Visiting India from the US as a child, regardless of where I was, my pajamas were just that – pajamas. But with limited space to carry clothes, I remember one of our first stops upon landing would always be to purchase some khadi kurta pajamas for loungewear/bedtime clothing. I hated it, frankly. I didn’t like tying the nada, and simply found it to be too much fabric. As I kept outgrowing my previous pairs each year, I shifted to wearing T-shirts and shorts. My cousins would always laugh, and thought it was strange that I’d wear this to bed.
These days, though, that’s all but become the norm now, for most men in India. Gone are the days of neatly ironed, white kurta pajamas and instead, we are now parading around our houses in T-shirts and shorts (if feeling conservative) or else simply in boxers (I’ll omit going commando, as most do live with others here). Somehow, along the line, clothing that was appropriate innerwear has now become acceptable as a wardrobe choice. And now, what was acceptable inside the house has become appropriate clothing to wear outside.
I’m very peeved when I see men walking around big cities wearing their only boxer shorts, thinking that somehow this is suitable etiquette. Yes, in today’s day and age, boxers have become the “nightie” for men. Ever notice how many aunties sport their nightgowns on their jogs, or when buying vegetables from their local vendor? Well, if that wasn’t already enough of an eyesore, seeing men walking around in boxers leaves very little to the imagination.
This brings me to a larger point. These same men are also the ones who will spend tens of thousands on outfits for weddings, dates and vacations. So why is it that fashion only matters when attending an event or a special occasion, and not in everyday life? In our social-media obsessed world, every moment can now be its own event. Shouldn’t we then be aware of how we look whenever we step out of our homes? Much of the argument I hear about dressing down is that it increases comfort. Newsflash: comfort can be fashionable too! Every major designer understands how important a simple round neck T-shirt is in one’s wardrobe, just as much as a tuxedo.
We leave our homes to be part of a community. It does matter what we wear, because it not only (right or wrong) leaves others with impressions about us, but it also changes our own attitudes. There is a reason the mantra exists – look good, feel good. For example, for a rather extended period of time, my attendance was required as a patient at a hospital. While most came wearing sweatpants and hoodies, I would often wear my suit and tie. For me, I was dressing up not to be `seen’ but rather to feel like a million bucks. There were days when I couldn’t muster the strength to go wearing my work clothes, but even then you wouldn’t find me wearing the clothes I slept in. For me, comfort isn’t just in the clothing. I respect others enough to make them feel comfortable and trust me, not just at special functions or in filtered photographs, but in real life – the one where we actually interact with each other.
My mom was a stay-at-home mother. While many other women her age used to partake in the “nightie” culture, she always dressed up, even in the house. I remember my father asking her why she felt compelled to do this every day. She said that only then was she motivated to keep things orderly, and she always wanted to be prepared if someone came by, or if she needed to step out.
She taught me this very thing, and I’m thankful that her discipline rubbed off on me. Finances may restrict you to a brand or variety in clothing choices, but they are not an excuse for apathy in wardrobe selection. The irony for me is that these days, I absolutely love wearing crisp, white kurta pajamas to bed. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s out of protest for what the rest of the country is doing, but trust me – it’s one look that will never go out of style. Ergo, find your style, find your comfort and please leave the boxers for inside the house – and inside your clothing. The writer is the author of Holy Cancer: How A Cow Saved My Life. He writes this monthly column on style, substance and the man.