Shemaghs and Ghutras for the 21st Century

By Eric Broug

The traditional shemagh worn by men across the Middle East and Gulf region is a square cotton scarf worn as a headdress. Single or double red bands are woven into the fabric along the outer edges. Inside the square area that is created by these red bands, a traditional pattern, usually of ‘bean shapes’, is stitched/embroidered onto the shemagh. So, two production processes are used to give the shemagh its appearance: weaving and stitching.

Technological innovations now open new opportunities for greater creativity in the design of the shemagh. Such as a half shemagh/half ghutra from Saudi fashion house Lomar Thobe. Their designer, Christophe Beaufays: “new techniques have emerged, including the “devoré” technique, which offers more creative possibilities. We at Lomar have used this to “devour” half a shemagh with the classic pattern in red stitching and weaving, so that now one triangular section is shemagh and the other is triangular section is ghutra (without colour; just white). Once folded diagonally, one can wear it in shemagh or in ghutra.”


Lomar Thobe have also recently collaborated with Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, but instead of just branding a conventional shemagh they have worked together to manufacture a luxurious cashmere shemagh


Especially in Saudi Arabia, quite a few international luxury brands license the production of shemaghs (and ghutras, the white cotton scarves), to be produced with their logos on it. These shemaghs and ghutras are manufactured mostly in Switzerland and the United Kingdom.


There is not that much variation in design between these branded shemaghs; the colour red can vary slightly, and the shape and size of the ‘beans’ in the stitched part of the scarf, can vary.

Traditionally, the least opportunity for creativity in shemagh design lay with the woven red bands that run parallel to the edges of the scarf. Technological innovation has now also made this an area for designers to get creative. Famous Saudi designer Yahya al-Bishri has designed a range of shemaghs where he has been able to add new creative elements to the traditional shemagh by doing something new and different with what were conventionally just straight woven bands.


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Yahya al-Bishri:


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