Afros Defy Gravity and Iran's Ban on Hair Expression

Protesters cut it close by combing it out.
Next up, the rebel mullet. (Photo:Facebook)
Feb 1, 2011· 1 MIN READ
Following the lead of Wilt Chamberlain, Adam vacated his native Philadelphia for Los Angeles following decades of acclaim and short shorts. He firmly believes that, when it comes to the opportunity for change, we’re on the goal line with bases loaded and no fouls to give. He also finds inspiration in mixed sports metaphors.

Living under the rule of Iran's theocratic regime poses a number of challenges for any open-minded, self-expressing free spirit with a passion for fashion in the 21st Century.

With the dour Supreme Leader in charge, even the wrong haircut can land a lad or lassie in dutch with the law.

Some folks, unfortunately, are just born with locks that are bound to cause trouble in the Islamic Republic. For them, even a get-together in Tehran's Mellat Park looks like a revolution.

Last week, a Facebook group of afro-maned Iranians defied law and static cling to celebrate their kinky haircuts in a show of subversive fun. Rather than pushing the event as a political rally, the group's organizer, Mooferferi Mooferferiha, used the stage to share a laugh with his curly kin, and to export a fresh image of Iranians to the world.

"The group is... a way to change the image the world has of Iranians," Mooferferi told France24, "to show the people that we’re as capable to live peacefully and have fun as anywhere else in the world."

Iran keeps a tight grip on what's hot and not in the world of street style. Last year, the appropriately austere Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance released a list of approved hairstyles for men and women at the Modesty and Veil Festival, backed up by sheers and straight-edge razors.

Outmoded, according to the staid agency, were "decadent Western cuts," faux hawks and mullets. In vogue: the morally conservative look, close-cropped and clean-shaven. First-time offenders are whisked away to an official shave and haircut. Recidivists get fined.

Mooferferia's group got away with their scalps unscathed, but police shut down the event after an hour.

Despite the shindig being more party than political event, the young Iranians recall a time in America's rebellious youth when the counter-culture donned long hair and beards to challenge the status quo. Personal appearance wasn't just a fashion statement in the '60s; it was a weapon to protest the Vietnam War, cronyism in the Capitol, and the country's direction at large.

Revolutionary voices may remain stifled at the moment in Iran, but with the volume turned way up, hair bears a message.