When I was a kid, flying to India meant packing a few things — I’d have my Walkman/Discman and some chewing gum in my backpack, and I’d have a pair of sports sandals that my Mom would make me buy before leaving the US. 9 out of 10 times, I’d leave them behind in India for one of my relatives. As it turned out, the backpacks generally never came back, either. Times haven’t changed, though. Not only has India embraced the backpack/sandal culture, it has almost become the national dress for the common man. Take a look on the road, on a train, on the metro, at a mall, anywhere — backpacks are the baggage humps. Velcro-sealed sports sandals have become the bathroom ‘chappal’ of the urban era, sported with shorts, jeans, track pants and formal pants — and pedicures be damned.

These days, almost every type of file, folder and paper trail is conveniently stored on our phones or on a pen drive, so what exactly is everyone carrying around?

Think about it — the crowded buses, trains, airport lines, security checks — each backpack takes up the space of another person. As for sports sandals, there was a time that I couldn’t walk the streets without seeing Bata ‘chappals’. But I miss those days now, when I see every Amar, Akbar and Anthony wearing sports sandals which, if you actually look down, aren’t even strapped properly, in a lot of cases. Generally, these are worn when taking part in outdoor sporting activities. They offer comfort and an ease of putting on and taking off when in a rush. If we consider commuting as this type of activity, I can understand the logic. But when traveling around in crowds, the likelihood of rain and the chance of walking through a dirty or polluted area, this type of footwear would seem likely to have obvious strikes against it.

Yet why has the entire population chosen this type of footwear? When I did my informal survey, most seemed to say they thought it was “fashionable”, and they could get away with wearing it with jeans or anything else. While I might not be able to stop the crisis (or epidemic, in my mind) among the general public, I can offer some smart choices for the MW reader.

Ú If your backpack is also being worn by someone in the 10th standard, that’s a sign you shouldn’t be sporting it.

Ú Unless your toenails are cut, clean and your skin isn’t as dry as the Rajasthan desert, you shouldn’t be wearing sports sandals.

Ú Just like you shouldn’t be wearing baggy, oversized clothing, your backpack should also be lean.

Ú If you are going to wear sports sandals, make sure that you are dressed for the part. If you are going for an outdoor hike, walk or on some expedition, wear track pants, a T-shirt and these will work.

Ú Brands like Tumi, Prada, Fendi, Diesel and Armani are making backpacks for the young at heart. Invest in your bag. Trust me, just like women notice what handbag other women are carrying, so do men.

Ú There are sports sandals that don’t use Velcro. If you want to dress your look up, perhaps think about a leather version. Before you step out of the house, remember your accessories are also a reflection of you. You don’t want to seem out of date, so make sure what you are carrying and wearing aren’t.

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