The capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Erbil, which has been at the frontline of the struggle against the Islamic State (IS) group, has seen the birth of a sartorial revolution.
A group of proto-Chaps is calling themselves Mr. Erbil and has been dubbed “Iraq’s first gentlemen’s fashion club”. Mr. Erbil’s first photo shoot gathered huge amounts of social media followers and sent ripples of approval among followers of this publication.
Mr. Erbil stress that what they are doing mixes “modernity and cultural heritage”, by harking back to the lifestyles of the Effendis, the traditional Kurdish landowning class. The Effendis would don their finest clothes to attend cultural salons and visit tea shops in the early part of the 20th century.
But this movement is not just about fashion. Mr. Erbil sees itself as representing young Iraqi Kurds who are looking for a better life and want to promote Kurdish culture to the world. And the focus is not exclusively on male fashion:
Mr. Erbil wants to effect social change and challenge traditional attitudes, particularly on women’s rights. The Mr. Erbil Instagram account posts about women’s issues in Kurdistan, Iraq and the world, as well as posting photos of bearded chaps larking about.
For example, in January Mr. Erbil posted about Dashni Morad, who gives workshops in leadership skills to women who survived the massacre and rape of members of northern Iraq’s Yazidi sect by IS militants. “The effort she puts in for humanity, love and peace is so impressive!” said Mr. Erbil. “Keep up the good work, you are making us proud.”
The Chap has already sent a reporter to Erbil to delve more deeply into this fascinating story, which chimes very well with the revolutionary zeal of our own followers, though with a lot more at stake than the opening a new Starbucks on their high street.