The suit may make the man, but can it do anything for a fallen dictator? Not enough for Saddam Hussein, apparently. When Saddam first returned to the public eye for his trial in October, he sported a series of bespoke Turkish-wool suits that the fledgling Iraqi republic had purchased from his former tailor. But on Monday, he scrapped the suits in favor of a blue caftan (or dishdasha). It’s an unusual choice for a suave secularist like Saddam, but it could be a shrewd fashion move.
The socio-cultural aspect of Middle Eastern men’s fashion is what drew my interest. According to Slate, men’s neckties are a politically charged accessory in the Middle East. Who knew? I suppose it makes sense.
In Iran, the tie became a much more controversial symbol of Westernization. The CIA helped Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi* take power in the early ’50s, and in the years that followed, the shah’s necktie linked him with his U.S. backers and their corporate oil interests. For many Iranians living under the shah, it was also a sign of his subservience and decadence. (Iranians still sometimes refer to the shah’s rule as “the regime of the Crown and Necktie.”) After the shah’s ouster in 1979, the tie came under fire from Ayatollah Khomeini, who sought a return to Islamist-or at least anti-Western-attire. Ever since the revolution, Iranian officials have adhered to an unspoken dress code of dark suits, unkempt beards, and bare collars. (One of the ironies of Saddam’s tielessness was that it made him look more like Iran’s President Ahmadinejad than he would probably have cared to admit.) With their loaded history, neckties now make for a ready symbol of dissidence for pro-Western Iranian students, who nearly always wear them in protests.
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