So, I’m just leaving work and walking through the mall and see my friend who is shopping with his friend. I stop to talk to him and ask him if he bought anything. He tells me he bought a “cowboy scarf”? I say “wtf is a cowboy scarf?”. He says people wear it as a neckerchief and ya know, it’s like mexican. I still have no idea what he’s talking about so I tell him to pull it out and show me. What he called a “cowboy scarf” is actually a kaffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.
The kaffiyeh is a symbol of Palestinian heritage and was traditionally worn by Palestinian peasants, which became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism during the Arab revolt of the 1930s. Now, it’s also a symbol of solidarity in the struggle for justice in Palestine.
The kaffiyeh has also become more prominent and more widely known since the Rachael Ray Dunkin’ Donuts commercial debacle. The Food Network personality and talk show host famously wore a “black and white checked paisley scarf” in the online ad and caused quite a controversy when right wing columnist, Michelle Malkin claimed that she was wearing a kaffiyeh or a scarf that resembled one. Ms. Malkin also incorrectly claimed that the kaffiyeh was a symbol of terrorism because Yasser Arafat was rarely seen in public without his. Dunkin’ Donuts immediately pulled the ad because of the commotion it caused.
And you know they’ve become pretty ubiquitous when Kanye West is wearing them in his music videos. I hate that “scene-sters” have adopted this as a fashion statement, though, when most of them, probably, have no idea, whatsoever of the significance of kaffiyehs. To them, it’s probably just a scarf that makes them look cool.