Civil Liberties

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 These haircuts do not seem Iranian so much as outdated and unimaginative.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