Mar 12, 2009
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Well-heeled in Baghdad means wearing 'boose'

Mar 12, 2009

BAGHDAD, March 12, 2009 (AFP) - There's at least one welcome legacy that ex-president George Bush and the US-led invasion of six years ago will leave behind in Iraq: the cowboy boot.

American-style cowboy boots sit on a display shelf at a shoe shop in central Baghdad's Karrada neighbourhood - Photo : Ali Yussef/AFP

Forget the demise of Saddam Hussein and the rise of democracy, what the proud Arab male wants from America these days is a pair of leather "boose".

Any self-respecting macho struts his stuff on the mean streets of Baghdad in what are also called "officials" or "rasmi" -- Arabic for the latest must-have fashion accessory.

"I wear 'boose' because they are American," says 18-year-old Hassan Model, using the local pronunciation for the word boots.

He makes his money by selling counterfeit Western-style sneakers on the pavement in Karada Street, the capital's main shopping thoroughfare.

But Model is most proud of his own light tan "Harleys" which were made in Italy and cost 60 dollars wholesale, a serious outlay in Iraq.

"It's the fashion," he smiles. "Money well-spent. Most of my friends like 'boose' and we follow the fashion."

Finding real US-made boots in Baghdad is not easy, however. Most of the fancy footwear on sale is imported from Turkey or Italy, while the cheapest variety comes from China.

"We would like to bring them in from America but it would just be too much money for the market," says Hassan Shayal, who runs the Al-Shayal fashion shop in Al-Leith arcade in Karada district.

Behind him sits one of the best displays of boots in Baghdad -- "Texas," imitation black and white crocodile, slip-ons, zipper, lace-up and motorcycle boots known locally as "Harleys".

-- 'We think it's the American fashion' --


They are all made in Turkey and sell for around 140-150 dollars a pop.

More than half of Shayal's sales are of boots, particularly "shoe boots," although clothing including fake US-labelled shirts takes up most of the shop.

"I like to wear boots," says the 40-year-old. "It's a privilege, and once you wear a pair you always want to wear them, even in summer."

Farther down the arcade, Ghassan Ali has sold out of boots at his Aminco store and is waiting for the new collection to arrive.

"We think it's the American fashion. It's become important for young people to follow the fashion now, and wearing boots is all in," Ali says.

During the latter years of Saddam's reign few people had the money for fashion fads, but today with security improving a real scene has begun.

Ali, 30, has carefully styled black hair and wears a designer green T-shirt and a smart red-buttoned dark blazer bearing "US" on the embroidered badge. He would not look out of place on London's Oxford Street.

He paid 175 dollars for his fancy full-length brown boots during a trip to Turkey.

"Over the next two years they're going to be all the rage," he says. "The fashion scene's been building up recently, not straight after the invasion, but definitely in the last year or so."

It is not just the trendy who are keen to be seen sporting shiny boots.

At Asus jeans.com, owner Moayed Salah explains that Iraqi businessmen are also going for the sharp-toed, leather footwear.

The locals call cowboy boots "officials" because men wear them with suits like a uniform, he says.

Salah himself sports a well-heeled black pair under his suit trousers and admits sheepishly that while he sells boots from Turkey for 125 dollars a pair and more, his own came from China and cost just 20 dollars.by Barry Parker

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