An elasticised, skin-tight leg garment is causing offence amongst Iran's leading imams, authorities and conservative media. The common legging has been deemed ‘unislamic’ by proponents of the country’s strict dress code and women who flout the rules risk arrest.
Tehran’s police chief claims to have shut down over two hundred shops in the capital which stock the so-called ‘unusual clothes’. ‘Leggings’, known as ‘supports’ in Iran, have been causing a stir in cyberspace: the Facebook group ‘I hate supports’ is a hive of activity for disgruntled hardliners who feel women are pushing the boundaries of the dress code too far.
One blogger’s piece entitled ‘Army of Leggings Attacks Tehran’ received critical acclaim across conservative websites and was widely republished. Its author explains how the short-lived history of the figure-hugging legwear started in winter 2012 with “Tehran’s Barbie Dolls” donning “suspicious dark-coloured leggings”. He goes on to say women have been feeling increasingly brave since the election of President Rohani in June, concluding that “coloured leggings are conquering Tehran”. Rohani is viewed as politically moderate and campaigned under the slogan ‘moderation and wisdom’.
Pro-legging Iranians have hit back: the Facebook page ‘Support Lovers’ encourages Internet-users to post photos of themselves wearing leggings and has over 75,000 likes. Even though they risk arrest, Iranian women are accustomed to fighting for their right to wear the attire they choose: women continue to wear nail polish and open-toe sandals, even though they risk arrest.
"The morality police were more lax just after the election, but they’re making up for lost time now”
Eli is a 27-year-old Iranian. She lives in Tehran.
Two years ago I was arrested for wearing leggings. I was walking in Vanak Square in Tehran, wearing a pair of black leggings and a long green manteau [Editor’s note: coat-like outer garment]. A female member of the ‘morality police’ came up to me and asked me why I was wearing leggings. I asked her if they were forbidden and she said: “Yes, we issued a statement: they’re banned!”I called my boyfriend and he brought of pair of trousers to me. I was about to put them on when the police woman started yelling: “We have to take photos of you wearing the leggings!” . They took photos of me wearing them at every angle, and only released me a few hours later after I signed a form promising I would never wear them again.Just yesterday I saw the morality police in Vanak Square, arresting women wearing leggings and taking them away in vans. I was sitting on the bus and I took my headscarf off right in front of them, just to annoy them, because I knew they weren’t going to follow the bus.A regular pair of leggings costs twenty to forty thousand tomans [est. 5-10€], whereas a pair of jeans costs at least 100,000 tomans. Many women prefer owning five pairs of leggings instead of just one pair of jeans.The morality police were more lax just after the election, but they’re making up for lost time now by cracking down hard. And leggings are so popular now, so wearing them has become the latest crime.
“We have to wear dark, subdued colours so we don’t arouse men”
Tania is a 29-year-old Iranian. She lives in Tehran.
Knee-high boots were once the big crime, so it is not surprising that it would become dangerous to wear leggings. I’m just scared that after leggings, they’ll start picking on our underwear, and stop us in the streets to check the colour! We have to wear dark, subdued colorus so we don't arouse men.I wish the authorities would spend all the time they waste arresting women and sort out everyday, more important problems that people are facing.
Photo published on Supports Lovers Facebook Page