The public space in Tamil Nadu has been completely opened up legally for the dhoti, the ethnic garb that had caused a political flutter recently. Pubs, clubs, hotels, or any place for that matter, stand to lose their licence if they dare to cock a snook at the traditional attire as the government has brought in a law that envisages a one-year jail term and `25,000 fine for individuals preventing those in Indian dress from entering any premises.
The law may have put the lid on the polemics that erupted after a high court judge, clad in a dhoti, was turned away at the gates of the local cricket club because of a certain dress code. But will it turn the state’s male sartorial sense upside down? Even if a dhoti company was quick enough to cash in on the law to come out with a new promotion for its brand, people are unlikely to line up before the dhoti section of textile showrooms. In fact, no traditional attire ever needed a revival. Even if some select elitist club or modern pubs had strict dress codes that were distinctly Western in outlook, ordinary Indians stuck to their wardrobe. When India’s powerful army of politicians could not change their traditional dress, even if it is to indirectly suggest they were part of the hoi polloi, and when the vast majority itself could only afford the garb of the land, who can put restrictions on it?
Now, as the pubs and clubs open their doors for conventional costumes, the impact of the law could be felt differently. For the existing dress code does not stop with clothing but mentions footwear, too. Since the Indian way of dressing goes with sandals or chappals, will those who turn up without closed shoes be turned away at the gates of clubs and pubs? And for the clubs that insist on shirts with colour only, will the Indian round-neck jibba be an acceptable men’s top? So, will they shed dress codes completely? Or, will bouncers take the call?