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Plight of fashion
Moustache, pistachio suits, plastic slippers... where will it end?

By Alidad Vassigh
April 3, 2002
The Iranian

I have already alluded to the cultural disaster that is the plastic slipper in Iran. I haven't finished.

If there were an item of clothing that is a shocking sign of the nation's cultural disintegration, it must be the Otafuku slipper and its inferior variants. Pedants will insist slippers are necessary, but the dampaayee, like the United States allegedly, has become overweening and arrogant.

There was a time in Iran, before the great event, when the dampaayee knew its place. It was, like proverbial kolfat-nowkars of the old regime (remember them? They're ministers and ambassadors now), discreet and functional.

It was worn on the way to the loo, slurped its way out of the bathroom, trod the [now toxic] beaches of Shomal. Old men wore it as they crouched outside the front door in old houses, young boys would [amazingly] play football with them. I would go on, but nostalgia saddens me.

Now the dampaayee has become part of the attire of the high and mighty. It walks the streets of Shemiran unchecked. All manner of peddlers, hustlers and ne'er-do-wells hanging around Tajrish and Vanak squares don this cheeky item without shame.

Admittedly they may be termed lower class, but that is a difficult distinction to make in Iran these days. What can we do, pass an act of parliament? Some will say Iran's parliament has more pressing issues at hand, such as George W. Bush's threat of military action.

I say, George Bush would be even more angry if he were shown such a pair of plastic slippers. He would surely wonder, along with his staff staring at a selection placed on his desk in the Oval Office, what nation could tolerate such a violation of decency.

If, in short, Attila the Hun were alive, he would wage war in Otafuku. We may deplore how America bombards the world with McDonalds, but we have a more dangerous threat to culture should we join the global free trade jamboree. My only concern is, the Pakistanis or Bangladeshis might produce a cheaper version and rob us of our relative advantage. Something to think about.

It would be nice of course to imagine that the country's problems would be resolved by merely banning the plastic slipper [I never wore a pair in my five-year stay in Iran, honest].

Monstrosities abound now in the land of Darius and Xerxes: there are the excessively baggy trousers for example, with 75 pleats on each side, which provincials and Afghans have brought to Tehran. These are sometimes sold with badly-cut, mock double-breasted jackets, without vents at the back. They come in a variety of colours, including bright Pistachio green for grand occasions. I have also seen a velvet orange one, Fanta colour.

A friend offered to buy such a suit for his cousin if he promised to wear it with a pair of shiny white slip-on shoes [on sale in Tehran's Enqelab Avenue] at a party. This was a challenge demanding much confidence and humour, a sartorial bridge too far I would say.

Shoes are not doing much better. The men's high-heeled shoe, again slip-on, has made a comeback after disappearing with the Safavid dynasty. It is similar to the American cowboy boot, only plain awful. An old gentleman assured me years ago that Iranian shoes were as stylish as Church's shoes, from England; I believe he had failing eyesight.

Ties, as we know, have simply disappeared like the rain. Shirt collars have shrunk to minimal dimensions, in an attempt to prove that Iranians have moved on from the 1970s. I must inform the Iranian authorities that the 1980s, and 90s, have come and gone - large collars are back; please check a recent catalogue from any men's department store.

And don't forget the mother of abominations, the moustache. That's the black thing that appears above men's lips as soon as they reach the age of eight, when they can vote and be rude to women. I asked one person why men had this. He said that it was a sign of manhood, amused by the question a simpleton from Planet Mars had put to him.

Moustache, pistachio suits, plastic slippers... where will it end? To the men of Iran I say stop it, stop it right now. I suggest a United Nations team to investigate the plight of fashion in Iran. When its various Dutch and Norwegian members arrive at the airport, we mustn't forget to send hundreds of people to greet them at the airport, with flowers, dates and baqlavah: now there's style for you.
Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Alidad Vassigh

By Alidad Vassigh

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