Iranians cover themselves quite comprehensively. Chadors (quite literally, 'tents') can be seen everywhere - these black cloaks cover women from head to toe, and are held shut with hands or teeth. The women often carry a handbag or backpack underneath, which further conceals their curves. Long 'body veils' sprinkled with tiny flowers are also popular. They are filmy and translucent but still look like the girl has thrown a sheet over herself. Headscarfs are usually worn underneath the sheet because the sheet has a habit of slipping around if the girl tries to do anything; for example, move.
However, many women get around in a headscarf and manteau (a loose jacket which must reach just above the knee). These women push their headscarf back from their forehead to display their fringe and, in some cases, wear their headscarf so that a ponytail shows at the back. The jackets often hug curves in all the right places. Headscarfs and jackets can be all colours of the rainbow. A popular style for the headscarf is the style favoured by many grandmothers - tied under the chin. It is not necessarily a flattering style, but I discovered the benefits of this style early on: You are free to go about your business without a loosely tied scarf falling about your ears. (Note, this style does not suit cycling. For cycling, the 'pirate style' is best, or bringing the scarf down quite low on the forehead and tying it at the back).
The men are also covered, although they do not have to wear sheets or headscarfs. Long shirts and jeans or slacks are the norm. It is surprising to see that men generally do not have beards. This may be a small rebellion against the strictness of the regime....or a rebellion against the 40 degree desert heat. Angel's beard is perhaps the longest in all Iran.
Both the women and men in Shiraz concentrate on their appearance. Walking down the main street in Shiraz, for instance, is like being in a European city. The girls look elegant and have gone to some trouble with makeup, beautiful shoes and colour coordination. The men look dapper in neatly pressed shirts. The only difference would be the season: everyone looks like they are ready for a chill wind and heavy grey skies.
The way many women in particular are so fashion conscious has been the greatest surprise of Iran so far. I am almost relieved I bought my loose pants and tunic top in India: I definitely do NOT look like I am trying hard to fit in. The Indian girl who took me shopping in Rishikesh said hopefully: Maybe Bollywood is popular in Iran right now. I remain sceptical.