The ties that bind Iran loosening code on Western styles of dre

Saturday, May 25, 2002

TEHRAN, Iran -- They've been denounced as decadent, un-Islamic and a symbol of the oppressive West. But neckties are slowly coming back into fashion in Iran.

The reappearance of the tie confirms that the strict social code imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution is giving way to moderation and variety.

The most obvious change is displayed by women, who once had to wear either head-to-toe chadors or bulky coats and dull head scarves. Makeup was forbidden.

Now, women are wearing cosmetics, brightly colored scarves and body-hugging jackets with little fear of the authorities.

Men are also making some leaps into once-prohibited territory: short-sleeved shirts, long hair and clean-shaven faces in defiance of the Muslim clerics who say facial hair pays homage to the bearded Prophet Muhammad.

Ties are joining the shake-up, though they are still rare.

"Wearing ties makes us look more respectable and nice. Most of our customers are very happy. Wearing a tie is part of our shop's discipline," said clothing store salesmen Mehdi Farahani, 22, dressed in a short-sleeved blue shirt and a black-and-white patterned tie.

The shop displayed ties in the window -- which could have brought fines even a few months back. The shop uses part of its tie revenue to buy books and stationery for poor children.

Some snide remarks

Since the revolution, most Iranian men have worn long-sleeved shirts with collars but no ties. Neckties were once restricted to men at weddings or private parties.

But recently ties have been adopted by other workers in Tehran, including waiters, shop owners and hospital guards. They are still nowhere to be seen in government offices or other state-run enterprises.

At Mehr Hospital, where all the male staff now must wear ties, guard Mehdi Qasemi said the Western-style uniform gets a mixed response.

"Some welcome it, and some treat me with snide remarks," said Qasemi. The most common joke is to compare him to a tethered donkey and tell him not to break the rope.

Officials at the private Mahan Air said some of their pilots and stewards were now wearing ties.

In downtown Tehran, businessman Ali Bahadori walked along the busy Vali-e-Asr Avenue wearing a red tie with black dots. Most passers-by paid little attention, but a few looked twice.

Ties were never declared illegal, but they virtually disappeared from public view after the revolution. Any man with a tie risked being condemned as pro-Western and could have faced beatings or detention.

The loosening dress codes are part of reforms urged by President Mohammad Khatami since his election in 1997.

The government, however, doesn't reflect what's happening on the streets.

Government officials have their own unique uniform: a shirt without a collar that is buttoned around the neck. There is, of course, no tie. But a Western-style suit is acceptable.

"The 1979 Islamic revolution was mostly a cultural revolution. The tie is a symbol of the West and we don't want to be followers of the West," said a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: