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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dressing for Success and Tending to Your Flock

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SUVAJAL, Northern Azerbaijan -- Scrabbling through the undergrowth in search of a path that would lead us into the valley, my friend and I bumped into a shepherd. At least we thought he was a shepherd.

He was sitting on a large boulder, tending six very thin, very dirty sheep. But apart from the crook leaning against his leg, he didn't look anything like a shepherd. He was wearing a three-piece pin-stripe suit, shiny black shoes and an immaculate papax -- the black-fez-style hat made from the tight woolen curls of a newborn lamb.

Slung from his waistcoat pocket was a weighty watch on a silver chain, which he glanced at now and then. And as his sheep scratched about for something to eat, he unfolded a newspaper from his pocket and started to do the crossword.

I'm not sure what it is about Azeri men, but they are always impeccably dressed. Even in the blistering heat of summer, they wear tailored black trousers and neat jackets over carefully pressed shirts.

And as if that doesn't make them sweat enough, they wear white vests under their shirts -- if the shirt material is thin enough, you can usually make out the outline of the vest underneath.

Curiously for a mostly Muslim country, men seem to dress much more conservatively than women, at least in the capital, Baku. In the summer, girls wear the skimpiest of outfits that wouldn't look out of place at the Copacabana in Brazil. Here, they barely raise an eyebrow.

It's only if a woman lights up a cigarette in public that she will cause offense. "Only prostitutes smoke in public," one of our neighbors told me, which explains why loos in restaurants and cinemas are always packed full of women desperate for a cigarette.

But to get back to men: In Azerbaijan, they never wear shorts. It's the equivalent, my guidebook says, of strolling through London in a pair of Y-fronts.

It just isn't done. The only shorts you see in Baku are squeezed around the pasty, white legs of expatriate oil workers -- I can see why Azeri men would rather forego the look.

Nevertheless, for all the conservative male dress code in Azerbaijan, I think the fashion police would probably have a field day here. The man who lives across the road has just bought himself a lime green three-piece, and I regularly see men parading around Fountain Square in jackets with "Made from Italy" stitched onto the sleeves.

Still, give me a man in a suit, well-tailored or otherwise, over a man in a tight pair of shorts any day. Just tell him to leave his white vest at home.

Chloe Arnold is a freelance journalist based in Baku, Azerbaijan.