When I was a kid, I'd cringe at the sight of traditional Arab garb, and respond by immediately pulling on my favorite Nirvana sweatshirt, grab a Jansport backpack, and go eat a hot dog or something. But those days are officially over because Arab clothing has entered the realm of exotic fashion according to international standards. And where would we be if we didn't blindly follow the Western model of clothing options for getting dressed in the morning?

Now you might remember a few years ago, the big brouhaha was over the keffiyeh. Several celebrities, including David Beckham, Colin Farrell, one of the Olsen twins, and Chris Brown – to name a few - began wearing it as a fashion accessory. Urban Outfitters and Topshop sold thousands for $30 a piece to many happy hipsters before they were pulled from stores after being labeled “a sensitive item.”

So I was flipping through American apparel store Free People's app the other day and was shocked to see what they're marketing as the new trend in summer fashion wear: turbans. And not just any turbans... there's one in particular that comes with a $228 price tag.

An ethnic man wearing a turban is likely to earn him a full-body feel up and a trip to the secondary security screening section of any airport, but a chick at Coachella sporting one of these bad boys with a feather earring and a neon pink triangle tattoo on her side is just considered a fashion symbol.

Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with people borrowing from other cultures; we do after all live in a globalized world where cultural borders are increasingly becoming blended, and even perhaps, in many ways obsolete. But appropriation becomes dangerous when the sourced community has been historically oppressed and exploited, and the appropriation of their symbols only serves to invalidate their struggle further.

The keffiyeh (in modern history) has become a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, and was even the trademark headwear of Yasser Arafat. What the appropriation of the keffiyeh did was nullify it as a political symbol and turn it into just another accessory. What it also did was rip people off, because I’m fairly certain you can walk past any Palestinian camp in Lebanon and they’ll gladly hand you one for free.

So, everyone alert Abu-Hussein in your village: his headwear is now worth a whopping $228.

Articles & Media

2 photos


Avatar 1
Post to facebook