Monday, December 28, 2009

Indian clothes in the workplace

Why cant we wear Indian clothes to the workplace asks this article? Actually it is not just workplace, it is to a few other "hep" places as well. And no, please dont tell me that the kurta pyjama and bundgalla are the only traditional Indian outfits - these are preferred by politicians and theres a lot more to our attire than these two outfits. If you mean Indian clothes you got to go the whole hog from dhoti to veshti to topless men to what not!

But before we get there, how many of us wear Indian clothes except at cultural or religious functions? How many of us wear Indian clothes at home? Not many I know wear a veshti at home - shorts have taken over, in this generation atleast. And for most of South India traditional clothes mean just a towel on the upper part of the body for men. Perhaps it is comfort, perhaps it is a feeling of being too traditional, but I think for the most part Indian clothing is relegated to politicians, social functions and religious gatherings.

Also, connect it to how we see our culture in general. We are not the kinds who wear our culture on our sleeves. Why? One theory would blame it on education, but I would rather put it on people. Perhaps we see being modern as being away from "tradition". I know, I sound confused, but thats the state of mind as I try to explain it. And again, there is nothing right or wrong about it. One can wear shorts and respect culture and be traditional. And one can wear traditional wear and still have no clue about customs and traditions and culture. Surely there is a way to blend the two? (There surely is...) The connection between attire and respect for culture and tradition is tenuous at best.

But why cant we wear Indian clothes in the workplace? To some extent it is about professionalism, though I dont agree that professionalism originates in the clothes. Some of the biggest bigots in the corporate world wear ties and suits to work. And many bigots wear their culture on their sleeve and their traditional attire.

I would see it more as convenience and preclude our atrocious sense of carrying ourselves apart from a perceived need to look like each other...As usual disparate thoughts, which I need to collate, but in the meantime, thoughts?

Update: Do read this post by Chennaikaran on the same topic!


Kavi said...

Its been on my mind for sometime too. That we have a day called 'ethnic wear' day. And wear all kinds of costume which some label as 'fancy dress' !

Our climate is just not suited for a tie and a suit. Especially if the job is outside the confines of airconditioned offices with controlled temperatures !

I guess the aspirational element of what the British used to wear, set the tone...! I think it all started right there !

L said...

ggop said...

Weird that it is men who have abandoned traditional dress by the droves in the corporate world!
Go to a wedding, many men show up in slacks and shirt even for a reception. Slackers.

cutting chai said...

HI I read your article with interest because i have thought about it as well. Delhi culture is to dress up even if you go to a neighbourhood market. Bombay is alot more casual. Chennai is disastrous.While working in Chennai, we went to a pub in a 3 star hotel, called Bikers Club, i was shocked to find that everyone there was wearing shirt and dhotis.We had girls in pur group and did not spend a minute there. I pubs in Delhi allow everyone to come in wearing whatever they want to, can you imagine what will happen to the ambience?

Also in office, sometime back, the HR decided they will give more freedom to people to dress the way they feel comfortable. Yu cant imagine to the extent people took the liberty to. People were walking in wearing unpressed kurtas and jeans and chappals. It was affecting the attitude at work place as well. We are back to strick office formals 4 days a week and business casuals on Fridays.

Given the social immaturity in our society i think the rules we have make sense. For those who are more culturally aware, we pay a price.