Saturday, 18 June 2011

Walk like a man

There's an ideological war brewing between the US and Iran, but it's not one you're likely to see covered on Newsnight. And chances are, there are no crack military teams being geared up to fight it out. Probably because it's not about oil or aggressive foreign policy, it's about masculinity.

Over in the States, manliness is coming under attack in the most insidious way, as cunning underwear manufacturers attempt to emasculate their customers with the alpha-male answers to Wonderbra and Spanx. Preying on men who're quietly concerned that their package is less impressive than a 'you may be a winner' envelope from Reader's Digest, they encourage consumers to invest in 2(x)ist's "men's shapewear", which is just as hideous as its name suggests.

Provided you've got the upper body strength to hoist your unexercised girth into the trunks' six-inch wide waistband, you'll benefit from a slimmer form and drastically reduced love handles. Plus, there's an additional benefit to these ungainly guy girdles (guydles?), beyond spare-tyre reduction and improved posture. The Maximise range also comes with a handy 'contour pouch' which lifts and separates, to make it look as though you're concealing the kind of trouser snake that could swallow a live pig.

Once you've sorted out your lower extremities, don't be surprised if you also find yourself eyeing up the square-cut tank top featuring a "hidden inner compression lining" for that super-tapered fit. The only downside is that you'll be putting your internal organs under so much psi pressure that the slightest cough could result in Scanners-style early bath.

Whereas our American cousins seem more than willing to surrender their manliness, in Iran they're getting strict instruction regarding 'acceptable' male dress codes. In an effort to clampdown on "un-Islamic" clothing and haircuts, they're making it clear that Iranian men need to be held to a higher masculine standard.

This week, special forces have been deployed in Tehran to clamp down on men wearing necklaces and "glamorous hairstyles". I don't know about the men, but Joan Collins must be sipping her Cinzano nervously. According to the Guardian, this obsession with men's hair is nothing new. Last year, the 'moral police' issued strict guidelines relating to hair-dos and don'ts. The approved styles were offered as alternatives to 'decadent' western cuts, which included such hair-do heresies as the ponytail and the mullet.

In retrospect, maybe the Coalition of the Willing got it all wrong. The 'axis of evil' didn't need us to export freedom and democracy, just a few TV shows that were recorded sometime in the last twenty years. I've got a sneaking suspicion that somewhere on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's hitlist you'll also find pastel suits and ice-wash denim. If you've ever rolled your sleeves up above the elbow, you'd better watch out. They're coming for you...

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