Starting early spring of 2011, I noticed a new fashion trend among Afghan girls and women. Polka dots.
It started around March, mainly in the more wealthy areas of Kabul, such as Wazir Akhbar Khan, Shahr-e Naw and the better parts of Karte Seh. Very small girl children were showing up in bright polka dot dresses. Initially the dots were black on a yellow background. The next color I noticed was black dots on red, followed closely by black dots on blue. Relatively quickly, all the colors of the rainbow were evident in polka dots.
And then the pattern morphed, so by mid-summer, the “dots” were different shapes other than round. The patterns rapidly changed to include birds, diamonds and other, more random shapes.
Also about mid-summer, something truly daring took place. Small children were no longer the only ones wearing polka dots on their dresses. Soon older girls were wearing them, often over black stretch pants or blue jeans, with the obligatory high heel shoes. And by early fall, it was not uncommon to see younger women wearing them.
It’s funny, but most people see Afghanistan as stodgy and slow to adapt fashion, but the truth is, fashions strike here just as, if not more rapidly than anywhere else in the world. The matter of a few months saw the polka dot seize the fashion scene here in Kabul. And fashion is not restricted to females in Afghanistan, either. For this was the year I saw the first cowboy hats being worn on the streets of south and west Kabul, mainly by Hazara men.
Again, like the polka dots, it started slowly, and in the spring, but by mid-summer, there were carts at the bazaar selling nothing but cowboy hats. Actually, that’s not completely true, for I saw, at least once, a cart selling cowboy hats and thongs. I fairly shudder to relate that, of course.