A pop of colour on eyelashes, sun-kissed shades on hair, multiple body piercings, it is no news that new-gen kids are on an experimenting frenzy to stand out from the monotonous Malayali crowd. Jaded with age-old set rules, they are flexing their sartorial muscles in an attempt to be whimsical and quirky. In style-statements that could chagrin their predecessors, these youngsters are fashioning their very own ramps. Seeking the one look that could kill, these youngsters ditch the must-haves and embrace the quirkiness. When girls try out men’s multi-colored lungis, body piercings and tattoos here and there, a few guys do not mind spotting with nose-rings and bangles. There’s no question of ‘what is en vogue’ with these youngsters as ‘they just don’t care’.
A permanent nose ring, multiple earrings, some bangles and bracelets, a few chunky chains, and a dash of eye make-up, Akhil is good to go. Being a theatre artist, this youngster yearned to stand out from the crowd and eventually stumbled upon this style. His eye-make up could bring any fashionista’s eyes to shame with the eye shadows smoothed in perfection. The long, coloured mane is either in a knot or flying with the wind. In his yen for uniqueness Akhil breaks all conventional codes and attempts a path much less traveled.
“I have started trying out these new styles a few years back. When I first started wearing make-up my friends encouraged me saying it suits me. Today I have an array of eye shadows with me and many of my friends who are girls come to me for make-overs and as far as I know there’s nobody who is quite like me,” says Akhil.
Today when the ‘ferosh’ (ferocious), ‘swag’ and ‘adorbs’ (cool in urban slang) adorn the haute couture glossary, the clichéd ‘chic’ and ‘in’ have become words of the past. Hence, the young do not hesitate to let their hair down while endorsing a daring yet unique countenance. The odd-one may rule the roost, if the world allows him to be.
For Arun Manohar, a known-name in the Mollywood costume designing circuit, this is not a new fashion fad. Arun, who likes to experiment with his own looks, recalls a classmate of his from his fashion school days, “I have had a friend who wore his hair in dreadlocks and had tattoos all over his body. He had a daunting look about him, but once the ice was broken, there’s no simpler and sweeter man than him. Though I have never gone thus far, there are times I have tried out many quirky styles I have come up with myself and in my home town it did make waves.” Arun, who had worked in around 25 Malayalam movies as a costume designer, today tests those fashion quirkies on his models.
“What is different about me?” asks Kani, a cine actor and theatre artist, who likes to wear lungis as her casuals. “I don’t purposely dress to look different. Comfort is my priority. I have been brought up by my grandparents mostly and it is the comfort element of cotton lungis that has attracted me to them. Earlier I used to stitch salwars with them; nowadays I wear them as it is. But it has nothing to do with standing out from the crowd. It is more of a preference. Sarees, lungis and skirts are my preferred attires in Kerala rather than jeans,” says Kani. “There are times I have shaved off my hair to escape from the heat. But these are my personal choices and has nothing to do with a judgmental onlooker,” says Kani
According to Kani, except the middle and high class in Kerala, the common crowd wears whatever it likes. “When I see the ladies who work on fields and roads, not worrying about their modesty even in their actions and gestures, I wish I had that kind of freedom,” says Kani.
For Aromal, a school teacher, who finds solace in his Jeans-T-shirt avatars, it is the occasional leaps to eccentric turnovers that make him different. Not following the preset rules meant for teachers this youngster often likes to experiment with his looks by trying out a unique hairstyle or a weird beard.
“I don’t want to look like every other Tom, Dick and Harry, and it is that instinct that makes me try new styles. But for clothing I stick to major brands. Today, being a teacher limits my options but earlier I used to try out different looks often. Every day my look changes and hence not many can identify one from another,” says Aromal
Sooraj, a tattoo parlour owner in the capital city says, more than college students it is professionals who come to get a permanent mark in their body. “It was surprising for me at first, as people flocking my parlour were mostly professionals than the so called ‘freaks’. Lawyers, doctors and IT professionals come to the parlour for rare and unique designs,” says Suraj.
Diya’s obsession with black is what took her to a new level, the gothic. A stickler for style, this seventeen year likes to indulge in black eye make-up to pitch black nail polish. Her long straightened hair is auburn-coloured in places. The monotony of the black shirt and black jeans combi is broken with a long silver neck piece having a large skull pendant. Chunky silver rings adorn those black-tipped fingers.
“I didn’t start wearing black to prove anything. It is something I liked. Then people started telling me that it is this or that. But I didn’t purposely choose gothic style,” says Diya.
Vinuju Nizar Yusuf is the quintessential cool dude, who does not believe in walking with the crowd, instead he likes to give unique signals that defines him. His multiple tattoos- (a smiley and yin yang, which he designed by himself) earrings-and-harem pants look is something he came up with himself. Being an IT professional, Vinuju has to wear formals during weekdays.
“I hate trousers and pants. My favourite day wear is harem pants or shorts. I don’t believe in set rules. People should have the freedom to wear whatever they like. It is not my parents but onlookers who have a problem with my dressing but I kind of enjoy it. They come and ask me what I am wearing and have a conversation with me. Being a people’s person it never bothers me,” says Vinuju, who says his mother likes to sneak out his earrings for herself so he prefers not to wear them at home.
He says two of his best buddies, who hail from the capital city shares the same thoughts. They make a sight for the capital’s crowd whenever they get together outside office.
“We want to break conventions in a state like Kerala. Everybody should have the freedom to wear whatever they like and I hope some day Kerala crowd will become more open and accepting, says Vinuju.
In short, these youngsters send out a message in clear-cut block letters, ‘what we do is none of your business’ and let’s just wait and see, the times will prove they are no wrong.