Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shemagh - Gear Week

What is a shemagh?
Shemagh is the anglicization of a turkish word, yaşmak (meaning scarf, something tied, veil), which refers to a specific kind of scarf used to protect from desert environments. It can also be referred to as a kuffiya (كوفية‎) or occasionally a ghutra. It is referred to almost universally in any kind of militaristic context as a shemagh. It's typically made from cotton and can be worn in a multitude of styles, and for a variety of purposes.

Why is it worn?
Shemaghs may be worn for utility, cultural reasons or fashion. It is so useful because a properly made shemagh protects the wearer from wind, sand and sun, while still remaining breathable and light. In arctic weather, it can even protect from the bitter cold, as I discovered while walking in -40 degree Celsius (-40 degree Fahrenheit) weather during a bus strike.

Makes for a cool backdrop too (my old X7 MP5N).

Why do people wear it in paintball games?
Not only does it provide a great OPFOR aesthetic when worn, but shemaghs can aid to camouflage the wearer, and even bounce or lessen the blows of paintballs. Often times paintball players will wear it simply wrapped around their neck, but some will tie it properly around their goggles as if it was their head.

How do I tie it?
Courtesy of U.S. Cavalry:

Where do I buy it?
I'm a big opponent of people buying shemaghs online unless it's an absolute necessity. In any major city there are probably people making genuine shemaghs at a good price. The vast majority of shemaghs online are made in China, and the Chinese shemagh industry has driven a ridiculous number of people making genuine shemaghs out of business. So in my opinion, it's that much better to support a local artist by buying a shemagh locally as opposed to buying a knock-off and hurting said local artist. That being said, I won't provide any links to shemaghs.


  1. Travis "Wingnut" EnglishMay 11, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    Shemaghs are -awesome- pieces of kit. I've owned one for years now, and here's only a few things I've used it for.

    - Bandana (head and face), hood
    - Scarf and neck protector
    - Full head wrap is *awesome* against sun and dust
    - Towel for cleaning paint from gear
    - Temporary rifle sling
    - Suspenders (when my belt broke)
    - Gaulish lunch bundle (throw a Subway sandwich on a flat shemagh, twist it at the ends, and tie it around your body like a backpack)

  2. I bought one of these to wear under my hard hat when I work as a longshoreman.

    These are simply the most amazingly wonderful thing to wear under a hard hat, working in the hot sun, I have ever experienced.

    Do not think about it as a middle eastern political symbol, the heritage predates that. This is headwear developed by people living in the desert over thousands of years. It is used because it works.

  3. Thanks for the comments gents! Sorry I missed yours originally Travis!

    The usefulness of the shemagh truly knows no bounds. :)