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Green Is the New Black

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Street fashion in a vibrant green hue played an inadvertent yet memorable role in the political turmoil that followed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection. In-house squabbles continue behind closed doors in Iran and open-Web debates continue on social networking sites across the world. The one thing largely undisputed is green remains affiliated with former opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi who has named his new civil rights organization the Green Way of Hope after his campaign color.

How did green get so chic?

Shortly after the announcement of Iran's contested election results on June 12, 2009, Iranians opposed to the outcome took to the streets in protest. They believed the vote was rigged. Some carried the opposition's signature green banners, posters and flags. Others wore green kerchiefs, t-shirts and wristbands.

The precursor to green street fashion was born.

Another fashion foray-of-sorts came less than a week later when members of Iran's national soccer team, including the captain, put on green wristbands with their football jerseys for a World Cup match against South Korea in Seoul. The green was loaded with meaning -- so loaded that for the second half of the game, the players were told to remove them as the game was being broadcast live on Iranian state TV.

Before long, as the street protests in Iran gained widespread traction, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia crackdowns began, wearing green in Iran became tantamount to being a moving target.

Outside Iran, people had more leeway, not to mention more freedom -- and choices -- to wear whatever color they wanted. Even taking green out of the equation, there are only so many ways to wear hijab (traditional Muslim garb)! Outraged exiled Iranians, those with Iranian heritage and empathetic non-Iranians took to the streets and the Internet in green-clad hordes to show their support for the people of Iran and their pursuit of democracy.

Fashion as a statement rang true.

The green fashion trend grew like grass in worldwide demonstrations, on Facebook, YouTube and even on the mainstream media, where sympathetic-to-the-cause newscasters and commentators started putting on the green. Green ties were de rigeur among men.

Some clad in green supported Mir Hossein Mousavi; some did not. All of them wanted fairness, justice and true democracy, something better for the people of Iran. Ultimately, those who embraced green in clothing or fashion accessories were rejecting the status quo, not unlike the torn garments and safety pins of the British punk rock fashion movement in London in the 70's, when Mohawks and Doc Martens were not an uncommon sight on the King's Road.

As I rifled through my closet late this spring, I noticed I did not have much in green. It was not really my color. I had, however, decided to attend an Iran demonstration in downtown DC and wanted to dress the part, so I drove to the nearest shopping mall.

It helped that green was in vogue this year, especially the bright jewel-toned green. What I call a Versace green. The fashionista in me met the recessionista, as I stocked up at the chain store sales. At Target, I bought green flip-flop sandals blooming with flowers, along with a hip, sleeveless swirled green and white shirt; at Old Navy, I came out on top with a green scoop-neck t-shirt, which I ended up demonstrating in, and a green blouse and shrug; at Banana Republic, I picked up a green silk number that reflected light just-so.

Later, I was at one with the "Where's Their Vote" crowd, the women with their green manicures, clutches and dresses, the men with their t-shirts, wristbands and bandanas. Not everyone outfitted in the color de jour, but for those of us who were slaves to it, green street fashion gave us a way to say we are here and we are one and we support reform in Iran.

By summer's end, I decided I looked just fine in green. The right green -- more an emerald, like something for St. Patrick's Day, than a lime or chartreuse -- is strong enough to stand up to my olive complexion, even complements the green in my eyes. Though I am not one for Christmas sweaters, I may even add some green cashmere to my holiday repertoire. I get it.

But months later, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed, I did not anticipate that every time I saw green clothing I would feel this pang. On vacation in Marbella's Puerto Banus, Spain, I saw the Lanvin storefront all done up with mannequins in green trench coats, dresses and matching leather bags. I stopped, as if caught somewhere else, surreal.

This morning on the Today Show, Natalie Morales wore a brilliant green silk shirt, but all I could see was Iran. I realize that I have come to associate the color with the people of Iran protesting the 2009 election on the streets, just as calamine-pink brings to mind participants in the Avon walks for breast cancer, or bellbottoms, tie-die shirts and peace signs brings back anti-Vietnam protestors in the 60's.

Maybe it is just me. But at the end of August, some participants at the Montreal World Film Festival, including Jafar Panahi -- acclaimed Iranian filmmaker and this year's jury president -- walked down the red carpet in long, elegant green Pashmina scarves.

That color again.

Fashion sometimes has a way of getting under the skin.