, the Palestinians don't. But check out the facts from reputable sources...

    Remember the foreign aid workers being killed when they tried to bring supplies into Gaza? That was just a glimpse of the brutality of Israel. Yes, they wear uniforms, but they are terrorists too...  

  6. Anonymous said...

    A lot of politicians are fed up with Israel. I saw Benji Netenyahu on Pierce Morgan, saying he was such good pals with Obama, and they have a special relationship... This was around the time both Biden and Obama made a point of snubbing the Isreali leadership when they came to town. I was watching this, thinking, "this guy is such a liar... Like a pathologically lying sociopath..."

    Sure enough, Sarkozy says the same thing about a year later in front of an open mic -- I can't stand this guy, he's a liar... Obama says he has to deal with him all the time!

    I know, people feel sorry for Israel because of the holocaust, and it is their homeland. Well, other people live there too. There are a lot of Jews who dislike the Zionist agenda. Check out the documentary "Defamation" and you will see that not all Isrealis blindly support this far right wing agenda...

    How many of us supported GW? A fair amount, but a lot of people couldn't stand him.

    So I think people tend to simplify things. The problem is twofold. There is clearly a Zionist ageda to wipe the Plaestinians off the map, and do a piecemeal land grab. This is where the lying comes in. The Isreali leadership agrees to conditions, and then does the land grab anyway. Their military kills a bunch of people, because of the actions of one terrorist, to "send a message". Thus, the Palestinians have resorted to terrorism to fight back.

    I was talking to my neighbor who has a Jewish friend who went to Israel. He moved back after a few years, because he said the way they treat the Palestinians is akin to the way blacks were treated during slavery...

    Indeed, the Palestinians do the dirty work and menial jobs that the Israelis don't want to do themselves. They are second class citizens, relegated to living in slums. It is very much like Apartheid South Africa. Indeed, Nelson Mandela was a terrorist back in the day. The Isrealis were also terrorists, when the British occupied what is now Isreal.

    It is unfortunate, in America, due to media bias and lobbying, that we see this conflict in such a one sided manner.

    I too, used to sympathize with Israel and have the same stereotype of Palestians -- crazy Muslim radical terrorist.

    Then I decided to look up facts provided by the UN on casualties in the conflict, and to my shock, the Palestinians are being butchered. The rest of the world knows this too.

    The US is one of the few nations that support Israel, and this is due to lobbying and campaign contributions. Obama is one of the first politicians to at least challenge Isreal, but it is mostly superficial.

    Whenever the UN acknowledges Palestinian statehood, like the UNESCO debacle of a few months ago, the U.S. sides with Israel. Most of the world sides with Palestine, and rightfully so.

    Now, if an Israeli lobbyist were to pay me a lot of money for my support, I could very well change my mind. I don't have a horse in this race, like most of the WASPs in our government. Why do you think white Anglo Saxon Protestants who didn't even want Jews in their country club are so into Isreal? They're only in it for the money...

    Since Isreal sucks up to the country with the big military, and doesn't bribe the rest of the world leaders, they see the truth. This is Zionism. Apartheid.  

  7. Anonymous said...

    It is not too hard to believe that some people wear these and know the truth about the situation in Israel. Hipsters are douches, but they also tend to not buy into mainstream b.s. One facet of mainstream b.s. in this nation is that the poor Israelis are victims of brutal Palestinian terrorist...

    If you look at it, artists like the Pixies and U2 have pulled out of shows in Israel, the former, specifically because of the slaughter of foreign aid workers trying to bring aid into Gaza.

    Hipsters, with their Keffeyehs and their Neutral Milk Hotel playing on the iPhone, may indeed have a political motivation... At least some of them. The occupy movement is also indicative of politically active youth.

    That said, the U.S. military uses the Keffiyeh as part of their uniform in Iraq. It keeps out the dust.

    Palestinians wear pants too... Are they now verboten?

    But it is funny how many people blindly support Israel, because of their lobbying and PR campaign. Oh, the poor victims, who kill 15 times as many Palestians!

    Just goes to show how much one can do with a lot of money... They can turn wrong into right, and a lot of people will believe it, because that is what's on the news.

    There are better sources than the news. I have a degree in international relations. You can read academic works instead of the manufactured consent of the corporate news. Journalists are just glorified English majors who take lying politicians at face value... They work on the behalf of news directors, who are responsible for the interests of the private corporation... Yadda yadda... The news is mostly baloney. Once in a while the truth is uttered, unwittingly, in front of an open mic... Yep, Netanyahu is a big, fat liar... I saw him lie his pants off on Pierce Morgan.

    Now they want to get us in a war with Iran. I don't want Iran to get nukes, but if you took away Israel's nukes, which are pointed at Iran, I bet they would play ball.

    See -- it is very biased. It's ok for Israel to have nukes, but these crazy Muslims in Iran can't. Those crazy Muslims in Pakistan have been pointing their nukes at those crazy Hindus in India for quite some time. Indeed, most IR theorists would say parity and mutually assured destruction create peace. After the Mumbai terrorist incident, which implicated Pakistan, India could do little to retaliate. The risks are simply too high, with both nations having nuclear weapons...

    I'm not saying Iran should have nukes, but that Israel should be disarmed of nuclear weapons.

    An Iranian nuclear weapon could not hit the U.S. It is only a threat to Isreal, but from Iran's point of view, they need nukes to protect themselves and have parity against Isreal. You have to get over the crazy mooslam crap, and look it at from their point of view, for a moment. Israelis are just as meshugga, with a bit more chutzpah. You know? They're both a-holes, and I want to live in a world where neither has those kind of weapons...

    Now, the one nation that can hit the U.S. with nukes is North Korea. Their missiles have enough range to hit the west coast. What do we do about it? Nothing. We know as crazy as they are, if they even thought about it, we'd get crazier with our nukes. In fact, apart from the minor border skirmishes along the DMZ, nothing much has happened in terms of U.S. engaging North Korean forces.

    All this stuff about Iran is indicative of the lobbying and cash given to politicians. Especially at election time, when the cash is flowing, it's almost like Romney's going to convert to Judaism!

    This is not right vs. wrong. This is "you give me money, so I will support your side". Period.

    I think I will go out and buy a Keffeyeh right now! Maybe a dozen...  

  8. Anonymous said...

    You my friend are educated, unlike the author of this article who don't even know the difference between anti-zionism and anti-semitism.

    I'm jewish but I hate Israel because it kills people in the name of jews.  

  9. Jeremy said...

    Yes, this article of clothing can be used and has been used as a political statement before. However, it is a common article of clothing in the middle east and it is simply becoming common in the western world. Not everything has to have a meaning attached to it. Your opinion is similar to saying, "Well, the pink ribbon campaign has strongly marketed many clothing products to stand for breast cancer awareness, so if you wear pink because you like the color and not because you support breast cancer awareness you are an imbecile."

    It's clothing, not a common symbol for religion or politics, just clothing.  

  10. Anonymous said...

    Even if it is "clueless hipsters' wearing the keffiyeh's then at least the discussion of this should lead to conversation on the plight of the Palestinians. If complimented lots of 'hipsters' keffiyehs and questioned them on knowledge of palestine. The majority are aware of the symbolism of wearing a Keffiyah and wear it in solidarity. The few that don't know will generally be interested and then research the situation and the history of palestine themselves. Surely that is a positive thing.  

  11. Anonymous said...

    Scarves are cool  

  12. Anonymous said...

    Get over yourself. Nobody is trying to make a political statement when they put on articles of clothing. Not everything in life needs social commentary or have historical significance. Address your anger issues and everything else will sort itself out. My guess is that keffiyehs and hipsters are the least of your problems.  

  13. Dustin said...

    I'm Native American. I live in Gallup, New Mexico. Believe it, or not, almost all stores and hotels are owned by Whites or Arabs. I have Arab friends. I work with Arabs on a daily basis. I love the way the Keffiyeh look. Since I was a child I've loved them. I got online an ordered one for my wife for Valentines day. It wasn't the normal patterns, but I purchased it from the Arab American National Museum. I asked if it was okay that I ordered it and that My wife wear it, as we were not Arab or Muslim. They responded that it was just dry desert/hot weather head gear for men, or a light shawl/scarf for women and that I should not feel bad about wearing it. They said that I should be proud that my wife could create a bridge of understanding and not isolation by denying mid-east clothing. I ended up buying one for myself too. I wear it in the winter time in rotation with other scarfs.

    My cousins serve in the military in Irag and Afghanistan. They were encouraged to wear Keffiyeh as part of their uniform. For the simple reason that it works for what it is made for. It was not worn to mock anyone or support anything.

    My two cents.  

  14. Anonymous said...

    I work and live in the deserts here in the US. If you saw me wearing one, would you call me a hipster? Keffiyehs were created for practicality, not for a political statement. That's why armies who fight in deserts and people who live in deserts use them. It only recently became a political thing, and now people like you are calling me "hipster" because I use this as an essential part of being safe at work.

    So if you want to come here to 105 F degree weather and call me a hipster, by all means go ahead, but feel free to burn to a crisp and get sand in your face all day as you protest not wearing one.  


 

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