Notes From Hairenik
October 22, 2006
Lately I’m been contemplating the fashion sense of most Armenians in this country, particularly why so many people dress in drab, colorless garments. I have virtual bird’s eye view from my front balcony which overlooks Nalbandyan Street, especially the entrance to the metro station, and can observe anyone walking from the top of Sakharov Square to the Government Building. I've noticed over the last couple of years actually that most men wear black: black jackets, shirts, and pleated, cuffed suit pants, usually supported by a black belt with a black metal buckle. Woman also wear black, or else charcoal gray, muddy brown, or neutral colors like taupe. The pant suits they choose have no styling to them at all, with lapelless baggy jackets affixed with bulky buttons. The same goes for the skirts—wide, covering the knees, but no attempt to make them interesting, with pleats, intricate stitching, and so forth. The young women on the other hand usually wear skin-tight jeans, hot pinks, blinding whites, vermillion reds, and teal blues, with high-heal spiked boots they can barely walk in, so at least an attempt is being made there to be fashionable, even though it doesn’t always quite work. All middle-aged men I have noticed nearly wear identical clothing—a black, sorrowful gray, or dark blue suit made of cheap, dull material, tailored extra long, regardless of the man’s height. Their wide checkered, tasteless shirts, usually short sleeved, sometimes too tight around their bulging bellies flaunted as monuments to their financial worth, are worn open collared, and the shoes are black, sometimes pale brown, with a squared-off or occasionally rounded toe. Young men look like they are wearing uniforms—usually an ugly black or blue stripped or checkered tight pullover, or else a oversized white, buttoned-down dress shirt, with black slacks and matching pointy, narrow elf shoes. And they all wear their black/brown hair the same way—very short, no more than a half-inch long, parted over from the far left or right. Most of these guys look like they walked out of a time-travel wormhole emerging from the 1950s. I can’t figure it out, I don’t know why they have to dress so simply, yet so tastefully mediocre.

Ironically the most fashionable people walking the streets are Iranian students and to some extent Indians as well. They always seem to be showing off the latest sporty and striking couture that can be found in clothing stores in Europe or the US, as confirmed by my recent trip there, not to mention hair styles. The fashion sense they reflect is what you would see on European television commercials and some shows broadcasted from Russia, but Armenians are not catching on. Rarely do you see young men wearing jeans for instance, and the ones they do bother putting on are usually dark gray or black, with an acid-wash, faded look to them so popular 15 years ago.

There are exceptions of course, with people making efforts to indeed be stylish, but it’s slow coming. Some portly men for instance are starting to waddle around wearing zippered athletic suits, even sneakers with an Adidas or Puma insignia. Young bankers appear to be looking distinctively sharp. Now a Benetton shop can be found on Republic Square, and a Levi’s store has been in business for a little over six months located on Mashdots. There are also some interesting Italian moderately priced or up-scale casual clothing stores popping up, such as Terranova and Stefanel, respectively, both of which just opened a few weeks ago, but the men’s selections are skimpy. And although both stores had some customers when I visited them with my wife, I did not see anyone walking out with shopping bags. I’m anticipating that people will start to catch on—only time will tell. The hope is that people will begin wearing actual colors as a start.

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