American xenophobia and ignorance about other cultures notwithstanding, there is a certain global cache attatched to the Sikh turban these days. What used to be seen as traditional or conventional is now something that spells sartorial style. The turban is smart, cool and now seen gracing a number of advertisement campaigns of global brands.
The Gap Campaign Featuring Waris Ahluwalia
Waris Ahluwalia is thought of as one of the best dressed men in the world and one of the most photographed men on the New York social scene. Last year he was a part of Gap’s “Make Love” ad campaign which made international headlines when a billboard of the ad was vandalised at a subway station. Vandals wrote “Make Bombs” crossing out the word “love” and added “Please stop driving taxis”.
Gap’s response was to put Ahluwalia’s photo as its cover images on their official Facebook and Twitter pages and to issue this statement; “Gap is a brand that celebrates inclusion and diversity. Our customers and employees are of many different ethnicities, faiths, and lifestyles and we support them all.” This may have been the politically correct response to a racial slur but the point is that Ahluwalia’s turban and bushy beard are seen to add to his style quotient, not detract from it.
Here is the dapper Waris in the first ever Sikh-American PSA (Public Service Announcement) which spreads the message of diversity and the importance of inclusiveness in society.
Pardeep Singh Bahra and the Samsung Ad
Recently, global electronics giant Samsung featured Sikh model Pradeep Singh Bahra in its UK ad campaign, the TV advert as well as billboards featuring the model with his turban and the tag line: “The new Galaxy Alpha sleek, lightweight and powerful”. It isn’t just that globally people have developed a wider, more inclusive acceptance of different cultures and faiths; the fact is that traditional clothing choices have made a huge comeback. People are owning and celebrating their ethnic roots and companies and media managers recognise this fact.
Vishvajit Singh’s Captain America Campaign
The turban’s recent fame and acceptance also owes itself to Sikh pride and attempts to clear some widely held misconceptions about the turban. A while back, American cartoonist Vishvajit Singh deicided to dispel some of the myths, ignorance and intolerance that surrounds the Sikh turban, which often gets mistaken for turbans worn by extremists. Singh became the first bearded, turbaned Captain America on a poster with the words “Just relax! It’s called a turban. Inside is my long unshorn waist length hair. Now let’s kick some intolerant ass.”
The Sikh Turban – Significance and Types
The turban on the ‘Dastar’ or ‘Dastaar’ is not just a matter of Sikh identity. It is a symbol of spirituality, honour and self respect, courage and moral values. It is an important part of Sikh identity and the tradition of not cutting the hair and tying the turban is a token of love and obedience to the wishes of the Sikh Gurus. The way of tying the turban is significant of several things too, such as the sect or area one belongs to. The shape of the turban and the number of times it is wound around the head also varies.
The Nok Dastaar or the Double Patti is among the most common types of turbans among Sikhs, most typically seen in Punjab and other areas of India. This is a large turban but has fewer wraps around the head. The General Sikh Dastaar goes 7 times around the head.
The Basic Dhamala is a smaller, simpler turban style worn by followers of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha and the Damdami Taksal. This is the turban that many of us think of at the NRI turban, frequently seen among expacts in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
The “Chand Tora” style of turban is worn by the warrior class of Sikh men or the Nihangs. Then of course there is the ‘patka’ or the Keski Dastaar which is a kind of casual pugree worn by children and by those who play sports (think Harbhajan Singh’s patka).
For people like me, who have always had very dear Sikh friends and who have the deepest respect and affection for the community as a whole, the Sikh turban is a sign of one of the most beloved communities of this country. Then there is the fact that the turban lends a few inches as well as dignity and a commanding presence to a man. International ad campaigns are only just taking stock of this fact, it would seem – the turban is certainly very cool now.
By – Reena Daruwalla