The keffiyeh or kufiya (Arabic: كُوفِيَّة kūfīyah, meaning “relating to Kufa”) also known in Arabic as a ghutrah (غُترَة), shemagh (شُمَاغ šumāġ), ḥaṭṭah (حَطَّة), and in Persian as a chafiyeh (چفیه), is a traditional Middle Eastern headdress, or what is sometimes called a habit.
It is fashioned from a square scarf, and is usually made of cotton. It is commonly found in arid regions, as it provides protection from sunburn, dust, and sand. Towards the end of the 1980s, the keffiyeh became a fashion accessory in the United States, and during the early 2000s, it became very popular among teenagers in Tokyo, Japan, where it is often worn with camouflage-style clothing. As with other articles of clothing worn in wartime, such as the T-shirt, fatigues and khaki pants, it has been seen as chic among non-Arabs in the West. Keffiyehs became popular in the United States in the late 1980s, at the start of the First Intifada, when bohemian girls and punks wore keffiyehs as scarves around their necks.
Keffiyeh as Palastine national symbol
The black and white chequered keffiyeh has become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, dating back to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Outside of the Middle East and North Africa, the keffiyeh first gained popularity among activists supporting the Palestinians in the conflict with Israel.
The wearing of the keffiyeh often comes with criticism from various political factions in the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The slang “keffiyeh kinderlach” refers to young Jews, particularly college students, who sport it around the neck as a political/fashion statement. This term may have first appeared in print in an article by Bradley Burston in which he writes of “the suburban-exile kaffiyeh kinderlach of Berkeley, more Palestinian by far than the Palestinians” in their criticism of Israel. European activists have also worn the keffiyeh.