“In Bulgaria you still see the local Turkish peasants working in the fields in the Turkish traditional costume – the red fez with the embroidered yellow scarf wound round it – and it is curious, when you enter Turkey, to see this familiar figure of the Turk, as you know him, suddenly disappear from the landscape.”
Arnold Toynbee; A Journey to China, or Things Which Are Seen, 1931
Like the burqa, the fez is associated with Islam and they are found spread across the globe from Morocco to Indonesia anywhere Islam is found. I tend to identify it most with Ottoman Turkey, Egypt and particularly with "pulp adventure" (or Shriners driving little cars around in parades).
As far as Hollywood was concerned, the fez came to represent the middle east. Men wearing them in the films were sinister yet elegant. The man in the fez was the one who knew the secrets (Example: Kazim from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"). Most of them were on the wrong side of the hero, or the law, and its often seen being worn by swarthy Middle Eastern types who don't need character development; a simple fez says everything you need to know about them.
I went to my local haberdasher, and bought a Fez, that way when my players are dealing with "Sinister Middle Eastern Types", I can put on the hat an really get myself into things. I'm half tempted to pick up a couple different stick-on mustaches so I can change acts at a moments notice with a quick change of mustaches, angles the fez is worn at, and voice. Plus, as Dr Who taught us all, "Fezzes are Cool"
I have no clue in the world who this guy is but he looks,
to me, like the sort of guy who knows a few secrets
Sallah knows everything important; like how to borrow a car,
and that camels will be good to pay the brother in law off, if the car gets blown up....
And of course Kazim; the swarthy middle eastern type who knows secrets,
has secrets wrapped up in other secrets, and is mysterious, elegant, tough, and.....
....he was a good guy, even though he tried to kill Indy.