Culture

Meet the dapper dudes who're challenging your idea of Iraq

‘Hipsters of Iraq’

Think of Iraq, and the first images that come to mind are likely to be of war-ravaged cities and conflict. So when a photo of 22 men dressed in dapper three-piece suits, with well-groomed beards and coiffed pompadours, posing in front of the Kurdish Citadel went viral across the internet, the world took notice. 

Mr. Erbil Citadel shoot

Before you go on to confuse them with the sharply-dressed bearded hipsters populating the men's style blogs of Instagram, these were the men of Mr. Erbil, Iraq's first gentlemen's fashion club, posing in front of the ancient Citadel that is an abandoned UNESCO-listed site in Erbil. The capital of the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq has been at the frontline of Iraq’s war against the Islamic State (IS).

One of the byproducts of the globalization that reached Kurdistan after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein was the Kurdish youth connecting to the rest of the world via television and other media. This brought about a new awareness of fashion trends and style, according to one of the three co-founders of the club, Omer Nihad.

Mr. Erbil founders

But in the summer of 2014, Kurdistan’s war against the IS created an economically hostile environment that had the men of Mr. Erbil, and many more across the region, lose their primary source of income from their day jobs.

This is when they decided to launch a line of beard grooming products called Rishn, all locally sourced and manufactured, that began selling across seven stores in Iraq. “If we didn’t have this crisis we wouldn’t have had the time to do this,” said Nihad.

ڕۆنی "ڕیشن" ئێستا بەردەستە ڕۆنی ڕیشن دەستکردی هەولێرە و پێکهاتەکانی ١٠٠% سروشتین. یارمەتیدەرێکی کاریگەرە بۆ بووژاندنەوەی ڕیش و پێستی ژێر ڕیش. خورانی ڕیش و ووشکی پێست و هەروەها کرێشی ڕیش ناهێلێت. ڕیش هاندەدات بەشێوەیەکی باش و تەندروست گەشەبکات. ڕۆنی ڕیشن پێکهاتوە لە ١٠ ڕۆنی سروشتی، ڕۆنەکان: ڕۆنی ژۆژۆبا، ڕۆنی ئارگان، ڕۆنی کاستۆر، ڕۆنی دەنکی ترێ، ڕۆنی بادەمی شیرین، ڕۆنی سیداروود، ڕۆنی تیتری، ڕۆنی نەع نەع، ڕۆنی سنەوبەر. بۆ کرین و پەیوەندی کردنن لە ژێرەوە لە پەیجی ئینستەگرام زانیاری زیاتر وەرگرە @rishnbeardcare @rishnbeardcare Is Available NOW. Our beard oil is handmade in Erbil and formulated with 100% natural oils to nourish your beard and the skin beneath. Rishn beard oil absorbs quickly and gives your beard a smooth and soft feel along with a delightfully woodsy scent. Eliminates Itchy beard, dry skin, Dandruff (Beard-druff) and helps beard grow in a healthy way. Natural ingredients are; Jojoba Oil, Argan Oil, Grapeseed oil, Castor oil, Sweet Almond, Tea Tree oil and Fragrance oils. to buy or more information check out the info at the bio section of our instagram page. @rishnbeardcare founder @_______omer_______ credit goes to an amazing staff from @mkstudio.photography very talented photographer @mustafakhayat #Rishn #joinrishn #BeARishn #beard #beardoil #bearbrush #beardcomb #MrErbil #BeMrErbil #DapperKurd #HawlerMensFashion #FromErbilKurdistan #ProudlyMadeInKurdistan #Hawler #erbil #kurdistan #sulemani #Halabja #Duhok #beardgang #lookbook #ErbilFashionblogger #MeShilaMe #MustafaKhayat #beardgang #menfashion #grooming #KurdaBora #GWD #MadeInKurdistan

A post shared by From Erbil Kurdistan (@mr.erbil) on Apr 16, 2016 at 1:02pm PDT

The club that has been inspired from Florence-based Pitti Uomo, a similar celebration of men’s style and fashion, merges modern style with elements from their Kurdish heritage. They recruited members for their first gathering through their social media followers. 

The men take their designs to the local tailors and craftsmen and have them produce the garments and accessories so that they profit from this too. 

Aside from presenting a new image of Iraq, the club is active in fighting for women’s rights and causes in the country. Every Thursday, they post a picture of Iraqi women who are working towards the development of the country on their Instagram page as a way to support equality and women's rights.

Every THURSDAY night is " GIRLS INSPIRATION night " we share and post our favorite weekend pic #GirlsInspiration pic of this week, we got inspired by Mrs. @dashnimoradofficial again for this week. she wears a casual outfit, which is so elegant. She is one of the most talented "#KchaKurd " a Great personality, unique lifeStyle, so Humble and Gorgeous !! Love the way you are Dashne khan, the passion and effort your put is what amazes us the most !! Tag us on your photos and use #MrErbil or #MrsErbil hashtag so we can see your updates easily and then choose our favorite and post it as our weekends favorite pic. Don't Hate What You Don't Understand® #DashniMorad #AngelGirl #InstaKurd #Pittimmagine #BeMrErbil #MadeToMeasure #HawlerMensFashion #DapperKurd #FashionLifeStyle #Halabja #ProudToBeKurd #DUHOK #KurdishStyle #OOTDwomen #SLEMANI #TheHawramiSpirit GLaMOUR. LUXURY. TRENDS. FROM ERBIL KURDISTAN BornToBoss ERBIL FASHION BLOGGER #ErbilFashionBlogger SUPAS PESHMARGA mr.ERBIL From Erbil Kurdistan PROUDLY #FromErbilKurdistan #MadeInKurdistan #Hawler #Erbil #Arbil #Kurd #Kurdistan #Kurdish

A post shared by From Erbil Kurdistan (@mr.erbil) on Jul 28, 2016 at 11:57am PDT

They also teamed up with UN Women to release a video in 14 languages, promoting their cause of ending violence against women.

The ostentatious dressing and photoshoots are all to create a platform to further their causes, including women's rights, protection of the environment, local economy and political issues plaguing the region. According to co-founder Ahmed Nauzad, they are also focusing on raising capital for the club to venture into etiquette classes, a modelling agency, fashion boutique and eventually, a gentlemen’s clubhouse.