When you think of Iraq, you probably don’t think of fashion, but a group of dapper men are trying to change that. Calling themselves Mr. Erbil—named after the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan—the 30 core members are part of “Iraq’s first gentlemen’s fashion club.” Together, they don the likes of tailored three-piece suits, manicured beards, and colorful pocket squares. Looking good is one part of their mission, but they’ve got loftier goals. Mr. Erbil hopes to promote a new image for the conflict-ridden region.
Aesthetically, Mr. Erbil is a mix of Western-style attire and their own cultural heritage. They take inspiration from the effendis, a Middle Age era noble class that wore fine clothing and visited enlightening salons and tea shops. Similarly, this contemporary group organizes events to promote fashion as a form of self expression.
Although it’s fun to dress up, the political component to Mr. Erbil is serious. They see themselves as more than a club, but a movement that represents Iraqi Kurds who are looking for a better life. The men are proud of their culture and want to promote it worldwide. They also have a desire to challenge traditional attitudes—especially when it comes to women’s rights. Their popular Instagram account celebrates women working in the community by highlighting those that are doing good and encouraging them to continue their work.