Not just for girls: Yemeni men get their skinny jeans and fauxhawks on
With youth throughout Yemen increasingly exposed to globalized influences, fashion has become a key battleground between traditional and modern aspects of Yemeni culture. More and more, young men, as well as women, say they are using clothing to define their individual identities against a backdrop of cultural, tribal and religious differences.
A number of youths are pursuing ever-changing fashion trends and clothing stores are swarming with various designer clothes such as Taihni and Abu Tafhita. Provocative items, such as T-shirts that have swear words on them and tight "skinny" jeans, have become the norm for many.
Abdulrahman Al-Rwaihi, a university graphics student in Sana’a, is conscious of fashion trends in and thinks clothing is indispensable to his individuality.
To compliment his extensive collection of new clothes, shoes and accessories, Al-Rwiahi also likes to experiment with hairstyles.
“Spiky Mohican is a hairstyle, and it is not a shame to keep up with fashionable hairstyles,” he said.
For Al-Rwaihi, the ability to change his style through his hair and clothes has become a way for him to express the changing nature of his identity.
However, his hairstyle has caused controversy in his local area, with many people looking down on fashion trends as fickle and unrepresentative of Yemeni society.
Nasser Al-Hamdi, a clothing store owner, said they import stylish products from international markets, asserting that there is a great demand for these global trends.
“Some youths look to emulate the styles of famed singers,” he said.
Like many of the older generation, he is not happy to see youth put on such clothes, but he said buying and selling these clothes is a way to eke out a living in tough times.
Some still preserve norms
Despite the changes seen in many cities, across more rural or tribal areas, Yemen remains a conservative society in many aspects. Some tribes even consider it shameful to wear clothes against their norms.
Noman Al-Jarmoozi, a local from Arhab district, strongly opposes young people who want to keep up with fashion, describing them as imitators and childish.
Instead of spiking his hair and putting on a T-shirt, Al-Jarmoozi wakes in the morning to put on a traditional white robe and coat, asserting that it is impossible for him to change his “uniform” as he lives in a tribal and conservative area.
Al-Jarmoozi is one of many who live in areas across Yemen that tend to preserve popular cultural heritage through clothing. Though many young people in urban areas such as Sana'a, Taiz and Aden have developed a liking for fashion, other tribal areas including Marib, Sa'ada and Al-Jawf abhor the fans of fashion, considering them womanish and feminine.
Ahmed Al-Hakeemi, a resident in Al-Ahkoom of Taiz, believes men should put on clothes that respect religion, traditions and customs.
Al-Hakeemi said that he would never change his clothes in reaction to a television advertisement on new “trendy” clothes at the market.
He said, "I respect my religion and my culture, so I will not distort them."
Fashion becomes imitation
Television shows have been identified as a contributing factor to the newfound male obsession with fashion throughout Yemen. With images of Western and specifically American clothing and hair styles invading the television screen, following these styles has often been a way for Yemeni youth to escape traditionalism and challenge social norms.
Dr. Salah Al-Deen Al-Jumaei, a sociologist, said this invasion has largely increased as youth have actively welcomed anything that comes from the West.
Al-Jumaei gave insight about why the youth have neglected some religious values and societal norms, saying, "All these practices have developed because of an absence of family supervision and a breakdown of family networks."
"The more advanced the societies become, the more the society opens itself up to the foreign world," he said.
Al-Jmaei is not convinced this is a good thing. The youth have the right to keep up with appearances, but they should not set aside their values and social norms, Al-Jumaei said.
Is fashion just a women's pursuit? Or are men allowed to get involved too? Tell us what you think below.
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