Modern or traditional?
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily NewsWhen Hamid Karzai took office as president of Afghanistan, the Western world praised his fashion sense. It was a calculated task. He took elements from every corner of his country to blend into his wardrobe.
Now that the infamous Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is gone, politics’ fashion stage is set to be filled by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.
Karzai, who marries classic tailoring with ethnic fashions, has been celebrated as a fashion icon by many, including Esquire magazine, which put him on its “Best Dressed Men in the World” list in 2007 as No. 10. The magazine said “Karzai looked confident in his clothes all the time, which is all the more remarkable considering he knew he could get blown up at any moment.”
He also won praise from Tom Ford, then creative director of Gucci, for the way he dressed. Ford called him “the chicest man on the planet.”
When Karzai took office as president three years after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and the toppling of the Taliban, he mesmerized the world with his creative wardrobe.
Karzai’s wardrobe reflected his formation. He was born in the southern city of Kandahar. His father was chief of the Popolzai Pashtun tribe, a position that Karzai held as well. People of this tribe make up the country’s largest ethnic group. Karzai, who speaks six languages, studied in India and lived in the U.S. for some time.
The Afghan leader’s signature garment is a “chapan,” ankle-length outerwear. It can have long sleeves and can also be cut like a cape and worn over the shoulders. It is made of silk or wool. Of course, Karzai wears silk chapans decorated with rich embroidery in lustrous colors such as emerald green and shimmering purple with exuberant ribbon stripes. The colors and patterns reflect specific tribes.
While his chapan reflects traditions from northern Afghanistan, his knee-length tunic with banded collars and loose-fitting trousers, called “peran tumban,” reflects the traditional dress of men from southern Afghanistan. This is the typical costume of villagers, which fell out of favor among educated Afghans quite a while ago.
He also waves to the Western world by wearing a single breasted suit jacket under the chapan and on top of his Nehru-collared shirt.
Despite the fact that the popular headgear in the country is a turban, Karzai opts for a brimless army-style astrakhan hat, which is again an Uzbek style popular in Kabul. The hat is not dictated by religious regulation but is more of a reflection of cultural pride, custom and aesthetic.
The most notable thing about his hat is the material it is made of: Karakul skin. It comes from lambs in northern Afghanistan. A few-days-old baby lamb is slaughtered and the processed skin is washed.
Karzai’s image is said to be calculated carefully, because in 1997, years before he became president, he was remembered for wearing a suit, shirt and tie. His current image speaks of heritage. All the elements of his dress are collected from different regions. No matter what his politics are, with the way he dresses he intends to give the message of unity. When all is combined, it does not make sense to Westerners; maybe it is too crowded. But it definitely speaks to the people of his country