The Bulletproof Keffiyeh Arrives in Intermittently War-Torn Beirut

Salim al-Kadi has revealed his design for a bullet-resistant keffiyeh made from Kevlar. 

Salim al-Kadi

The keffiyeh, a traditional Middle Eastern head wrap worn by many Arabs, Kurds, and Westerners who like the look, protects against sunburn, dust, and sand. Now, we can add bullets to that list. Beirut-based architect Salim al-Kadi has designed a bullet-resistant keffiyeh made from Kevlar called the K29 Keffiyeh 001.

Kevlar is a para-aramid synthetic fiber and high-strength material often used in body armor, like bulletproof vests. Because it has a high tensile strength-to-weight ratio, Kevlar is stronger than other comparable materials like steel, and can withstand the high impact of ballistics and other weapons. The incorporation of Kevlar into a keffiyeh design is an important step in protecting a crucial body part: the head.

But getting Kevlar into Lebanon was no easy task. Al-Kadi had to smuggle in the material, according to Dezeen, which was then embroidered with the traditional criss-cross pattern by a woman living in Ain al-Hilweh, a Palestinian refugee camp. According to Al-Kadi, a founding partner of the Beirut firm APractice Studio and designer of the previously-lauded K29 scarf, “the weave’s performance is increased through the layering of material and multi-directionality of the weave.”

Side view of Salim al-Kadi's K29 Keffiyeh 001

Salim al-Kadi

Keffiyeh wrapping methods vary. The traditionally square-shaped garment is, after all, popular in several Arab nations. But the statement remains cross-cultural. The keffiyeh is historically associated with Arab resistance movements, including the Arab Revolt of the 1930’s. With this particular design, Al-Kadi’s intends to give the keffiyeh new symbolism on the battlefield. “It is a keffiyeh for our contemporary landscape,” he said.