People’s Differences — Dress Code


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

22 Dec 2020 – All over the world there are differences between people. These are related to their racial and religious backgrounds, languages spoken, educational achievements, economic prosperity, etc. In addition, there are vast differences in the ways people dress. Apart from the jeans that are now commonly worn, there are men who wear   dhoti or pajamas or even half pants. Similarly women wear frocks, saris, kurtas, salwar-kameez,   or jeans like men, adding to the diversities in dress.

Another item of dress is the head dress — with Sikhs wearing turbans, Muslim men often wearing skull caps of different types and styles. Western men often wear different varieties of hats to protect themselves from sunlight or cold. The Christian priests also have their distinctive   cassocks (long dress from head to feet) generally white coloured which makes them look distinguished. In India, non Sikh and non Muslim male politicians generally wear   Gandhi  topis    (caps) to establish their political identities.

Some Muslim women generally wear    burqas  covering themselves from head to toe, or at least head scarfs to display their religiosity. It is interesting how they speak or eat while wearing the head scarf which otherwise covers their mouths also.

Why am I concentrating on dresses or hats? In the world that we are living in, we are witnessing a lot of religious strife and occasional violence. Although we live in democracies, people are governed by  common human rights, despite belonging to different races,  religions or sects. In practice, unfortunately, we witness religious  differences leading to debate and confrontation. Dress often makes it easy to display the religion or faith of the person.

The recent example of the beheading of a woman in a French church by a bigoted person and the French President Macron’s statement on this incident is fresh in our minds. It led to demonstrations and antagonist remarks against the President by some Muslim countries.

The French Republic based on the principles of Liberty, Egalite, Fraternite, allows its citizens to practice their religious beliefs privately in their homes or churches, places of worship, but not in public. This is enshrined in their principle of   laicite  that makes it a crime to display any item of their religious beliefs publicly. A person may wear a cross underneath one’s clothes in public so as not to display one’s religious identity.

Similar restrictions apply for other religions. People must not disrespect or act against people belonging to other faiths. The violent incident unfortunately occurred recently in France despite the principle of religious equality in belief and action enshrined in their Constitution.

The dress code especially for men, occasionally looks absurd. When the British ruled India, the dress of the British men consisted of a coat and a tie even when it was hot and stuffy. This code was adopted by Indians who served in high positions with the British rulers. Although India became an independent country in 1947, this code is often followed by fashionable men even today. If you see a Hindi film of the period 1950s — 1970s, you will see the leading male actors following this dress code from top to bottom. Occasionally even when these actors are depicted leading a vagabondish  life, they wear a coat or jacket if not a tie. Funny and absurd.

Today, a tie is considered an essential item of dress for many men across the world. Whether it is the western world or Japan or China, Premiers or Presidents or other political dignitaries always wear a tie and coat. However this dress code often appears absurd in India or Pakistan. So if a man anchoring a  Hindi TV program puts on a tie to look well dressed, it appears otherwise. He looks as absurd as if India’s Prime Minister Mr Modi were wearing a coat and tie while addressing the nation. Indian women usually wear the traditional   sari.

Fortunately, in India our political leaders, whatever party they may belong to, usually wear traditional dresses, and look dignified. As it is, the weather in most regions of the country is warm and it is good to wear a dress according to the weather. Similarly artistes dancing or playing the    Sitar   look gorgeous in the traditional dress they wear.

Without trying to hurt anyone, I end on a Hindi expression that means a tie worn by a man can easily be used to strangle his throat.

Be careful while wearing a tie.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Dec 2020.

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One Response to “People’s Differences — Dress Code”

  1. Excellent clarification. However there is one useful correction with regard to religious dress, especially in France. It is readily forgotten that most of the Greek deities especially — the Dodekatheon — have been appropriated by the fashion industry. With respect to the article, it should therefore be remembered that many now visibly wear scarves associated explicitly with Hermes, surely therefore to be recognized as religious symbol, as discussed separately (Religious “Plastic Turkeys” — Hermes vs the Hijab, Jesus scarves are not worn, nor those of the Christian angels.