If you’ve never become acquainted with the joys of the kerchief, you probably aren’t of the the generation that brought the Shemaugh (or Keffiyeh) home from the Middle East. I have one of those that a friend gave me (which I promptly RIT-dyed bright magenta so as to avoid looking like I was pretending to be a veteran) and I like it a lot.
But now North X North is offering a lightweight merino wool version which I immediately glommed onto. For those who want a kerchief but want a “non-cultural appropriation” style (whether that culture is military or middle eastern), this may be the kerchief for you. It’s admittedly not cheap, but let me tell you why I think this is a good investment.
A kerchief (whether covering neck or head or both) used to be part of functional every day wear in centuries past. From Outlander Claire’s fichu to the ubiquitous cowboy bandana, the kerchief played a serviceable role for humanity for hundreds if not thousands of years. But it didn’t make the jump into the modern wardrobe in the western world except as a fashion or religious item. The functional part largely went away. Even the hand-kerchief has gone out of style in favor of disposable tissues in the modern world – the “pocket square” being a mere vestigial appendage in comparison.
But in a grid down situation (or even just for camping) having a large piece of soft cloth to keep your head warm, protect your neck from the sun, mop your brow, soak up neck sweat, gather berries in, insulate hot cook pot handles with or even make an emergency arm sling out of would be invaluable. Larger than a bandana but smaller than a bed sheet (42” x 42” in this case), one could consider a kerchief to be a sort of fabric multi-tool that everyone should have in their kit.
The NXN website shows 100+ ways to use their product. A few of them seem a bit dubious to me, but in an emergency, “necessity is the mother of invention”.
Merino wool – especially in jersey knit form – is soft, warm when it’s cold out, and cool when it’s hot out. Which provides advantages that a cheap cotton shemaugh cannot.
Wool is flame resistant, so it is safer around a campfire or other open flame
Wool doesn’t retain odor, so you can wear it all day, let it air out overnight and wear it again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that – all without stinking-out your camp mates.
Wool dries quickly, so you could use this kerchief as a towel after a dip in the creek and it will air dry in a few hours to wear again. Or wet it and drape it around your head/neck for cooling effect in the sun.
Wool retains warmth when wet – a survival advantage if you fall into the creek in the winter time. Yet the thin jersey knit is also cool in the summertime.
The plain, solid color design makes this kerchief versatile. You can dress it up or down, depending on the day. Wear it to the office knotted over a dress one day, and take it backpacking in the Tetons the next day.
I bought two of the “stone” color. I intend to keep one “as is” for a neutral wardrobe accessory (I used it as a scarf this past winter), but I want to try some natural plant dye on the other one to make it greenish (or even camo) for hunting and hiking. Learning the plant dyeing process will be a whole other rabbit hole for me to chase down, but I’m interested in it from an historical perspective.
I honestly cannot come up with anything negative to comment on about this NXN wool kerchief, except maybe the price. But with all the ways this simple item could serve you or save your life, you honestly get what you pay for.
The North X North Merino Wool Kerchief – I think this is a “must” for everyday wear AND the bug-out bag.