Site Translator

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What the Heck?! - The Shemagh

The latest fad?

I've been meaning to write this piece for some time now. Lately, you've been seeing them everywhere. In malls, coffee shops, cinemas, parks. Scarves or large neckerchiefs with exotic designs worn by the younger, hip and trendy set (someone said to me that their popularity even made Jessica Soho do a segment on them for her show!). You can bet with coming cold from December to February you'll be seeing a lot more of them.

'Lang hiya naman! This latest craze is almost a guarantee I won't be wearing mine now as I've always prided myself for not going with the herd!

Waaaaaaaaaay back in 2000, when my old job required me to do a lot of traveling, I bought this piece of cloth from down south in Zamboanga from the Moslem sale and trade port area. As I was the only one in my circle sporting such at that time, I got my fair share of strange looks or questions asking if I was a muslim (since I didn't seem to fit the type). You see, I wasn't a total ignoramus as to what they were.

Also called by such names as yashmagh, keffiyeh and gutrah, it was the traditional cloth worn as headdress of men in the Middle East. Not only did it protect you from the sun in the hot climate, wrapping it completely around your head also offered protection from the dust of sand storms in the dessert.

I knew them even earlier from my affinity with all things tactical. Because of their utility, they were probably first popularized by British soldiers and SAS troops who were assigned all over the world and bought them back to their country. The American forces then followed suit. Its more popular name (shemagh) then stuck. It was then that its popularity spread from artists, rebels and the youth. It did however have some negative political and cultural stigma after 9/11 because of the stupid backlash fearing all things Middle East as being associated with "terrorism".

Mine was the traditional black on white design motif. The cotton material was actually comfortable and gives a sense of security and just enough warmth on the neck and nape, such as in the air-conditioned flight on a plane for example. I removed the frilly thread things from the borders of the cloth as I never really understood the idea for them other than for traditional aesthetics.

Now these new "fashion" designs don't even measure up to the traditional make! They're thinner and made with a different cloth rather than cotton and the attention to detail is lacking! Obviously just a mass-produced item in response to the trend.

Neckerchiefs though have been worn by Filipinos some generations back but I believe they fell into disuse at the turn of the last century probably due to foreign influences. Even my lola wraps a neckerchief around her head for when she works out in the field.

For the rest of Asia, in Cambodia for example they have the krama which is said to be a distinct and distinguishing piece of wardrobe -

Aside from its traditional use as a scarf or neckerchief and being a mat/blanket or towel you could sit on for picnics, out in the field or treks it could be used as a splint for injuries, a tourniquet or bandage for wounds and emergencies, a hammock tied to a branch to secure light items or gear off the ground and a rough "cheesecloth" filter for water.

I also have a military sniper's veil that roughly functions in the same way. Besides the visibility it offers because of its perforated design, the sniper's veil could also be secured on a bent sapling or flexible branch and used as a fishnet.

No comments: