The word “wardrobe stylist” brings to mind images of the famous and the glamorous!! But there are also people who have self styled “wardrobe consultants” with the sole aim of giving the person an image makeover. My father, at various points in his life has had to suffer such consultants- first in the form of his daughters and now his granddaughter.
His first image makeover was attempted by a five year old kid –ME! Between me and my friend we used to experiment with his once thick shock of hair tying it with ribbons and rubber bands. He was a trainee hairdresser’s delight, sitting quietly on a chair while we stood behind him on stools tying up his hair. I think he allowed us at least one hour of this experiment before pulling it all off.
As I grew older I tried desperately to get him to wear bell bottom trousers which were the rage of the 70s. But he continued to wear what he always did –trousers that were timeless in their style. They were generally black, grey, dark brown or navy blue. The shirts were invariably white, off white or light blue with muted stripes or checks. Depending on the weather they were either half or full sleeved. His sweaters were grey or navy blue. He has never been known to buy shirts that are “readymade”. They were all stitched by a certain “Saha Tailors” in Kolkata. He has these shirts with him even today and anytime that he needs to have a new one stitched he gives out the “Saha Tailors” one as the “Namoona”( Specimen) !
A generally accommodating man in all respects, he is most obstinate when it comes to his dressing. I remember my mother once suggesting to him to try a “Safari Suit” to which he retorted that he did not want to look like a “Marwari Business man”. But he did make some concession later on when he started tucking in his full sleeved shirts!
Despite his fixed sense of style, we, his image consultants never really gave up! I once managed to convince him to let me dye his graying hair. But I guess I botched up the assignment rather badly ( I think I also dyed a bit of his scalp along with his thinning hair) because he never let anyone touch his hair again. Nature took its own course as the root of this controversy ( the hair) came off its roots over the years.
Post retirement Appa had his own image makeover. He now sports a look that is a cross between R.K.Lakshman’s Common man and an aging Gandhian! He has switched completely to khadi kurtas. During the day when he is outdoors on some errand he sports a cap. He has actually developed a bit of a cap fetish (akin to our CM’s shoe fetish). And he has also started sporting what he calls “Goggles” !!! Add the jhola that he has taken to carrying and the picture of an eccentric genius is complete!
For me, this is the end of my career as his stylist. I know, I can do nothing to this image!! It is beyond me! But his younger daughter and his granddaughter continue to try.
My sister had some unexpected success when she managed to get him to wear a pair of Reeboks with this pant- kurta outfit – a startling combination of products from the swadeshi and market economy! The daughter tried to take this “Brand Equity” a step further. She decided he needed branded underwear.
After being bullied into accepting the fact that he actually did need some new underwear he agreed to try something “different” in this department. Accompanied by his granddaughter he went to a jockey showroom to buy them. He was aghast when the salesman told him that he needed to buy an entire set of three “jetties” (underwear) and not just one from that set!!
“I don’t need three at one go” he had grumbled. But he had underestimated the power of the bully who had gone shopping with him. So he came back with a set of three undies together.
However the man has his own way of dealing with this “extravagance”. During our last visit to his place my daughter pointed out that “Tata” was wearing only one of the underwear from that box. He intended to take out the next one only when this was worn out! Meanwhile it was his old and faded VIPs that reigned. The way he held forth on the quality of their elastic, one would wish that the manufacturers of VIP underwear could have heard. It was certainly the sort of stuff that they would want any brand ambassador to speak !
Despite the so called eccentricity in the way he dresses, I must say I admire the way he has evolved his own sense of style. A friend who ran into him on the road a few months ago called me back and told me how “smart” my father looked as he walked briskly down the road. Though I was very tickled at the use of the word “smart” to describe the way he looked, I guess it is his confidence and complete lack of concern about “being with the trend” that stands out!
My daughter often tells me in her moments of exasperation that I am getting to be as eccentric as my father. May be.. but I do not think that is bad. He has handed down to us a sense of individuality that I cherish. He has taught us to be who we want to be and not what the world expects us to be..!
For a man of his generation, that is a big lesson to pass down to daughters which makes him in every way a very "Uncommon man" - a “Trend setter”actually !