Passion for fashion sweeps Afghanistan
KABUL - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoA passion for fashion is not the first image that springs to mind when most people think of Afghan men, usually pictured in war reports wearing beards, turbans and carrying AK47s as accessories.
But male beauty salons in downtown Kabul now hum with activity as young men update their hair and beards in the latest Western styles -- indulgences that would have got them beaten or jailed just 10 years ago. Then, religious police from the “vice and virtue” department of the Taliban regime patrolled the streets in pick-up trucks seizing or whipping men and women whose appearance was considered a sin against Islam. But since the Taliban fell from power in the 2001 US-led invasion, men in Kabul in particular have seized on a new freedom to be stylish and trendy.
“Kabul boys have grown very passionate about their looks in recent years,” says a smiling 25-year-old Ali Reza as he sprays blonde highlights on the hair of The Saloon’s smartly dressed first customer of the day. Reza was among hundreds of thousands of Afghans who fled to neighbouring countries when the Taliban took over in 1996. He learned hairdressing in India and returned to Kabul when the Taliban were toppled.
“Some media portray Afghan men as angry people with long beards and shoulder-length hair,” he says. “I decided to become a stylist to show that is not always the case, and Afghan men are beautiful, have a passion for modern fashion and are very stylish.” An interest in popular Hollywood and Bollywood styles is not new to Afghanistan, once a highlight destination of overland travel for young Westerners. It has simply been suppressed by more than three decades of war.