Male Fashion in Yemen

National Yemen

By Tamjid Alkohali

Yemen is considered among the richest countries in terms of popular traditions and popular fashion. However, male popular fashion is much less prevalent than female popular fashion. The manager of directors of the Board of Our House Culture Center, Amt al-Rzaq Jhaf, said that Yemeni male fashion varies according to climate and there is a strong relationship between Yemeni fashion and the region where it originates.

According to Jhaf, before unification, men in the north wore the fouta, a loose skirt worn from the waist, with a shirt and a dagger in the waist. Yet in Aden, the situation was different. The fashion was influenced by the British occupation, so most of men wore wide pants with a shirt.

“The fouta was wide and short from the front to help the man do his duties such as climb mountains, cut trees, run, and work on a farm easily,” she stated.

Wearing the fouta continued until after unification in northern and southern provinces except Aden, where it developed into a smaller and narrower style called the makatab, a piece of cloth wrapped from the waist to the knee. The makatab spread to coastal areas such as Tihamah and Aden where the weather is hot.

In Sana’a, male clothes differ according to the class of the family and the level of education. Upper classes wear a loose dress with the aba’a, a male abaya, open and embroidered in front with wide and long sleeves, with a turban and a jambia.

“The turban was worn by old men, but youth wear hats according to the level of their education,” said Jhaf.

The jambia is the Arabic term for a dagger, but it is generally used to describe a specific type of dagger with a short curved blade that is worn on a belt. The term jambia is also used in other Arab countries. The price of a jambia varies between 500 Yemeni rials and 20 million Yemeni rials, according to the types.  The best type is called saifani.

“Instead of a jambia they sometime wear a tozaa, smaller than a jambia and worn on the side,” added Jhaf.

Lower classes wear a dress, a jambia, and coat with a scarf wrapped on their heads.

“The strange thing is that people are still applying these traditions today. Only the men who belonged to upper class wear aba’a and turban,” said Jhaf.

Recently, because of land and sea trade, many of new fashions have entered to Yemen, like them Mawaaz, jeans, jacket, and suits.

Ahmed, a seller in a male clothes store, said that the mawaaz has taken the place of the makatab.  They are similar from each other, but the mawaaz filled with colors and inscription.

“The mawaaz was brought from Indonesia and Malaysia. Its price is between 3,000 and more than 30,000 rials according to the kind of cloth,” said Jhaf.

In the coastal areas, men wear the mawaaz with a shirt, while in the mountainous areas they wear it with shirt and coat. In all areas, they wear the jambia.

With the change of lifestyle, most men in the cities prefer to wear pants, jeans, a t-shirt, a shirt or suits in the morning.

However, they are still keen to wear traditional clothes, a jambia, and a coat when they meet together to chew qat in the afternoon.

Grooms in Yemen must wear traditional clothes, which are a white dress, a coat, a jambia, and a turban if he belongs to high class or a scarf with flowers if he is not. The most important accessory is a sword.

Men consider traditional clothes part of masculinity and virility, where in some villages people don’t respect men who wear jeans.