Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What to wear in India.. lets start with the shoes

There is a lot of advice out there about dressing properly in India. Mostly you are told to wear a salwar kameez, try a sari or generally to cover yourself up. While villagers appreciate the effort of you covering yourself in suitable attire, things have changed over the years and even Indian women are pushing the envelope of what is suitable dress or not.
Over time I have come to learn that while dressing respectfully is important where ever you go, in India you are judged by the cut of your cloth and that sometimes a pair of shoes can change your life. Quite apart from the fact that I love my boots, this little adventure in Jodhpur reminded me that in India people judge you very quickly based on how you are dressed.
Beginning with the shoes, the Indian eye will travel up to your face registering all kinds of things on the way. I like to trick them with good quality fake gold bracelets while a friend of mine makes friends and gains respect with a fake Rolex watch!
This was originally posted on my blog Meditations on a Paper Bag.

Last year in Amsterdam I bought a pair of boots in the way that I usually buy shoes. See something I like and ask for my size already resigning myself to the blisters that I would have called wearing the shoes in.
My friend suggested I try the next size up.
The result was instant! They fit like a glove, hugged me in all the right places and I knew I could walk a mile in these babies.
They also make a nice assertive clicking sound as you walk which I like, It's not a prissy high heeled kind of click but a authoritative one, one that says don't mess with these boots.
Of course I paid a fortune for them but every Euro has turned out to be a subversive investment in my other life as a solo woman in India.
Waiting for a friend one day in the Rajasthan city of Jodhpur, I took the time to have my boots polished.
The guy who polished the boots was well impressed by their quality and asked me where I bought them, how much they cost, a crowd gathered around to estimate the worth of my boots.
I am terrible at numbers and plucked an amount out of the sky that mean 'An Awful Lot', they nodded their heads approvingly. If you have the money the good shoes is an investment the Indians understand. 
Within nano seconds of meeting someone, the average Indian will have summed up your nett worth by looking from your shoes to your face. If you wear good shoes then you start well ahead of the average flip flop wearer, or (GOD FORBID) those Crocs. Good shoes earn respect and a little bit of fear in India and as a solo woman on the road thats always good to know.
As he gave my boots back, the guy said to me
"You were here three weeks ago but you weren't wearing these boots."
He was right, I had been there but I was off duty and had been wearing sneakers.
That's when I realised that even the most humble person in India is watching and assessing you. I remembered being flattered by a dobhi walla (Laundry guy) one day when he returned my laundry to me with the comment that my clothes were "very good quality" in a way that showed he respected that.

It's a shame that the climate in India doesn't allow me to let my boots do the talking for me, but I have learned from this experience that it's not so much what you wear in India (assuming you have already realised that cleavages, bare arms and bare legs are NOT appreciated) but how you wear it.

No comments:

Post a Comment