The geography of elegance and the language of style
The bourgeois dress, symbol of the social role in the West, corresponds to the Arabic dishdasha, as the Japanese hakama has the same meanings as the Indian sherwani. The geography of masculine elegance is reconstructed through fashion.
The journey in the style of men's fashion is long and varied and corresponds to the quantity of meanings of elegance that can be found in the settled cultures practiced in the four corners of the planet. Which are divided, different and often engaged in a dialogue that even leads them to intertwine without getting confused, but always express the same specificity because everywhere the sense of masculine elegance responds to the codes that the communities have self-assigned to express their character. . Perhaps, much more than women's fashion, men's style can describe a kind of cultural geopolitics. A characteristic that belongs to the character of fashion, which not by chance is a system of signs and meanings capable of condensing the culture of an era, a place, a history. Which is variable not only for how socio-economic conditions vary but also for how the rules that affect daily life in various parts of the world change.
Probably, only we Western men, conditioned by the rules of the bourgeois dress (the jacket-pants-shirt suit with or without a vest) are linked to a criterion that confuses style with elegance, without considering that the two words express different concepts and that the former refers to the personality, the latter to the circumstance. Yet, the concept of style referring to the person was born in the West: "Le style est l'homme même", style is the man himself, said the enlightened naturalist scientist George-Louis Buffon in his inauguration speech at the Académie française in 1752, thus clearly separating it from elegance, understood as a characteristic of hairdressing and dressing, and assuming that style was independent of the dress, elegant or not, that is worn. From here it follows that in the West it is enough for a man to wear "the suit" to perform the duties of representation on more than one occasion when, on the other hand, in other cultures the male suit is only a sign of belonging, therefore one of the many possible styles, and not "the style" that determines elegance.
In 2004, Tom Ford, at the height of his success as a designer of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent with a fashion that was the result of an exercise that linked refinement and sensuality, declared that the most elegant man in the world was Hamid Karzai, just elected president of Afghanistan. The statement surprised many because the ethnic Pashtun politician did not at all meet the usual criteria for defining masculine elegance. With his collarless shirts, long jacket (a variation of Pakistani akkan) over embroidered-edged hooded trousers, and karakul pouch hat, Karzai's style was as far removed from both clothing as possible. drew Ford, both from Western habits. Yet, there was no doubt that the newly elected Afghan president had a style that distinguished him from anyone else for personality and elegant ways without relegating him to that category of "traditional clothing" with which, mistakenly, we are often used to defining men's clothing. of cultures and geographic places far from us.
The geopolitics of clothing, therefore, leads us to highlight how the definitions are relative and that the dress that we call "traditional" for other cultures has the same characteristics as the bourgeois suit for us, that is, a dress that others they might call it just as traditional. Especially since for Western men style and elegance are brought into play to fulfill certain tasks of social representation, the same is true for non-Western clothing.
For a man of Arab culture, being elegant means wearing the dishdasha (it is also called thawb, kandura and suriyah), the generally white tunic that reaches the ankle, overlaid by the djellaba (in Morocco, however, this is the name of the tunic). is a generally black cloak with edges embroidered in gold, and cover the head with the keffiyeh, a square scarf worked in pied-de-poule white and black or white and red or just white for the summer, stopped by the iqal ( or agal), a band that folds up like an eight. If this is elegance, it is up to the style of the Arab man to choose for the dishdasha the double wrist that closes with the cufflinks in gold and precious stones or the simple one or whether to leave the sleeves wide like those of the tunic. The choice of the color of the djellaba and the keffiyeh and the decision whether to wear the tunic under the dishdasha or not and whether under the keffiyeh to insert the taqiyah, a kind of pierced cotton cap, is always his sensitivity. The same differences between rules of elegance and personal style are found in Morocco, where the tunic is called djellaba, the fez (a cylindrical hat mostly red with a black pompom) is worn on the head and babouches of matching color are worn on the feet. to the tunic. Colors that cancel out on hyper-elegant occasions (the groom at the wedding, the king at the coronation or official celebrations), but also in situations of mourning (at the funeral and in the three months following the death of the father), when also the burnous ( the cloak with the hood) must be strictly white.
Here, then, the rules of dress correspond to social rites. In fact, just as in the Western world the jacket-pants-shirt suit expresses the social representation of male power, so in what for convenience we call the Arab world the unification between style and clothing levels the socio-economic classes to the reputation of " good Muslim ”, which in theory must be the same for the rich and the poor.
Flying a little further to the East, in Japan there is extreme proof of how much the style corresponds to the culture. Japanese men, in fact, have adopted the Western dress in all respects but have reserved the hakama for important occasions. In search of signs of belonging, there are many young people who wear the typical skirt-pants tied at the waist and long to the ankles, both in the version with divided legs (human, born to be able to ride) and in the skirt version (gyoto). Of course, worn with the tabi (the socks that separate the big toe) and the zori (the straw thong sandals). Exactly the same thing is happening in India, where the westernization of the English era is giving way to a rediscovery of the authentic style, the one that in our eyes transforms anyone who adopts it into a maharaja or a Bollywood actor. But we cannot but give up in front of the originality of a man wearing the sherwani, the classic straight-cut silk frock coat that covers the tunic, over the jodhpur pants. In fact, that's a style that just looking at it makes you say "chapeau!".