A model sporting a tweed*
I think it is time for writers and professors of a certain generation to stop wearing tweeds for a while. There are other fabrics that capture the casual gravitas that they seem to be after.
For instance, how about the lightly silk-mixed khadi? It has the same requisite coarseness minus the dowdy heaviness of tweed. The weaving is also much tighter. What is more is that it also has a greater hip factor because it can crease up around the inner arm fold in a designer sort of way. I grant that it has the air of a middle-aged dilettante struggling to keep up with his progressively younger girlfriends. However, I think tweed has run its course as the fabric of choice for those professors specializing in Roman semiotics or writers dealing with African histories.
It is funny how certain garments and fabrics become sartorial preferences of certain professions. For instance, it is almost mandatory for Indian politicians of just about any ideology to insistently wear kurta-pajama or dhoti-kurta and bandhgala made of khadi, the fabric virtually created and sanguinely endorsed by Gandhi.
Khadi is a great fabric by any measure as long as it is starched and ironed. It has to be medium-starched. High-starched khadi can become stiff enough to stand on its own and act as a formidable wall for those inside it. I have seen politicians in extra high-starched khadi clothes who look as if they are rattling inside a vessel. Light starch leads to a quick collapse of the fabric as well as the confidence of the wearer.
I am not sure why I am writing about tweeds because my plan was to write about the visit to New Delhi by Iran’s parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who is being increasingly seen as his country’s likely next president. Something deflected my attention from Larijani to tweeds. There is, of course, a tangential connection between Iran and tweeds in the sense that you would easily find a scholar in a tweed jacket to analyze the importance of Larijani’s comments.
For instance, he has spoken about how Iran is keen to have a “strategic and long-term partnership with India.” He told India’s President Pranab Mukherjee that “India and Iran come from same roots and their destinies are the same. A large area of cooperation is possible between the two countries.” The idea of India’s strategic partnership with Iran at a time when the country has become a pariah for the West is precisely the kind of theme that the men in tweeds would concern themselves with.
One is never sure what it is that lends tweed that extra scholarly earnestness because its more popular reputation in England and Scotland has been one of leisurely Edwardian pursuits. Perhaps it is the broad weave and unrefined wool that give them that air of seriousness. In the Indian context, it is entirely the influence of the colonial English gent that tweeds still survive in a certain generation of men in their late 50s and older. Somewhere along the line tweeds became the fabric of choice among a certain class of men. One can be almost certain that a man wearing tweeds with the herringbone pattern will speak English in a distinctly identifiable rhythm and diction. It is very faintly British but valiantly fighting the hordes of vernaculars trying to crash their sheltered world.
*The model is me since I could not anyone else on a Saturday morning.