Women or femininity is one of these topics, and it is recurring, in particular in the chapter about fire: this key element symbolizes Iran, born from the pre-Islamic religion known as Zoroastrianism, “this very egalitarian religion that built the role of women within society and made it possible for them to have access to the status of Queen or Head of the armed forces,” Hélène Capgras explains.
Women also appear in the evocation of the “7 princesses” that embody the diversity of Iranian beauties, from the Kurdish influences in the North to the high cheekbones at the gates of Russia, the golden hair allegedly responsible for the victories over the Roman armies, or the matter complexions in the South, often with bright eyes… femininity is always reflected in the body’s grace. Less lascivious than Oriental women, Iranian women look slim and thin.
Today, this femininity faces restrictions and bans, but Iranian women deal with it with compromises: Hélène Capgras talks about a “constant body fight”. “In 1990, makeup was completely banned. Today, it has become a way for them to assert themselves through beauty. It is a positive mask that helps cope with the public space outside, such a contrast with private lives indoors, where people are freer,” she describes.
Men share the same approach of beauty, as depicted in the chapter about Heroes. This myth conveyed the notion of masculine beauty for centuries, and it is still visible today in the attention Iranian men pay to their image.
“The importance of well-known floral perfumes actually outdoes the powerful trails of the Middle East, in particular with the rose, the olfactory expression of femininity,” Hélène Capgras emphasizes. Whether they be classics, memories of the 70s, or niche fragrances, perfumes are essential for both men and women. French and Italian brands dominate a market where counterfeiting is still common. And cosmetics and makeup encounter the same difficulties: “there is an incredible variety of import brands, but the offering is still complex to decipher depending on the distribution modes,” Hélène Capgras observes. And yet, new perfume stores and pharmacies are present, with a very rich offering in hair care: a whole chapter is dedicated to it in the study.
A hopeful youth
Iran’s young, educated population makes it a real demographic pot: if young people are confronted with restrictions and bans, they still manage to cleverly circumvent them to claim their own identity. Indeed, in conclusion to her study, Hélène Capgras highlights the extraordinary personality of this country in search for a modern Persian expression of luxury. “This country radiates a subtle sophistication that can mostly be found in Beauty codes.”