TEHRAN — Mohammad Javad enters a fashionable store in northern Tehran with his mother. For the first time he wants a necktie, long banned in Iran as a symbol of Western decadence.
The 27-year-old dentist said she chose this outfit accessory in hopes of looking her best when meeting her future in-laws for the first time.
“In our society, wearing a tie is like wearing a mask COVID-19 Hit,” he said as the salesman adjusted his suit. “People will look at you differently because the negative view still remains.
“I think a man looks chic with one. Unfortunately, we Iranians have imposed strange and unnecessary restrictions on ourselves. It will take time to change, but hopefully it will.”
The dress code has stirred strong emotions in Iran, particularly the ban on women who have long been required to wear modest clothing and headscarves.
Iran was Grappled by the turmoilLabeled “riots” by the authorities after 16 September Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini dies in custody22, after she was arrested for violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
Iran banned ties for men after the 1979 US-backed overthrow of the king as a symbol of Western culture. Although it has since made a gradual comeback, government officials and most Iranian men continue to shun the cravat.
Upmarket Zagros shops on the capital’s Nelson Mandela Boulevard, however, feature rows of ties in different colors and in wool, cotton or silk.
“We sell about 100 every month,” said deputy store manager Mohammad Arzmand, 35. “We import them mostly from Turkey, but some are also made in Iran.”
“Customers buy them for events or work. Around here, you’ll find that two out of 10 people wear one. More people are wearing ties these days than in previous decades.”
The recent unrest has “had no impact on our sales”, said branch manager Ali Fattahi, 38. “Our customers who used to wear ties still do and come to us regularly to buy new ones.”
Iran’s Shiite clerics who came to power in 1979 banned the tie because in their view it was un-Islamic, a sign of decadence, the symbol of the cross and the delicacy of Western dress imposed by the shah, said a businessman who asked not to be identified.
After disappearing for decades, the relationship reappeared in some shop windows during the tenure of reformist President Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005.
Today, government ministers, senior civil servants and heads of state-owned companies do not wear ties with their suits and opt for button-down, open or mao-collared shirts.
“Wearing a tie is definitely not a crime” under the constitution or Islamic Sharia law, said lawyer Masud Molapanah. “But some places, like television, have clothing restrictions.”
Javad, while picking out his tie, is accompanied by his chador-clad mother, who not only encourages him to wear one but also asks the salesperson to teach her how to tie it properly for her son.
“At one time, some tried to remove it,” the 50-year-old state employee said with a laugh. “The reason given was to reject any sign of Westernization.
“But then it would have been necessary to remove the suit and revert to the traditional dress worn during the Qajar dynasty of 1794-1925,” he said, adding that “this is clearly impossible”.
Mehran Sharifi, 35, head of a nearby Pierre Cardin store, said many young people are now enthusiastic about neckties.
“Ties give people dignity – a lot of people buy them,” says the tailor’s son and grandson, pointing to a century-old photograph on the wall of his grandfather wearing a tie.
“Customers come in to buy suits and we match them with the clothes they want. Others buy them as gifts.”
In some classy cafes, black ties or bowties are part of the waiters’ uniform, and doctors in several districts of Tehran also sport ties.
The fashion accessory is almost mandatory for Iranians working in embassies and some foreign companies, although most remove it when out on the streets.
Sadek, 39, who works at the Japanese embassy, said he wears his tie when he goes to work “because it’s not very common to wear a tie in public in Iran.”
“If you walk down the street dressed like that, you’re bound to turn some heads. People will think you’re either a foreigner or someone going to a very formal meeting with foreigners.”
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