Religious police have closed some 20 barbershops in Iran as a part of a crackdown on “bad hijab” or unIslamic clothing. On the forbidden list are makeup, tattoos, hairstyles with gel where the hair stands up, and plucking eyebrows for men.
I saw a barber who knew how to do this in the north of Jordan. A friend of mine had a rather wolfish look–widow’s peak, eyebrows growing close together and a huge Arab mustache. I walked around with his sister while he went in for maintenance. The eyebrow plucking he was adamant must be done with a string. The string is held between the barbers two hands and dragged across the skin. As it is dragged across the skin the thread twists. The hairs get caught in the string and are plucked. After my friend emerged from the barber, I realized he had a unibrow and needed frequent attention to keep from looking Neanderthal.
The hair-plucking trick with the string is common and women do it too. One day I went with my Iraqi neighbor to find a beauty salon with reasonably priced haircuts. We ended up paying around four dollars each. I didn’t know what I wanted, so the stylist said “I will give you a Versace cut” and it was pretty good too. My friend knew in detail what she wanted layered and so forth and her haircut was more of a process. At the end, the stylist pointed out some courser facial hair on her temples, a new price was negotiated, and out came the string, deftly rolled across her forehead. I couldn’t see a difference but she was enormously satisfied with her appearance.
After my friends’ experience with plucking hair, I started becoming more aware of the appearance of Arab men on the street. A surprising number of them look like they might have unibrows that are kept separated into distinct eyebrows only by a barber’s frequent attention.
I am picturing the new Iran, without barbered eyebrows. A chorus line of Iranian men comes on stage in the Monty Python tradition looking like they might be ready to burst into a chorus of Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! As they turn, you can see they each have a unibrow and look exactly like Bert as in Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.
Of course there is only one song that goes with Bert’s unibrow. The line of husky Iranian men bursts into a chorus of “Rubber ducky, you’re the one…”