When I see someone in a great look it’s like second nature to stop and take a photo of them. But when I spotted Naima Shalhoub in her red harem pants I approached with trepidation.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because she didn’t look good. It’s because I almost couldn’t believe she was pulling off such a difficult look. My friend Joy texted me on Sunday: What are your thoughts on harem pants? I responded: Harem pants don’t look good on everybody. One must try them on and be honest with self. If they don’t look good they don’t look good.
Because of their shape, harem pants, and parachute pants — a baggier variation on them, can make legs look short and stumpy. They often look best on people with long legs. But you don’t have to be a supermodel to pull these off. Shalhoub is proof of this. At about 5-foot-4, the Mission District resident pulled off the low crotchers effortlessly. She even explained that in her parents’ village in Lebanon people wear them all the time. They are traditionally worn by older men and accompanied by a traditional (usually maroon) hat called a tarboush.
“My mom’s like, ‘I can’t believe you’re wearing these,’” Shalhoub said with a laugh. Well mom, believe it. The pants, called shirwell in Lebanon, have come back in style since spring 2009 collections last fall. I remember when we just called them Hammer pants, and only guys wanting to look like the rapper (and a young Bobby Brown) wore them. But in 2009 Andreas Melbostad, Betsy Johnson, Yves Saint Laurent and Diane von Furstenberg all declared it Hammertime with their modern takes on the traditional Middle Eastern garment.
I asked Shalhoub if she thought any of the designers in the U.S. and Europe stayed truer to the traditional pants than any others. She laughed with a shrug — not to her knowledge. She doesn’t really follow fashion. “I just like what I like,” she said. Well, Ms., I guess you are just naturally fabulous.
As for Joy, I think she should give it a try. So she’s doesn’t have super long (or just long) legs and probably won’t splurge on anything Yves Saint Laurent. Retail chains like Top Shop (available online in the U.S.), H&M and Zara have less expensive styles that are just as chic but affordable. And these days stores like Target, Kohl’s, Walmart and JC Penney are recruiting high fashion designers to create lines for them. So perhaps we’ll see Michael Kors for Target harem pants available for $34.99 soon (that was indeed a request to the folks over at Target).
When that happens I will see to it myself that Joy invests in a pair, and we will make them work.