by Hakim Faiz Baloch
Dewy-eyed and full of hopes and dreams, I arrived in Oxford in September of last year.
Ten months later, I am mostly the same person, with a few things missing, and a few tweaked to ensure better performance. I still have my values and principles and all my fingers and toes which, mind you, is a considerable achievement when you have a penchant for sticking your nose where it does not belong. I have my health, and a new and improved immune system courtesy of battling Scarlet fever and mumps outbreaks. Most importantly, I still have the good common sense to dress with pride and a certain degree of finesse. People who know me will beg to differ – but trust, that is not me they see scurrying at 4 am to the JCR for one last mug of Bailey’s-laced hot chocolate, with only my duvet to keep modest.
Dressing oneself is a feat, a great one too, that we all learn as part of the painful process of growing up. Our parents see it too, and have to grudgingly fund and bear the sight of all our phases, be they grunge, teen-boy-band-related or just dirty and unkempt. Soon we reach the age when we can shop independently and dress ourselves, and hopefully our life will achieve the upward trajectory it is meant to attain by now. Clean and ironed and respectable, even in the slightest, should be the order of the jungle. The clothes you wear are your identity, as much as your more endurable self is. It is your way of self-expression and simply says a lot about you as a person. And some of you need to try harder.
At least try to match an outfit. I know it’s suddenly quite fashionable to wear the odd dad-on-a-Hawaiian-vacation shirt with a pair of hot pink capris and dirty trainers, none of which are even remotely clean or ironed. My Pakistani mother thinks I go to university with an inordinate amount of vagrant children, or at least those who just don’t know how to shop right.
Perhaps I’m being too critical. They say it’s the London kid aesthetic and that it expresses a general fuck-you to the current fashion establishment, as the youth raid vintage and charity shops to find old and timeless pieces to add to their wardrobes. The crazy, the bizarre, and the unsightly are now acceptable, and that does indeed say a lot for how far we have come to shake off the yoke of brand-based consumerism. And all that seems just dandy, but for someone who has grown up with a culture of dressing well being a matter of pride, its all too bizarre.
The quintessential kurta shalwar, which the West has become quite acquainted with thanks to migration, colonization and the wonders of the World Wide Web, is a simple outfit. And its simplicity is untouched and un-surrendered beauty. A royal blue raw silk kurta, white churidar pajama and gold or silver Kolhapuri chappals just take the cake. Add a deep burgundy shawl and a clean and jolly specimen of humankind, and the local aunties would flock to ask your hand in marriage for their sons or daughters. Material, colour and the artful cut of the cloth is what make an outfit. And that is a sight for sore eyes.
Sure, we all have our lapses and mistakes, our teenage phases and cringe-worthy fashion choices, but whatever seems to be plaguing the First World needs a cure and fast. It’s time to pull ourselves together and recognise the power of smart dressing. Take a leaf out of Pakistan’s book and dress like you mean it.