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The Final Fitting

Caring about clothes and style is the last thing that comes to mind when you think about Moslem clerics, but Abolfazl Arabpour’s vast experience proves the opposite. In his small shop in Qum, he has been making the garments they wear - the Ghaba (a loose robe) and the Labbadeh (similar to a coat) for many long years. Many of his past and present clients are amongst the most distinguished names in Iran’s religious hierarchy. They include, to name but a few, Iran’s previous President, Mohammad Khatami, as well as the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who has even mentioned Arabpour’s name in his will.

He started his work in Qum 58 years ago, then left for Tehran where he made military uniforms for a few years and became a highly skilled tailor. On returning to Qum he resumed his profession of tailoring clerics’ garments. Through the years, he has witnessed a gradual change from simplicity to greater elegance in the style of their clothes, particularly since the Islamic Revolution which brought the clerics to power and much greater social prominence. The humble Aba (cloak) has been replaced by the more expensive and elegant Labbadeh. This and some other innovations, such as including a pocket for mobile phones, are the inevitable result of moving with the times and changes in clerical fashion.

A clip from the documentary "The Final Fitting"

Abolfazl Arabpour has been the subject of a recent documentary film directed by Reza Haeri, which has been widely acclaimed and won two awards so far. It gives an intimate and unusual insight into the traditions and customs of clerical life and how it is adapting to the needs of the modern world, whilst still retaining its respect for the past. It also affords us a rare glimpse into the social world of everyday contact as still practised by this class, the courtesies and familiarities exchanged between them that are so distinctive a part of their social interaction.

In this multimedia report, we see scenes from Reza Haeri’s fascinating documentary, accompanied by his perceptive comments and explanations.

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