On the Crossroads: Western Clothing

Indian Saree
Indian Saree

The biggest strength of India as a country is its diversity. It is probably the only country in the world with so many religions, languages, customs and traditions and culture. However, diversity is also its biggest threat, I believe. While Indians have been celebrating all festivals side by side, the country now seems to be weakening due to religious-based politics that segregate the people of India on different grounds. To make it worse, the constant influx of international culture and lifestyle has turned India into an intolerant democratic nation where any debatable topic gets banned left, right and centre. Certain politicians claim that western culture has been disrobing the Indian ethos and culture and that there is a need to curb this kind of growth that is harmful for the existence of the country.

Unlike what most politicians claim, the concept of westernization in India has been there since the arrival of colonial forces and many have adopted to that lifestyle early on. Of course, the impact of western culture earlier was not much due to lack of technology, but that doesn’t mean it was absent. Today, due to internet and many other television channels the exposure to western culture and values is far greater than ever before. Before the computers and mobile phones invaded our life, things were pretty different and simple.

I’m not sure about the lifestyle before 1980s, but as far as I can recollect, fashion and dress code here in India was simple and functional. The only source of fashion earlier across the country was the Indian film industry. Indian film actors and actresses were the fashion icons of the country and whatever they wore on-screen would be put on display on the mannequins in local shops. Majority of the people would then prefer street shopping to bag the best deals. Malls and fashion retail stores were non-existing and were introduced at the turn of the century flooding the Indian market with fashion brands that were initially rejected. Over a period of time, TV channels and internet helped Indians to know about international celebrities, lifestyle, culture and clothing and over a period of time Indians took to western clothing and dress code.

Kurta Churidar
Kurta Churidar

India opened up very quickly to adapting western values, culture and dress code especially in the urban parts of the country, but there are certain western thoughts that still find resistance. One such concept is western clothing. While the concept of bikinis and swimwear has been normal in the West, here in India it can attract a hell lot of criticism. Now, one would assume that nudity and sex is an alien concept in Indian culture, but you’re sadly mistaken. India has contributed immensely towards history of sex and has treated sexual intercourse as a science which was promoted through literature and art. There are multiple caves and heritage structures here that depicted the nude and semi-nude dressing style centuries ago, but unfortunately people here now think differently.

Revealing outfits have always stirred a lot of controversy and outrage in the society as there are certain sections that believe that the people of India have democratic right to wear what they want and any kind of objection is a violation of the democratic law of India. However, there is a larger section of the society that looks down upon such dress style. Today, western revealing outfits are only worn by celebrities and high profile people who interact within their own class of people. Many top international brands do provide urban, sexy and in-style dresses that attract the upper-middle class people who would want to imitate their national and international favorite celebrities. In metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata you certainly find girls and women wearing branded clothes that define their personality, but in the interiors the picture is still quite bleak. When you venture further into the heartlands of the country you will find that there are areas where jeans, trousers and t-shirts for girls are banned. These diktats are imposed by the local councils that govern the villages. They believe that western style clothing is the root cause behind the rising number of rapes in their region and that their rule will curb the situation. I have a simple question: Do only those girls get raped that wear jeans and western clothing?

Simple Shalwar Kameez
Patiala Shalwar Kameez

Similarly, when you head to the beach across India, you will hardly or probably never find anybody in beachwear. I believe Goa is the only state in India that has certain beaches where international tourists and Indians wear beachwear while they are basking in the sun. Or should I say that it is because of the international tourists that many Indians here get the liberty to wear bikinis and beachwear. International tourists that visit India should always keep in mind that wearing revealing outfits can put them in a tricky situation.

While I love my country for its diversity and uniqueness, I hate the hypocritical nature of Indians at large. Laws in India are biased and favor to certain sections of the society. Similarly, many social laws and rules are only targeted towards women which is a clear indication of discrimination and exhibition of a male-dominated society that wants complete control. In terms of dress code and clothing, there are no rules whatsoever for men can wear and cannot. These laws and restrictions are meant only for women which only reveals the hypocrisy deeply rooted in the social laws that govern the society.

Salaam Namaste Movie Poster
Salaam Namaste Movie Poster

For instance, many males wear low waist jeans that clearly exposes their underwear partially revealing the name of their underwear brand on the elastic. It could be because western designers are bringing in this trend, or because males want to showcase their masculinity and in some cases the expensive underwear brands that they wear. Surprisingly, there has never been an issue or debate about it. Ever. However, if a teenage girl or woman does the same, she is quickly looked down upon and labeled as cheap character individual who does not know how to dress well. Forget the common Indian woman, even Indian female celebrities that reveal their cleavage becomes an object of ridicule. Wardrobe malfunction is what the Indian Page 3 media craves for to secure maximum TRP ratings. I still don’t get the point in repetitively showing sneak peeks of panties and bras that are visible accidentally. Probably, media must have surveyed the number of perverts in India.

India currently is going through a dynamic shift in terms of values and beliefs and these contradictions only showcase the shifting mindset of the people. There are many men here that support women in every possible way and I am glad that they think righteously offering equal stance to the other gender. Indian men that claim western culture and dress code is disrobing the Indian ethos need to evaluate where they stand. While dressing is a part of culture, connecting only female dressing to the Indian culture and labeling her character purely on the basis of her dressing style is downright wrong. I am not judging which culture is better and which one isn’t. I am only emphasizing on the fact that we need to take the best of different cultures and adapt our lifestyles in a way to bring better peace and harmony and prosperity rather than involving in blame games.

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