Saudi Arabia: Traditional menswear revitalised – meet the iThobe

The traditional apparel for men in Saudi Arabia is a long white garment called a thobe. Recently a number of designers have been transforming the look of the thobe by adding colour – even designing an iPod-friendly iThobe. What is the verdict of bloggers on the new styles?

John Burgess of Crossroads Arabia comments on an article just published by The Washington Post about changes in thobe design:

The Washington Post reports that the dour uniformity of the white Saudi thobe is facing revolutionary pressure from a new fashion designer. What’s more, the ruling family is throwing its support behind him. I found it interesting that the designer, Yahya al-Bishri, claims that the white thobe is a relatively recent development to Saudi culture and that previously there was much more variety in men’s wear. He reportedly showed early photographs to the King to back up his claims. That got him the support he needed against religious conservatives who were convinced that he was trying to destroy the culture. Interesting read, particularly when taken along side the trend for Saudi women to break free of their plain black abayas.

Ahmed Al-Omran of Saudi Jeans welcomes the new designs:

As men in Saudi Arabia are usually dressed either in black – for women – or white – for men –, I usually try to appreciate the moments when I’m abroad and enjoy the colorful clothes people wear, spending much of my free time walking down the streets and observing others. That’s why I was glad to see my friend Faiza Ambah elegantly profile Saudi fashion designer Yahia al-Bishri, the man who put color back in menswear here. His boldness also inspired others like Siraj Omar and Lomar Thobe to redefine the traditional Saudi garb. However, and from what I have seen, it seems that young Hjiazi men [from the western region] are embracing the new trend more than their counterparts in Najd [central region], which is to be expected as people in the central area are more conservative. Although I only wear a thobe occasionally as I prefer my casual outfit of jeans and t-shirts, I personally like the idea of updating the thobe with new styles and colors, and I plan to get myself one of those cool Lomar thobes in the near future. The problem is that they are relatively expensive, as their creators admitted, but I think it is worth getting them for special occasions.

Last month Jordanian blogger Wael Attili who blogs at Sha3teely visited Saudi Arabia, and posted some of his impressions:

The Saudi culture is one of the most amazing and interesting cultures I have ever seen. I believe it is one of the most controversial urban environments in the modern world. The war between traditions and modernity, rules and freedom, religion and globalization, wealth and achievements. The place where you can do everything but you are not allowed to do anything…

He comments on the new fashions:

Another interesting thing is the concept of the Lomar Thobe. I found it really amazing where young Saudi designers are trying to develop new modern, cool trends based on their culture and traditional customs. The concept of merging the new, cool and hip with the traditional thobe to represent the needs of the new generation of young Saudis is really genuine and extraordinary. I wish that we can see this somewhere in the upper part of the Middle East. … Take a look at the ithobe designed specially for the ipod and the other interesting collection which they have. The Lomar thobe is originally comes from Jeddah and its spreading all over the kingdom.

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