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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Why don't Iranians wear ties?
The Magazine answers...

Freed Royal Navy sailors
The crew are back in the UK
The male British captives freed by Iran were pictured in government-issued suits and, like President Ahmadinejad, sported open neck shirts. Does no one in Iran wear a tie?

Even if without the smiles and waves, the sight of the 15 British sailors and marines released by Iran would have been notable for one thing: their attire.

With the exception of Faye Turney, the only woman to be held, the others sported near identical suits, in sober tones of grey and blue.

In Iran ties are viewed as un-Islamic and said to contribute to the spreading of western culture

The outfits were provided by the Iranian authorities and are identical to suits worn by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iranians, however, are prohibited from wearing ties in Iran because they contribute to the spreading of western culture, according to the website of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khameini.


The practice stems from the 1979 Islamic revolution when the monarchy was overthrown and a unique Islamic republic was declared, in which religious clerics - headed by Ayatollah Khomeini - wielded ultimate political control.

Neckties - and bowties - were said to be decadent, un-Islamic and viewed as "symbols of the Cross" and the oppressive West.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President Ahmadinejad being 'open'
Iranians were told to wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing.

Nowadays ties are still frowned on as "the influence of westernisation" on the way Iranians, especially young people, dress.

Ties are "highly politicised clothing" in Iran, says the BBC's correspondent in Tehran, Frances Harrison.

Nearly all men - particularly government workers - do not wear ties. Because they are not clerics their usual dress consists of suit or trousers and long-sleeved shirts with collars, as championed by President Ahmadinejad.

But while ties are said to be prohibited by the country's supreme leader, some men wear them very occasionally, says Dr Andrew Newman, senior lecturer in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh.


Many Westerners who visit Iran also continue to wear ties.

"It depends on the occasion but if I am attending something official in Iran I usually wear a tie," says Dr Newman.

"No one has ever said anything to me about it. Iranians understand that if I am wearing it at a function it is a sign of respect."

A regular feature in the BBC News Magazine - aiming to answer some of the questions behind the headlines
While dress codes are strict in Iran, the suit and open-necked shirt worn by President Ahmadinejad is to stress openness and approachability, says Dr Newman.

"He is a lay person and not a cleric, so wears a suit to show informality," he says.

The president's attire has become something of a talking point. At the height of his popularity, his trademark fawn-coloured windcheater - known to some as the Ahmadinejacket - spawned many a mini-trend, with entrepreneurs ordering copies of the garment from China to meet the demand from his supporters.

Whether his love of the open-necked shirt can be credited with starting the recent smart-casual tie-less revolution among some politicians and office workers in the UK is less certain.

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