What do the Colors of Keffiyeh Mean?
The keffiyeh is a traditional headdress worn by Palestinian men. It’s believed to have originated sometime in 3000 BC, when the high priests of ancient Sumerians and Babylonians wore the garb to distinguish their honor, or high rank. Farmers eventually adopted the keffiyeh, wearing it to protect themselves from the high desert sun, heat, and windswept sand and dust.
The keffiyeh remained a symbol of rank, worn by Palestinian men to assert their positions of authority. Fast forward to the 1930s, and the garb become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, when it was worn by rebels to shield their identities as they resisted against the British Mandate. The keffiyeh was banned as a result of these events, which sparked the wearing of the garb by all Palestinians as a way to make it more difficult for the authorities to recognize rebels.
During the 1960s, the keffiyeh became an even more prominent symbol of Palestinian resistance when it was adopted by Yasser Arafat. Arafat seldom made public appearances without the headdress.
The Symbolism of Keffiyeh Colors
The traditional keffiyeh is almost exclusively white in color and made of cotton fabric. However, many feature a black or red checkered pattern, which is stitched into the cotton cloth. It is believed that the checkered pattern is meant to represent ears of grain or fishing nets.
Though it cannot be confirmed, many believe that the colors of the stitching featured in keffiyehs are political in nature.
• Black and white keffiyeh. Many believe that the black and white color of the headdress are connected to Fatah, the former Palestinian National Liberation Movement, a nationalist social democratic political party that is the biggest faction of the allied multi-party Palestine Liberation Organization and the second biggest political party in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
• Red and white keffiyeh hatta. The red stitching in the keffiyeh is thought to be associated with Palestinian Marxists. Founded in 1967, this sect of secular Marxist is a revolutionary socialist and has maintained itself as the second largest of sects that make up the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Though the traditional color of the keffiyeh is pure white and black and red stitching have been adopted into the headwear to supposedly symbolize political affiliations, today, this headwear comes in a wide assortment of colors. The addition of various colors occurred as a result of the adoption of the keffiyeh among the Chinese. In the 21st century, manufacturers in China began mass producing the keffiyeh. Tokyo youth began wearing the headwear as a fashion statement. Its popularity as fashion apparel took off, and manufacturers around the globe also began producing keffiyeh. Today, this headwear has become a popular garment that is available in a myriad of colors and worn as a fashion accessory around the world.
Today, the keffiyeh is worn by people around the world. In fact, you can see models on the runways and in the advertisements of some of the biggest fashion designers wearing this attractive, colorful headdress.
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