Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gifts for every sinner on your holiday list

Still in the thick of your holiday shopping? I've got the perfect list of wildly inappropriate and vaguely sacrilegious gifts for everyone in your family! Tune in this week for the cream of the crop, or send me your suggestions at

Best gift for your hipster terrorist friends:
Got hipster friends who love controversy? The keffiyeh s the perfect gift!

In May, bubbly Food Network show host Rachael Ray got in hot water when she appeared in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial wearing a black and white keffiyeh scarf. The patterned scarf is worn mostly in the Middle East, and different combinations of colors have been associated with different nations. Lately it's become the accessory of choice for skinny-jeans wearing, ironic-moustache sporting hipsters.

Unfortunately for Ray, some angry viewers took the scarf to be a symbol of terrorism, not fashion. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin called the scarf "hate couture" and "jihadi fashion" that mimics religious extremist terrorists and anti-Israeli racists. (See some of her posts here and here. You can see Ray's scarf looked similar to the Palestinian style.
Personally, I couldn't find a reliable source to tell me exactly what's so terrorist about the keffiyeh. The real problem is this: for all I've read, I can't seem to pinpoint exactly what the keffiyeh even represents, and Malkin can't seem to , either. Her statement about terrorism and hatred seems overboard and reactionary, fueling our image as a nation chock-full of misconceptions about Middle Eastern culture.

One thing Malkin does get right is our nation's ignorance about the whole issue.What we need here is more perspective. In the U.S., we have limited context to tell us whether or not the scarf is culturally and religiously insensitive. In fact, most keffiyeh-wearers were totally in the dark about the possible repercussions before the Dunkin' Donuts fiasco.

Uber-trendsters Urban Outfitters agreed to stop carrying the scarves to smooth out the confusing controversy, but you can still find rainbow-colored versions at other stores. So why not roll the dice and buy one for your friends and loved ones? There's so many ways to wear it! They can hang it loosely around their neck to show how big of a terrorist they are, or they can wrap it artfully to broadcast how much they hate Israelis. Or they can just say "fuck it" and wear it because it looks purdy. (* coughsarcasmcough *)

Seriously, though: I'll stay away from wearing one until I can get the full scoop on the "keffiyeh kerfuffle," but I won't judge my friends who are holding onto their hot-pink scarf cuz the weather in Colorado has been in the negatives lately.

I'd also love to know what you think. Is it insensitive to wear a keffiyeh as a fashion statement, or has the pattern lost its its cultural significance in this country?


  1. P.S.
    These scarves are totally hot in Japan, too! A worldwide fashion phenonmenon, it seems. I find it interesting that we can't seem to pin down the specific cultural significance of the keffiyeh. It is possible that there simple isn't one. Lots of cultures, especially those of hotter climates, make use of large pieces of cloth simply because they're practical for all kinds of use! And I've always thought that when something becomes "fashionable," it actually watered down and the more popular it is, the less power it has. For example, the whole punk look. I mean, I'm still wearing a studded belt, but it lost a lot of significance when Target started carrying them. Know what I mean?

  2. Yasir Arafat surely gets credit for these, and he wore it from the heart, preciesly because it was a fashion statement. Now he's a quaint anachronism, the cuddly pooh bear of terrorists. How can anybody take that statment wrong? It's the zztop beard and dirty white keffiyeh you gotta look out for. Real fashion won't tolerate dirty for long, just as dreads are IN, but only if they're clean and smell like coconut citrus sage conditioner.