Is Hair Gel a Persian Invention?


This week Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance released posters showing haircuts for men that the authorities have approved as Islamically correct. The New York Times reports that "more styles are set to be unveiled Sunday as part of the ministry's Veil and Chastity Day festival." (Now I know what I'm doing this weekend.) The festival's director, Jaleh Khodayar, explains that "we want to preserve our culture and respect Iranian tradition and come up with hairstyles that confront Western cultural invasion."

I'm no Vidal Sassoon, but the styles look pretty Western to me. Although they are all fairly short, sideburns are acceptable, and none of the models has a beard. These haircuts do not seem Iranian so much as outdated and unimaginative.

Back in 2001, Charles Paul Freund noted that Iran's haircut police were cracking down on a style modeled after Leonardo DiCaprio's in Titanic.

Correction: As a couple of alert readers pointed out, Chuck's piece was about Afghanistan's haircut police.

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  1. There’s something about Persian hair gel.

  2. The Holy Koran considers hair gel to be unclean.

  3. These haircuts do not seem Iranian so much as outdated and unimaginative.

    Well, we can’t ALL be as fashionable as this.

    1. That had better not be who I think it is.

      1. Um, it’s not. And if you don’t believe me, then Dan T. posted the above comment using my handle. And also, I live in Nome, Alaska.

    2. Sullum’s got the look bro.

      That’s a tidy do.

      1. +1

        Stay classy Jake.

  4. Now that they done something about the haircuts, hopefully they will tackle the cologne problem next.

    1. What about the gold curtain rods?

    2. Persians aren’t like Arabs or Indians; they are more like guidos. They LOVE overdosing on the cologne.

      Or is that what you meant?

  5. I await the Islamic appropriate manscaping and womanscaping photos. So is the landing strip in or out? Or is it all Chewbacca all the time?

    1. Already done:

      ‘A’isha reported: Muhammad said: Ten are the acts according to fitra: clipping the mustache, letting the beard grow, using the tooth-stick, snuffing water in the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving the pubic hair and cleaning one’s private parts with water. The narrator said: I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been rinsing the mouth. (Sahih Muslim, II.502)

      1. Photos man I need photos.

  6. ok, so… where exactly in the Koran does it dictate hair styles? Is it in the same section that tells me whether I can shop at the Gap?

  7. Hairstyles and attitudes — are they connected? Are the styles we embrace a matter of taste, or of values rejected? Hairstyles and attitudes — how do they relate? How well do we use our freedom to choose the illusions we create?

      1. I was really hoping you were going to say this.

    1. Are the styles we embrace a matter of taste, or of values rejected?

      One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.

  8. Hair gel a Persian invention? You have to ask? Sheesh.

  9. “Khodayar, explains that “we want to preserve our culture and respect Iranian tradition and come up with hairstyles that confront Western cultural invasion.”

    Isn’t there any way the Muslim world and the west can understand each other than in terms of invasions?

    I don’t know what’s worse, listening to our own butt-heads talking about Islamofacism invading the west or listening to their butt-heads talking about our culture invading the Muslim world.

    Oh, and glancing through the pictures, am I to understand mohawks on adults, mullets and long hair are all out?

    …the chicks that cut hair in my local mall probably think the same thing. It is funny that in quasi-totalitarian regimes like this, the fashion police feel it’s necessary to tell everybody not to have any accidents like they’re traffic cops or something…

    I had a friend who was in China back in the early ’80s. And he said that when you went to get your hair cut there, every barber had two pictures on the wall, and you just pointed to the one you wanted. One was a photograph of Moe from the Three Stooges, and the other was a photo of Pete Rose.

  10. Yep, still the same story as when I posted this in the morning links comment section.

  11. [yawn] Let me know when she gets a hairstyle.

  12. Has the government certified barber shops to properly perform the Islamically correct cuts?

  13. I’d rather be protesting and getting my ass kicked by MPs than being told what to put on my head.

  14. Jacob:

    That anecdote you linked to was *Afghanistan*, not Iran. And that has been well known for a while: Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars told a story about how the Taliban in Mazer-i-Sharif in the late 90s beat up a lot of people who were rocking the Titanic do, which has apparently been popular there ever since the movie came out. Charles’s noting of the same stuff going on in 2001 was at least ~4 years old at the time. (the haircut being popular since the movie came out, and the Taliban not liking it at all since the movie came out)

    1. Beat me to it. I remember reading about the Taliban banning the haircut, and thinking how sad it was that: a government was so oppressive it would actually ban a hairstyle; and that the apparent height of coolness in Afghanistan was to look like Leo DiCaprio.

  15. These haircuts “confront Western cultural invasion”??

    They look straight out of the early 90s, Beverly Hills 90210-type fashion-moment… like, the entire spectrum of, “short sides, longish top, no bangs, little sideburns”, that was demo’d in glossy photos in every barber shop in the country. “I’ll have the Jason Priestly, but with a little extra top spike”

    They are about as culturally confrontational as Menudo. They look like every guido in America? Oh noes!

    Militant Pashtuns are far more serious about confronting westerners… and dude, they LET THEIR FREAK FLAG FLY:

    http://scrapetv.com/News/News Pages/Everyone Else/images-3/Baitullah-Mehsud-2.jpg

    Baitullah Mehsud puts Kirk Hammett’s locks to shame. I can almost see him doing air guitar while American vehicles are hit by IED’s.

    1. “They are about as culturally confrontational as Menudo.”

      Like “The Odd Couple” and “Laverne & Shirley” before them, the gay undertones of Menudo were groundbreaking.

      They were metrosexual as they wanted to be in the ’80s!

      The early ’80s.

      1. I mean, seriously, I’m no expert on this…

        But it seems to me that before someone like Ricky Martin can come out of the closet? Technically, he should have to go into the closet first.

  16. I will also add, I don’t see the “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” coiffure being specifically sanctioned.

    Or maybe not. His might be the brown one on the left. But I still think it lacks the sassyness of his sometimes-wavy forelock. I see in more recent photos he’s trimmed that part away a little. On lockdown, as it were.

    Did anyone notice that there are really only 6 haircuts that meet the criteria?

  17. Apparently they did ban mullets.

    So something good did come out of this.

  18. Veil and Chastity Day festival

    Oh god. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

  19. Why does remind me of MMO character creation details being unveiled. 5 NEW SPECIALIZATIONS FOR IRANIANS! Egyptian tweeks complain they are overpowered!!! Ruins game FOREVER!

  20. These hairstyles don’t seem to ‘confront Western cultural invasion’ to me. Maybe western hairstyles are not that different to Iran’s?

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