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Tajik Diary: A Black-Tie Affair

RFE/RL's James Kirchick (left) and Farangis Najibullah (pictured together at Isfara's Orom teahouse) will share their recent experiences in Tajikistan with Chaikhana this week in the "Tajik Diary."
A lot has been said in the Western media about what clothes are banned in Tajikistan -- and what fashions are frowned upon.

Hardly anyone, however, reports on the kinds of appearance and attire that can work wonders for you in Tajikistan.

If you're a man, it's a power suit. The darker the color, the better. A crisp white shirt is preferable. And don't forget a tie.

It goes beyond the adage that "if you look good, you feel good." As I found out during my recent trip to Dushanbe, many people simply don't take you seriously if you're not wearing a suit.

My colleague and I made a few interview appointments over the phone.

After hearing his name, most of the potential interviewees sounded excited by the prospect of being interviewed by an American journalist.

However, most of them, especially officials, looked a bit disappointed when my colleague arrived dressed in jeans and a sweater. It was obvious they were expecting the dark suit, white shirt, and tie that they equate with professional standing.

"Where is James Rory Kirchick?" asked one interviewee, looking right past James, as we arrived in his office.

It's a mind-set that pervades Tajik society at all levels. My local friends say they wear suits while driving, thinking that their air of importance might keep even Tajikistan's notoriously corrupt traffic police from stopping them.

"If Islamic militants infiltrate into Tajikistan from Afghanistan, I'm afraid all they need to do is to shave cleanly and don suits," a Tajik colleague of mine tells me. "Then they can move inside the country freely. No one would get suspicious."

I hope things haven't truly reached the point where the clothes make the man, rather than the man making the clothes.

-- Farangis Najibullah