Fashionably fickle-minded

Fashionably fickle-minded

We slavishly ape sartorial fashions because we believe they go a long way in enhancing one’s personality and appearance, writes George N Netto

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Sartorial fashions have come a long way since the days of the skimpy fig-leaf. Of course, clothes today cover far more territory than it did. Yet, oddly enough, the tight-fitting togs that are the rage now seem to leave as little to the imagination as the humble fig-leaf did. Indeed, nowadays one seldom sees even a pair of slacks with any slack in them.

Why do we slavishly ape sartorial fashions? Perhaps it’s because, no matter how absurd these may seem, we believe they go a long way in enhancing one’s personality and appearance.

However, given their tendency to accentuate one’s figure, I shun skin-tight jeans not because I’m well-endowed physically but rather because I’m not. I certainly don’t want my scarecrow-like constitution to be further highlighted. It’s bad enough having people stare at me as if I’m a case of acute malnutrition or adult rickets. Congenital gauntness has left me without any flattering flab; so wearing figure-hugging jeans is definitely not in my genes. Give me any day the good old baggy trousers of yore with their capacity to accommodate not just one but two pairs of trotters.

I’m often reminded of the balmy 1960s when ‘drain-pipes’ came into vogue for both men and women. Not too narrow, one could easily slip into and out of them without peeling off a layer of skin in the process — as presumably happens with skin-tight jeans. Indeed I’ve seen grimacing people laboriously wriggle into or out of them like a struggling contortionist. Talk about being thick-skinned.

In the 1970s came the era of bell-bottoms. One saw actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna among others flaunt this sartorial innovation with elan and soon it was the dernier cri. Every youngster wanted those twin loose appendages flapping around their knees like a jumbo’s ears, never mind if it meant purchasing additional fabric. One just had to keep up with the Joneses if one didn’t want to be labelled dowdy.

I recall jauntily cycling to work with my bell-bottoms whipping my calves and sometimes getting caught — and soiled — between the greased spokes — a happening that ruined my presentableness. However, the corpulent prudently gave this new-fangled attire a wide berth, perhaps fearing a wit might point out that they were already bell-bottomed anatomically.

Then in the 1980s ultra-large and long shirt collars were the rage, popularised by no less an actor than the debonair Dev Anand. He, of course, carried them off well but some of the fashion-conscious who tried to ape him (including yours truly) were bluntly told by a disapproving elder that we looked as if our necks had sprouted a pair of floppy bovine ears. And when one buttoned up one’s collar to wear a neck-tie, this worthy icily opined that one appeared to have one’s head in a ‘pillory’ of sorts. Others, he pointed out
with unsparing severity, seemed to wear a halter round their necks.

I still have a few fading pairs of drain-pipes and bell-bottoms (not to mention a couple of large-collared shirts) mothballed away in a trunk. “Every generation laughs at the old fashions but religiously follows the new,” observed Henry David Thoreau quite rightly. And, in one of his flights of fancy, Oscar Wilde remarked, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” So I’m retaining my fashion relics from the past just in case they stage a comeback. One never knows, given the whimsicality of our fashion designers.