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The Sikh Turban & Beard In High Fashion
The mark of a well-styled Sardar, we were told growing up, was a man whose beard stayed “set” and turban remained upright.
No Sikh man was complete without the trusted 'Simco' hair gel adorning its rightful place of glory on the dressing table. The “Supreme Hair Fixer” after all bridled many an unruly beard for what appeared to be a greasy yet unwieldy century.
But a stroll down the city street would confirm the suspicion that the Sikh has turned chic. The beard has loosened up, allowed to breathe, even styled and the ‘kesh’, while still worn long and tucked in a turban, has a twist and a few substitutes. Not only are Sikh men making the world a better looking place, but also over the years, their inherently unique sartorial styling has been recognized by international brands in fashion meccas like New York and London. This in turn, is helping create awareness about Sikhism, its practices and its individuality.
Furthering that objective is The Singh Project by West London based photographers Amit and Naroop who aim to “capture the essence of modern Sikhism and to pay tribute to the beauty and variety of British Sikh men.”
“Turbaned Fashion Blogger”, Pardeep Singh Bahara did not consciously endeavour to turn the turban into a fashion accessory. But in the first H&M ad featuring Sikh models to be broadcast on Times Square, he walks tall. With 102K followers on Instagram and more than 2.5K likes on Facebook, the model, photographer and entrepreneur commands a religious following on social media.
He was the first Sikh face of Samsung, and has been profiled by Vogue and Time magazines. So when he sends out a message against xenophobia, everybody better sit up and listen.
In a video shot to a poem titled “Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh”, Pardeep refers to the turban as “my crown, a uniform, a symbol against oppression ... that reminds me to be a good person”.
Pardeep’s message goes out to the likes of those who defaced a GAP billboard featuring “best dressed” actor, model and jewellery designer Waris Singh Ahluwalia. Vandals scratched out #MakeLove and wrote “Make Bombs” and “Please stop driving taxis”. The clothing giant used all of its creative energies into turning the vandalism into a poignant message against race crime.
While Waris remained reticent about the ugly incident, it went a long way towards creating awareness about the religion and how it is practised. Incidentally, Waris has also starred in Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ and ‘The Life Acquatic with Steve Zissou’. He will be seen in Deepa Mehta’s ‘Beeba Boys’ along with Randeep Hooda in October this year.
Nimrit Kaur Gill of ‘Malasa’ says Waris’ GAP ad was a turning point and reinforced the view that style is just an extension of who we are as people. Having styled celebrities like Alia Bhatt, she says “Even bollywood had embraced Sikh fashion as many leading actors have taken on symbolic Sikh roles, inspiring the younger generation to embrace their heritage.”
“I feel that the younger Sikh generations over the years have embraced their culture and religious background with open arms and are casting a positive light on it. Recently, Harman Kaur embraced her facial hair and proved just that.”
Just weeks after Waris’ GAP ad, singer, artist and model Jatinder Singh Durhaily became the first turbaned Sikh to model for luxury brand Louis Vuitton. The ad campaign showed the Sardar artist-musician in his trademark accessorized turban that he wears with pride. His inspiration, Jatinder says, have been paintings he grew up admiring in gurdwaras.
Aman (“A & S Shoes“) is a Delhi-based shoe designer and manufacturer who says the biggest difference in the way Sikh men carry themselves now is the way they wear their turbans.
Earlier, matching colours and styles used to dominate us. Today, we have more freedom of style. The latest trend as far as Sikh fashion goes are the colourful turbans we carry with style today and the realisation of how it can be the perfect accessory to brighten one’s face and today a Sikh man is not restricted with the colours or styles he adorns for a turban.
“From conservatism to absolute freedom in adopting any trend/style, the Sikh man today is pressing forward with each passing year”, says Aman.
What’s clear is that the turban and the beard are no longer mere symbols of religiosity, but an expression of individuality.
[Courtesy: The Quint. Edited for sikhchic.com]
September 9, 2015