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June 12, 2008 Shesh sweet shesh

The shesh, called the shud in some regions, is a long scarf. It’s generally six or more feet long and 2-3 feet across. I’ve been using a pashmina as a shesh, and it works great.

I keep it on whenever I travel, or any day that the weather is especially variable, because it’s a fantastically simple way to “layer”. If the weather is temperate, I keep the shesh looped loosely over my shoulders, where I barely notice it. It’s long enough to be able to do a full loop around my neck, probably ~1.5’ diameter, and have the tails hang down in front of my shoulders. This keeps it handy, off the ground, and succeeds in masking my (ahem) silhouette, which helps to deter unwanted attention.

When chilly, I can pull it more tightly around my neck, loop it a second time, or else do the Classic New England Scarf Loop*, all of which turn the shesh into a cozy neck-warming scarf. When it’s really cold, I can shake it out to its full size and use it as a shawl, to keep my arms and torso cozy warm. And when it’s really sunny, I can drape it over my head as an instant sunshade for my face and neck; not only does it prevent sunburn, it also makes me feel about ten degrees cooler. It’s like stepping into the shade.

A completely unrelated use for a shesh is as a way to reserve a seat on a tranzit. Tell the driver you want to go, leave the shesh on the seat of your choice, and you have a guaranteed seat whenever it leaves (up to two hours away). If you tell the driver that you want a seat, but don’t reserve yourself a spot, you end up at the mercy of the jumper (aka the driver’s assistant). He might put you in a great seat or you might end up standing the whole way. Reserving a particular seat with your shesh takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.

Also, since my shesh is actually a pashmina, it’s incredibly lightweight as well as being incredibly warm. (Plus, it was a gift from a wonderful person who traveled to a fascinating place for a great reason, so it’s got all kinds of heartwarming associations.) It also compacts really well, if I feel like stowing it in my bag.

* OK, I admit it, I have no idea what it’s called. But all the scarf-wearers I’ve noticed in Boston, Providence, and New York do it, hence the name. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about: fold the scarf in half, put it across your shoulders, and pull the tails through the loop formed by doubling it over. It feels like you’re making a slip knot out of the scarf. This succeeds in keeping a big poofy lump of scarf up around your neck, in a much more stable fashion than simply winding it around (which always, at least on me, slides undone within about five minutes). It’s fast, easy, and warm.

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