CASUAL WEAR
CASUAL- MEN WEAR

CASUAL MEN

The casual wear of men in Kerala especially at home is the lungi that comes with a variety of colors. It is worn in two ways. The Muslims tie it on their left side of their waist where as the Hindus and Christian tie in on the right side of their waist. It is a long piece and when allowed to fall it reaches the feet of the wearer. The upper garment is a shirt with full or half sleeved, preferably white or any other color.

The ‘Valli knicker’

In the countryside, the ‘knicker’ as they still call it, is still popular in pockets where Gulf opulence has not yet spread. The ‘valli’ knicker or suspenders, (with a cross behind, remember?) was the default dress of boys who found it very convenient to run around the countryside, playing. Without suspenders, they spent half their waking hours pulling the shorts up! Today, the shorts is poised to join the ranks of the ‘pavada’ and the half-sari, but the pavada is seen at weddings and other festivals while the shorts has no occasion to be seen, except in the playing field, where its different avatars reign and the ramp where hot pants are always in.

History

The shorts had its heydays in the Raj era, when British propriety spelt class, and the plantation folks were seen only in shorts and shirts. Retired tea crowds still prefer the shorts for the freedom of movement it offers. The shorts first felt threatened when Bermudas made their appearance more than a decade ago, locally. Till then, it was either shorts or trousers. Nothing came in between.

“In our schooldays, we wore shorts till we finished school. After that we switched to the dhoti or the trousers, depending on how stylish we were,” reminisced T. P. P Pillai, who had a rural upbringing. After Class VIII, the shorts give way to trousers, in today’s schools.

Out of fashion among boys

Tailors in the city say they hardly ever stitch shorts now, except as uniform. “You can buy all types of fashionable jeans and three-fourths at a lesser price, so who wants to wear shorts, which is difficult to stitch, as difficult as a pair of trousers, for only the length is different,” asks Thomas Joseph, who has his tailoring shop on the outskirts of the city.

This endangered species belonging to the garment family is alive only because schools still insist that boys wear them as uniforms in the smaller classes. Ask Govind, who will be in Class VI, come June, whether he wears shorts and he says, “In school yes, but not anywhere else. I like three-fourths.” Shops don’t stock them in big numbers anymore either. Says K.P. Panikkar, who has a school going son, “It’s not that my son is a keen follower of fashion, but I cannot get to buy shorts in any of the shops here, so he wears capris.” Big textile shops in the city say they do sell shorts to adults and kids under 12, but not to the age group in between.

Fit for men and women

The shorts has never been gender specific. Anyone who wants to wear shorts can, only the contours changed according to the sex. “There was a Chinese family in Malaysia where everyone wore shorts, while at home, the grandma, the mother, the father and the children. They said it made things easy, to cook, to garden and to run errands. Where convenience is the credo, the shorts come first. But cultural differences often are a hindrance to accepting the shorts in our land,” says Rema, who has now made Kerala her home.

Glamour factor

The convenience factor is not always the reason why people wear shorts. The glamour quotient is still in. The hot pants descended on the fashion scene sometime in the early seventies. Disco Shanti and the like made it the staple wear of item girls. The hot pants got some oxygen in the nineties but is now gasping for air with skimpier clothes overtaking the shorts. Now, not boys, but girls wear trendy shorts. The baggies, the cargos, chinos, jorts (short jeans), capris all evolved from the trousers, but in the beginning, came the shorts. As long as primary classes stay, shorts will, one hopes.

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