Monday, January 19, 2015

Gear Review: The Versatile Shemagh

I’d like to review a piece of gear that I particularly like although I haven’t owned or worn one in some time. I call it a Shemagh. Although there are many different styles and names from India to the Middle East. I just picked one up and want some more.
The keffiyeh, especially the all-white keffiyeh, is also known as the ghutrah. This is particularly common in the Arab Peninsula where the skullcap is called a keffiyeh. Roughly speaking:
Ordinary keffiyeh [kuh-fee-uh]
A piece of white/orange/black cloth made from wool and cotton, worn primarily by Palestinians.
Shemagh [sh-mawg]
A piece of cloth, usually made of cotton or flax and decorated with many colors, but usually red and white; worn primarily by Jordanians.
Ghutrah [goo-tra]
A piece of white cloth made of cotton mild, worn in western Iraq and by the Arabs of the Persian Gulf states.

I’m not real sure of all the history or cultural tradition in this item so I asked my friend Mac about it. Mac served in Special Ops for 22 years and now serves in the Diplomatic Security service. He has been to just about every middle eastern, and far eastern country there is. Not to mention his South American and Asian exploits. He sent me these tid-bits of information.

“As far as the symbolization of the colors, I used to a have a few Palestinian friends, and they told me black checkering: Fatah, red checkering: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ( a pro-Syrian group), green checkering: Hamas/Muslim fundamentalists.
When I was in the West Bank and Gaza in 1989, red and black were popular, but green wasn't.
So red and white checkered is used by sunni (one example being the Jordanian military), a green and white one by shia, and black and white is traditionally worn by lower/working classes (was worn by Arafat as a symbol of his connection to working class palestinians). There are several weights but the most common are lightweight cotton. The OD/black, and tan/black are to the best of my knowledge the colors that were issued to the SAS in the World War II.
Another part of why you see them being worn by various troops (especially special operations units) in an effort to forge bonds with the local people. This is part of why they were often seen on SF/Spec Ops troops in the early days of the war in Afganistan. Many of them were working to blend in with and had to work closely with local forces. Dressing similar to the local troops helped them forge bonds with these local units.
It also helps you blend in if you must egress.”
This my favorite way to wear the Shemagh but there are many different ways.

1. Fold the shemagh into a triangle. With the shemagh completely open, match one corner with the corner diagonally opposite from it, folding the square in half and into a triangle.This particular tying method is a good option if you want to use the shemagh to protect your head and face from cold winds or hot sun.

2. Drape the shemagh over your forehead. Pull the folded edge of the shemagh over your forehead, positioning it somewhere between your hairline and your eyebrows.
The excess material should drape over the top of your head and down the back, not in front of your face.
If you have tied a bandana in the past, then a good way to think of this initial position would be to act as though you are preparing to tie a really large bandana.
The two ends of the shemagh should be about equal for this style, so position the folded edge with the middle resting on your head.
3. Wrap the right side under your chin. Pull the right side around to the left so that it wraps completely under your chin. Pull the end over your shoulder and toward the back of your head.
Hold this end in place with your left hand while working with the left side to prevent it from loosening. A shemagh needs to be fairly tight in order to be effective.
4. Wrap the left side over your face. Grab the leading or folded edge of the left side with your right hand and pull it all the way across your face, toward your right side. Unlike the right side of the shemagh, this left side should drape across your nose and mouth, not under your chin.
Pull the right end over your shoulder and toward the back of your head, as well.
5. Tie the two ends at the back of your head. Use a tight overhand or double knot to secure the shemagh in place. This knot should be at the back of your head, roughly around the back center, and it must be tight enough to keep the shemagh on your face.
Do not tie the knot so tightly that you make it difficult to breathe or turn your head, but make sure that the material is taut against all parts of your neck, face, and head.
6. Adjust as needed. Adjust the shemagh as needed so that the material covers the top of your head and lower half of your face without covering your eyes. After this step, the shemagh is complete.
One major advantage of this wrapping style is its versatility. You can pull the bottom off your face to create a simple headwrap, or you can pull both the bottom and top portions down so that they sit around your neck, creating a scarf.

The time I have spent in the Southwest has taught me that removing clothing is not the way to go in extreme heat. Loose clothing that breaths is what will keep you coolest. The Shemagh does this very well. But in cold, wrapped tightly, it can keep out cold and keep you warm. The Shemagh can be worn with a Tuk, a beanie or skullcap, or other hats. I’ve worn one with a baseball hat underneath.
The Shemagh has many other uses. Besides keeping you cool and warm it can be used to wrap up a bundle of items and tied to a stick like the old hobos. It can be used as a bandage in a pinch or a tourniquet. I’ve used one as an arm sling or in tying a leg to a pole or stick to immobilize the limb. It can be wrapped around a foot to support a sprain or worse.
It can be used as a wash cloth or towel. It can be used as a pot holder too. Also it can be used as a water filter. I’ve used one more than once as a pillow.
I’m sure you can find other uses I haven’t mentioned or thought of.

Often this piece of clothing is sometimes referred to as a tactical scarf. I’m not sure why. The word “tactical” is sometimes thrown around a lot. I think too much. As I’ve said before, I tease my wife by adding paracord to everything and then calling it “tactical”.
I like items that have multi uses. I also like the fact that it is light weight and not bulky. It’s easily slipped into a bug out bag,back pack or “C” bag.
I highly recommend them.

Semper Paratus
Check 6