Wednesday, 23 January 2013

What Do Men Wear in Saudi Arabia?

It's common knowledge that women can't step out in Saudi Arabia without an abaya on, but what is acceptable clothing for men in this Islamic country?

Expat men can wear whatever they want so long as it's not Stubbies.  Islamic protocols dictate that the more acceptable form of clothing for covering the lower half of the expat male should be long pants.  Knee length shorts will, generally, be tolerated.  Hubster has only been approached twice regarding his choice of attire as he wanders down the street in his long shorts.  Given that he doesn't actually own many other forms of pants those approaches have been for nought.

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Every now and then we have seen a bloke jog down the road in sports shorts which turns a number of heads, though I'm not sure if that's the shorts, the shock of seeing legs in public or the fact that someone is running for fun!

To cover the male torso, long sleeved shirts are preferred though T-shirts are very common.  I've never seen singlets.

Men from the South Asian part of the globe wear their own form of national dress.
Saudi men wear thobes.  Thawb is an alternative form of spelling, but as 'thobe' tends to be pronounced similarly to 'robe' then that is how I spell it.

Usually, Saudi thobes are white in color though, during the winter months, Saudi men have the option of a color change to brown, blue or even black to better suit the season.  Why women are not afforded the luxury of different colored abayas during summer months has been a question on my lips for some time.  An answer is not expected.

Expats tend to be less than complimentary regarding the Saudi male traditional dress.  'Dress' being the basis of most of the taunts.  Because we back home tend to run around in grass skirts on special occasions - if you ever get to Waitangi or Polyfest you're sure to get an eyeful of grass covered or, often, bare Maori butt - as far as this Kiwi is concerned, what Saudi men feel comfortable wearing is fine with me.  I just wish they'd quit dictating women's fashion!

My nephew at Polyfest
Personally I think most Saudi men look quite dashing in a thobe.
All white and pressed and sparkling clean.
Whether or not Saudi males know how to wash and press their own thobes is something I've often contemplated.  My guess is not many, so well done all you maids and dry-cleaners out there.  The men are looking good!

The thobe, like the abaya, tends to hide the effects of over-indulgence in the sugar loaded food so popular in this country although there comes a point when fat just cannot be hidden!

The Saudi male costume also involves a 3 piece head set - a cotton hat, a folded piece of fabric (more commonly called a Shamagh or Gutra) and an Igal, a thick black cord, that holds everything in place.

Saudi men seem to constantly play with their Shamagh, throwing it over their shoulders, just like a girl with long hair would do.  Or rearranging their head pieces.   As a fellow countryman said, they look like they're poncing around.  No doubt some of the rational for Shamagh flicking is vanity or grandstanding for anyone watching but I'm not going to hold that against them.  This article 'Vanity and The Modern Man is an entertaining look at what is going wrong with the modern male and his relationship with his own appearance on a global scale.

One of Hubsters Saudi friends says it's quite difficult keeping the Shamagh steady on your head - its like attempting to balance a book on your crown all day, hence the constant fiddling.  He also says the headgear gets a bit heavy as the day wears on, so he chooses to go bare headed when he's in the office.

Completing the Saudi male ensemble is a cloak that can be worn over the thobe.  I call these The Flowing Golden Capes as they're often trimmed in gold coloring.  The cloaks are usually worn on formal occasions.  Just tonight at the Aussie Embassy National Day function (which was very good, by the way - big ups to the Aussie's for this occasion) a number of Saudi guests were wrapped up in their capes.  The capes looked warm and snugly and the men looked quite regal.

What do Saudi men wear on their feet?  I admit to not actually knowing the answer to this question because looking at Saudi men's feet has never been on my list of things to do.  Hubster, on being asked what his friend H wears on his feet, replied 'Shoes'.  How undescriptive is that!

If you're interested, this website, Discover Saudi Arabia., has a nice page explaining in more detail the traditional muslim clothing of the men and women of Saudi Arabia.

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