The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The dapper dictator

The secret to Saddam Hussein's dashing style:

Things may be going poorly for Saddam, on trial for genocide in Baghdad, but, ironically, the ex-despot's misfortune has been the making of the tailor. On television channels across the Middle East, the Cesur brand gets free advertising worth millions every time Saddam is shown, attired in a dark Cesur number, at his trial. The result is that the Cesur factory and shop in the heart of the Istanbul rag trade - five brothers work in the business, headed by Recep, but "Allah is the boss" - can't ship out the suits fast enough.

"Since the trial started, our sales in Iraq have tripled," says Cesur. "We reckon we've now got around 80% of the suit market in Baghdad. Before the war, it was 40%."

Arab males are apparently taking the view that if it is good enough for Saddam, then it is good enough for them. The Cesur brand has become a status symbol, signalling coolness and a little bit of defiance. The buyers commonly prefer to show off by leaving the Cesur label on the cuff. Across the Middle East generally, the business is now selling up to 5,000 suits a month, 10 times the level of five years ago.
I have to admit that just the other day I wad admiring Saddam's suit--honest. Must stop by that shop next time I'm in Istanbul.