Our Keffiyehs, Ourselves
Some things never go out of style. Even when they should.
Decades ago, I bought a keffiyeh from a clothing vendor in the student center of my college. One Saturday a month, a portion of the building’s south atrium transformed into a mini flea market where merchants sold vintage clothing along with wool sweaters, knit hats, Mexican blankets, and tapestries we hung on our dormitory walls. Items I bought here during my college tenure included a 1970s-era suede car coat that I wore well into my 20s, an Icelandic sweater that I have to this day, and any number of pairs of hippie-dippie dangling silver earrings that I had the good sense to stop wearing once I got my first real job upon graduation.
The keffiyeh scarf belonged in the latter category. I doubt I wore it past the age of 22. I remember wearing it on a cold New York City night in 1991 in the last months of the first Gulf War and passing some young men on the street who (jokingly, I’m pretty sure) pointed at me and yelled, “Iraqi! Get her!” I remember relaying this story to some friends the next day and thinking even as I spoke the words that this was a dumb story to tell about a dumb thing to wear. But I kept wearing it for at least another year, mostly because I felt stylish when I wrapped it around my neck and tucked it under the collar of my vintage suede car coat. (No one talked about cultural appropriation back then.)