Fashion and clothing have ostensibly been, and still are, the exclusive domain of women. Fashion and haute couture are synonymous, at least in Pakistan, with women. In the Western world, though, men did not spend all that much on clothing till the December of 2001, who unlike their counterparts in Pakistan, were very much fashion savvy. Even in the 16th century men were very conscious of what they wore. Clothes even then were a statement, not necessarily a fashion statement, but a statement nevertheless. The aristocratic class distinguished itself from the common class through their clothes, shoes, hairstyles, and mannerism.
Pakistani men, on the other hand, have been less conscious of their clothes until the media blitz. It was something which men till recently did not take an active interest in. Men throughout time have worn basically the same traditional outfit – the awami suit or the shalwar-kameez as it is popularly known. Gone are the days of being patriotic!
Shalwar-Kameez is a complete dress, like a trouser-shirt combination. Shalwar is a pair of thin cotton trousers, baggy but tapered at the ankles. It has a draw-string at the waist acting as a belt; and a long tunic like shirt down to the knees, which is called Kameez. Nowadays men, too, like the women wear the Shalwar-Kameez in a variety of tasteful colors and designs, making it trendy and in vogue.
Designer Rashid Ali Khan says, “The basic ensemble changed from province to province. In Punjab it is the kurta-shalwar that is dominant, while in Karachi it is kurta-pajama, and in NWFP and Balochistan, it is shalwar Kameez.”
The feudal landlords had theirs embroidered and well-starched while the ordinary man just donned the outfit, even if not properly ironed. He only dared to wear a starched awami suit or even an embroidered one on happy occasions of Eid or his wedding.
The Punjabi natives mostly sport unstitched clothes called Lungis or Dhotis. Lungis or Dhotis are skirt like nether garments, which are wrapped and tucked around waist. It is worn with the Kameez in formal settings, and with a short waistcoat vest-like shirt in informal gatherings. Pathan men also wear sleeveless embroidered vests over the Shalwar-Kameez. In addition, they wear caps of various shapes and designs; the most common being the Pukul Hat which is a flat round wool cap. The Balochis wear Turbans which have the clothes tied in such a way that symbolize their tribal identity. In Sindh highly decorative caps are common. Hats and caps vary in cut and shape, as well as embroidery stitches and patterns, according to the tribe or peoples of the particular area. Their wearers may thus be immediately identified as to their ethnic origin, economic standing and social status.
Prior to the media bang, the rich and the famous were the trend setters. “Fashion starts from the high class,” says Rashid. In fact, in the good old days, men's fashion generally consisted of trends of the rich and famous. The film stars, politicians, industrialists, and business tycoons were those who were always
abreast with the latest in men’s fashion. They could afford the brands and newest of styles. They were the ones who had only the latest in their wardrobes. It is a luxury for just a limited number of men to be able to enjoy the cost of being fashionable. Not everyone could afford to follow the latest fads and trends.
“The rich can afford to change their wardrobe every month or so and the new wardrobe reflects their changing tastes thereby setting new trends,” he says. When people who have status start to wear new or different clothes a fashion trend may start. People, who like or respect them, may start to wear clothes of a similar style.
In the male political class, the Jinnah sherwani as well as the achkan churidar is the official dress code at all ceremonial and official state functions. The new set of politicians is now opting for the formal three-piece western suit for formal functions. The trend of wearing the sherwani among the common class is restricted to weddings. The sherwani comes in a variety of colors, like black, blues, greens and browns with the elegance of embroidery using semi-precious stones. Pure silk Jamewar turbans and embroidered shawl complete the attire making the groom look like a member of the royal courtyard of the Maharajas and Emperors.
At the beginning of the 20th century, fashion magazines began to include photographs and became even more influential. In cities throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste. High fashion did not become popular among the general population until it started
getting featured on television. The prime reason for successful universality of men’s fashion is the media exposure. Boys are aware of the latest trends. They all want to ape their favorite movie or television star. Sports fans would go to any length to copy their icon’s fashion trends – from head to toe.
The music channels have made the youth more conscious of fashion. The music buffs would get their hair do, body pierced and tattooed, their clothes wearing – all in accordance to what is done by their music icon. Today men's fashion is not limited to aping the clothes worn by the glamour men, but also their entire style. Their hairstyle and all else is a part of the fashion world of today’s man.
However, Rashid disagrees that more music channels means more fashion exposure. “Films and prime time soap operas are the major trend setters. Music videos are of short duration and as such have little impact on fashion. Soap operas are now becoming lengthy and the fashion can be closely observed.”
In the west, the fashion of the 70s was in vogue among the men. Wearing leisure suits, funky disco shirts, wild vintage disco men's platform shoes, and fun polyester disco pants was the order of the day.
“The 60s was the trend setter in Pakistani male fashion. Waheed Murad and Nadeem looks were very popular. Men started to wear boot-cut trousers, big collars and tight fittings,” Rashid further elaborates.
The youngsters who wanted to be fashionable but had no means of looking for the latest trends, minutely observed the local boys of the neighborhood who were fashionable. Going to the cinemas and seeing the dressing of the male cast was adopted. The Michael Jackson era of the 80s was closely followed. White socks,
half-cut shoes, leather pants and sunglasses were adopted. “Nowadays, the 60s Waheed Murad-Nadeem looks are very much in vogue,” says Rashid.
Men’s fashion around the globe has taken a turn. Most men even today do not lust after fashion as obsessively as their female counterparts and simply do not spend enough money on clothes. They are just interested in looking good, and want to wear cool clothes and be individual looking.
In Pakistan’s fashion scenario, men's fashion is a booming business, no matter what the level of its existence may be. The fashionable man has arrived in every household. He spends hours shopping, unlike a time when the word shopping made him fret. He is more aware of himself and makes every attempt to make an impact, no matter from which strata of society he hails from. He spends hours in a month at a spa, and gets his pedicure or facial amongst other services. They are overly concerned about how they look, what they wear, and how they present themselves. And all this is due to the media boom.