Useful Tools

How to Wear A Shemagh: From Tactical to Tacticool Appearance

How to Wear A Shemagh
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that when you click on one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Also, as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you.

The shemagh, also known as a keffiyeh, is a scarf traditionally worn in the Middle East to protect people from dust, sand, and heat. It was adopted by European and American soldiers fighting there and made its way to popularity across the globe.

A shemagh is not only a type of clothing but also a piece of equipment with many uses. Therefore, knowing how to wear a shemagh can help you in a variety of survival conditions.

How Do I Choose A Shemagh?

A Shemagh can be one of the most practical and valuable pieces of gear you own, so make sure you choose the right one.

There are a few primary considerations when purchasing a Shemagh.

  1. Material – What type of material do you want? I personally use either a 100% cotton Shemagh. Cotton will keep you cool and warm while blocking small particles like dust and no-seeums.
  2. Size – Many uses require a full-size Shemagh. This means your Shemagh should be at least 40 x 40.
  3. Weight – A light Shemagh for the summer and heavier Shemagh for the winter.
  4. Quality – Examing the fabric like you would with any piece of clothing. Is the stitching tight? Are there unraveling threads? Are there runs or marks? Is the material easy to tear?

I’ve listed Shemaghs that I like below. There are not a lot listed, but only what I think are good quality Shemaghs.

1. BLACKHAWK Tactical Shemagh Headwear

The Blackhawk Tactical Shemagh is a 44 x 44, 100% cotton Shemagh. This is a very popular, well-made Shemagh that is currently used by both our troops and coalition forces in the middle-east.

Shop Here Shop Here
2. Explore Land Cotton Shemagh Tactical Desert Scarf Wrap
$11.99

This 43 x 41, 100% cotton Shemagh is handwoven and not printed. This is a quality-made Shemagh that the manufacturers stand behind with a one-year warranty. Black is a color I often wear. It blends well and does not stand out.

Shop Here
10/19/2021 10:01 pm GMT
3. Rothco Gadsden Snake Shemagh Tactical Desert Scarf
$12.13

Rothco's legacy starts in the US, and this quality-made 42 x 42, 100% cotton Shemagh reflects the company's reputation for quality. This is a very popular, no-nonsense Shemagh.

Shop Here
10/19/2021 09:56 pm GMT

24 Uses for Your Shemagh

Protection from the Elements

  1. Fire. During a fire, it’s helpful to have a wet cloth to protect your airway from dust, heat, and smoke. Shemaghs are fairly large pieces of cloth, therefore they can be used to protect your head, neck, shoulders, and upper arms. Forest fires are becoming more common in the US backcountry, and these can be helpful for smoke control and signaling for help.
  2. Shelter. Place your shemagh under your sleeping bag for extra protection from the ground. It will not provide the same insulation as a sleeping pad, but it is better than no insulation. It will also help protect a sleeping pad from punctures.
  3. Sun protection. Stay out of the sun using this lightweight, light-colored fabric tied around your head and shoulders. This will help you to avoid sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke.
  4. Dust protection. Don’t get caught in a dust storm without adequate protection from inhaling dust, dirt, and debris. The shemagh can be used to cover your mouth and nose during one of these survival situations.
  5. Snow protection. If you’re caught in a snowstorm, you’ll want to cover up as much of your bare skin as possible, to avoid frostbite. A shemagh can help to add some warmth and protect your skin from damage.
  6. Wind protection. It’s important to keep your face and head covered when you’re out in the elements because much of your body’s heat is lost through these areas. Wrapping a shemagh around your head can help immensely when you’re facing a strong wind chill.

General Survival

Black Shemagh
  1. Trail marker. If you’ve gotten lost or want to show the way to other members of your group who are behind you, you can use your shemagh to indicate the way. It can also be used as an emergency signal or flag.
  2. Firestarter. Use pieces of your shemagh to light fires in emergency situations. Cut small cloth pieces from your shemagh, place them in a tin can and burn them until they become charred. At this point, you can place them on top of a bundle of straw to make a flame and start a fire.
  3. Weapon. If you’re afraid of being attacked, make a flail from your shemagh by tying a rock inside one of it’s corners. It can also be used as a Shepherd’s sling to hunt small animals.

First Aid

  1. Bandage. If you’ve hurt yourself, cut the shemagh into small pieces to use as bandages to cover your wound.
  2. Tourniquet. If you need something to stop bleeding, cut a piece of your shemagh and tie it above your wound to stop the blood flow from irrigating your wound. Make sure you also check out our top picks for the best first aid kits for more information.
  3. Sling. A dislocated limb, a sprain, or luxation can be treated with an improvised sling created using a shemagh.
  4. Splint tie. If you have a fractured limb, you need to immobilize it with a splint, so that the bones don’t move too much. After you’ve made a splint, use the shemagh to secure the splint in place.
  5. Knee pad. A fall can result in a painful, bruised, and skinned knee, but the pain can be reduced after you wrap your knee with something. A scarf works well in these cases, but so does your multi-functional shemagh.

Camping

  1. Towel. Forgot your towels at home when camping? No problem, the shemagh can play that part too. Besides, rain can hit anytime even in the parking lot of your workplace.
  2. Tablecloth. Dirty camping tables? Some campers aren’t very concerned about what they leave behind, which is why you may need to cover your camping table with something before eating.
  3. Potholder. The handles of your pots and pans can give you burns if you don’t have something to wrap them in, so why not a shemagh? You can even use it in your office kitchen if a co-worker has misplaced the actual potholder.
  4. Makeshift curtain. If you’re caught traveling for longer than you anticipated, or have to sleep in your car unexpectedly, it is always good to have some privacy. Improvise a curtain from your shemagh.
  5. Water filter. If you’ve left your water filter at home or simply don’t have a filtration system, you can easily filter out debris with your shemagh.
  6. Water collector. If you find yourself in need of a water source, look no further. To collect water, you can tie the shemagh’s corners onto four sticks, put a rock in the center, and a bottle underneath the rock. If it rains, the water will drip into the bottle.
  7. Impromptu pillow. Stuff your shemagh with grass, dry leaves, or spare shirts and you’ll have something comfortable to place your head on, without carrying an extra-pillow in your backpack.
  8. Blanket. If you get caught outside unprepared and don’t have a sleeping bag, you’ll likely still need some protection from the elements overnight. Use a heavier-weight shemagh for a makeshift blanket.
  9. Traveling bag. Tie together the corners of your shemagh for an improvised rucksack or to hide objects you don’t want anyone to see.

Tying the Shemagh

You’ve made it to the last step: how to tie your shemagh! Again, there are a variety of styles, all used for different reasons.

The Traditional Wear

Tying the shemagh

This method is perfect for protection from the elements, dust, and fire. It covers your nose and mouth.

The steps you need to take are:

  1. Make a triangle out of your shemagh.
  2. Cover your forehead with the folded edge, place it in the middle of your forehead, and make sure that the ends are equal both left and right.
  3. Place the right side of the shemagh under the chin by taking its end towards your left side and over the left shoulder. Hold it steady with your left hand.
  4. Place the left side of the shemagh over your face by using your right hand and pulling it to your right. Make sure both your nose and mouth are covered.
  5. Secure the two ends with a knot behind your head. Make sure the knot is pretty tight so that the keffiyeh doesn’t fall from your nose. However, it shouldn’t be too tight because you still want to breathe.
  6. Adjust it so that it is comfortable. If you don’t need to cover your mouth and nose, but just your head, pull the lower part down. If you don’t need to cover your head either, pull the top part down too, and you get a nice-looking scarf.

The Tactical Wear

The tactical wear

Unlike the first method of tying the keffiyeh, which is more appropriate for weather protection, this method provides increased protection for dust storms or debris because it will have more material covering your airways.

To use the tactical style,

  1. Make a triangle shape out of your shemagh.
  2. Put the folded edge of the shemagh over your forehead, covering it until it’s in the middle. This time, make sure that the right part is longer than the left one by almost half.
  3. Take the left side and place it under your chin, holding it in place with your right hand.
  4. Take the right side across your mouth and your nose, using your left hand.
  5. Continue wrapping the longer part over your head, until its end meets the end of the left side of your shemagh.
  6. Make a knot or two in order to tie the shemagh’s ends, and secure the scarf over your mouth and nose so that it doesn’t fall. Again, be careful not to tie the knot too tightly or otherwise you won’t be able to breathe properly.
  7. Adjust for comfort, ensuring that the shemagh doesn’t fall over your eyes and covers well your airway. This time, because of the different wrapping style, you won’t be able to turn the shemagh into a scarf or simple headwear.

The Cool Scarf Wear

Cool scarf wear

If you’re more interested in your apparel and possibly making a fashion statement, you can use this method to tie your keffiyeh.

To use this style,

  1. Make a triangle out of your keffiyeh.
  2. Wrap the folded edge of the keffiyeh over your mouth and nose, making sure that the lower half your face is covered with one corner of the triangle, while the other two corners will cover the left and right sides of your face.
  3. Take the left and right corners around the back of your neck, making sure that the shoulders are covered, and tie them together in a knot. Again, the knot shouldn’t be so tight that you find it difficult to breathe, but not too lose so that the keffiyeh doesn’t hold.
  4. Bring the two ends in front of your chest, over your right and left shoulder respectively. If you want to hide them, tie them in another knot under the lower corner of the keffiyeh.
  5. Bring down the folded edge of the keffiyeh – the one that was previously covering your mouth and nose. This way, you’ll get the casual apparel you’re looking for.

The Cowboy Scarf Wear

Cowboy scarf wear

This is another fashionable look you can opt for when tying a shemagh, but it’s better suited for windy weather or for smaller kids who need a good, sturdy neck scarf in case they fret around a lot.

To use the cowboy style,

  1. Make a triangle out of your keffiyeh.
  2. Wrap the folded edge of the keffiyeh over your mouth and nose, making sure that the lower half of your face is covered with one corner of the triangle, while the other two corners will cover the left and right sides of your face.
  3. Take the left and right corners around the back of your neck, making sure that the shoulders are covered, and cross one on top of the other, without making a knot.
  4. Bring the corners in front of your chest, by crossing your left and right shoulder respectively, and tie them together in a knot. Again, the knot shouldn’t be so tight that you find it difficult to breathe, but not too loose so that the keffiyeh doesn’t hold.
  5. The remaining portion of the material in front should be tucked inside your jacket or top for a more secure result. Skip this step if you want to look more casual.
  6. Bring down the folded edge of the keffiyeh – the one that was previously covering your mouth and nose. This way, you’ll get the final touches to the style you’re looking for.

The Bandana Wear

If you’re looking for a scarf with mouth and nose protection but without much hassle, this is the style for you.

These are the steps you should take:

  1. Make a triangle our of your shemagh.
  2. Wrap the folded edge of the keffiyeh over your mouth and nose, making sure that the lower half your face is covered with one corner of the triangle, while the other two corners will cover the left and right sides of your face.
  3. Wrap the left and right corners one on top of each other at the back of your neck, but don’t tie them.
  4. Bring the two ends in front of your chest and cross them again one over each other in order to bring them to the back.
  5. Tie these two ends in a knot, which shouldn’t be too tight nor too loose.

Conclusion

There are all sorts of intelligent and interesting ways to wear a shemagh, either as a garment, a weapon, a bag, or a baby wrap. So you can turn it from a tactical scarf to a practical multi-functional item.

Carrying a multi-purpose item like a shemagh in your bug-out bag, backpack, or trunk of your car is an intelligent decision.

About the author

Samuel Funt

Samuel is a prepper with over 15 years of experience. Samuel is excited to share his knowledge and the things he learns while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where he lives and around the world.

5 Comments

  • I did not know shemagh has such a wide array of usage, always though people wear it for the looks.
    Is it possible to make a shemagh? I enjoy sewing and would like to make some for my entire family.

  • As mentioned in the article, there are dozens of tactical uses of a shemagh, so if you run into such a situation you have a great tool.

  • I have a whole collection of shemaghs in different colors. I use them in my daily fashion. In fact, there is not a single day that passes by without wearing one. My favorite style is the Arabian Museek. Your content is very informative.

Leave a Comment