In the North African campaign of WWII the irregular British raiding and reconnaissance units of the Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service and "Popski's Private Army" wore them while operating in the Western Desert. After the war, their use by the British Army continued with the shemagh being worn in both desert and temperate environments in theatres such as Dhofar. Australian Army forces have also used the shemagh since the Vietnam War, and extensively during Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly by Australian Special Forces units. Since the beginning of the War on Terror, these keffiyeh, usually cotton and in military olive drab or khaki with black stitching, have been adopted by US troops as well, a reversal of previous policy which saw them strictly forbidden during the Gulf War.
Their practicality in arid environments, such as Iraq, explains their enduring popularity with military personnel. Soldiers often wear the keffiyeh folded in half into a triangle and wrapped around the face, with the halfway point being placed over the mouth and nose, sometimes coupled with goggles, to keep sand out of the face. This practice is also common among armoured, mechanised and other vehicle-borne troops, who use it as a scarf in temperate climates to ward off wind chill caused by being in moving vehicles. British soldiers deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan are now issued with a tan-colored shemagh.
As for clothing ... perhaps we are led oftener by the love of novelty, and a regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by a true utility .. No man ever stood the lower in my estimation for having a patch in his clothes; yet I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean and unpatched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.