Iran Issues Guidelines for Virtuous Haircuts for Men

TEHRAN, Iran -- An Iranian fashion organization has issued a new list of culturally appropriate haircuts for men, possibly indicating a new crackdown on male attire after years of strict rules for women, Iranian media reported.

Although the Ministry of Culture has yet to officially adopt the styles presented by the Veil and Modesty Festival, the private organization said approval is pending. It would be the first such rules for men's hair styles since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"We introduced the hairstyles to the Culture Ministry," said Jaleh Khodayar, head of the group, telling Iranian newspapers Tuesday that it had been approved informally and an official statement would soon be made.

Clothing and hair styles have become a highly visible political statement in Iran since the first stirrings of the reform movement in the late 1990s. Many young women have tested authorities by allowing more hair to spill out from under their head scarves and wearing shorter and tighter coverings. Some men, too, push boundaries with earrings and long hair and ponytails.

Even shaving habits can take on broader overtones. Beards or heavy facial stubble -- worn by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials -- are considered signs of religious piety and loyalty to the ruling clerics. But many men, including opposition activists, adopt a clean-shaven look.

Hard-line groups have repeatedly launched drives to reimpose more conservative codes for women, but often gave only passing attention to men until now.

The new hairstyles are aimed at confronting the "Western cultural invasion," according to Khodayar, by promoting cuts based on the "law and culture" of the Iranian society.

The group says the styles will be modified for Iran's provinces based on regional culture and the clean-shaven models will be displayed in barber shops for visibility.

Khodayar said female hair styles will be introduced in future and the styles would be featured in foreign exhibitions in hopes of spreading them to other Muslim countries.

Many trendy young Iranian men favor Western hair styles, including pony tails, inspired by Hollywood movie stars.

The introduction of appropriate hairstyles for men is the latest salvo in Iran's annual modesty campaign which peaks every year at summer time and is aimed at combating any deviation from strict Islamic attire.

Since 1979 revolution that brought Islamists to power in Iran, authorities have regularly detained young people, male and female, for "lack of virtue" in their clothing, hair styles and makeup.

Laws in place since the revolution require women to cover from head-to-toe in loose-fitting overcoats hiding their shape and cover their head with a scarf.

The rules are enforced by police and paramilitaries, who castigate women for showing too much hair, wearing makeup or figure hugging clothing.