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Culture

The Power of Dress

Following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Hamid Karzai is a leader who favours smart casual and has a knack of combining classic and ethnic.

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Fashion is following suit - Hamid Karzai sports sleek suits under colourful robes

Fashion in 2002 is statesmanlike - the opposite of last summer’s frayed jeans and teenage terrorist chic. But as Taliban is out, Afghanistan is not - this year, 2001 guerilla grunge goes 2002 Karzai-chic.

Karzai chic? Ever since Gucci’s creative director Tom Ford declared Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai as "the chicest man on the planet", Karzai- or Kabul-chic have been words buzzing in creative circles.

Elegant Mr. Karzai, one of the figures to dominate the media this winter, has been charming the public with his finely cut Italian suits and colourful, flowing robes. His good taste in clothes has sent an impulse to the fashion world, an influence which showed up clearly in the winter 2002 collections in Milan last year.

Just a year ago, Gucci's creative director Tom Ford sent his models out at the Milan shows bare-breasted and in denims covered with sewn-on patches. In 2002, the Gucci man sports a sleek, dark suit, perfect for the UN summit and late night conference dinner – giving the gentleman in question just that Humphrey Bogart-like air which has been missing in fashion for so long.

So suave

Yes kids, the fun is over, as trendy accessoires like the fake colt holster, the military design t-shirts and well-torn, desert-dirtied trousers are just not in this spring. Instead, it’s that sleek, suave look, personified by Afghanistan’s good-looking leader, which is turning terrorist trendy fashion victims to dapper young diplomats.

Gone out shopping

Karzai is known to take his time on shopping sprees throughout Europe. His sense of colour is reflected in the purple and green flowing robes draped across his shoulders, robes which give him a dignity and presence beyond his years. His sense of elegance is enhanced by the choice of finely-cut suit – bringing just that touch of western-style needed to prove that not all Afghans live in caves and wear rags.

However, Karzai may be setting a trend with his sleek diplomat look. But his combination of traditional robe and finely-cut suit will not work for all men. Walking into the office with a colourful shawl swung over one shoulder might not have the same effect.

Similar is simply not the same and could easily lead to a distinction among colleagues as strange rather than sharp. Plus the crowning statement in Northern Alliance chic – Karzai’s peaked, woolly hat, would not look more silly on the heads of the western businessman than those cowboy hats worn by teenagers in the wake of music icon madonna.

The message is clear. Afghan interim leader Karzai may well be hailed as a style icon by the western world. But stepping out in style is one thing. Following it is another.