If talking about Sikh males walking the ramp sounds a little too anachronistic to you, think again. Apart from Waris Ahluwalia – who broke on the international fashion scene a few years ago and remains ever so popular for his bling jewellery, bespoke suits, black turban, and, of course, his acting career in Hollywood – there aren’t many Sikh models that you’ll see around.
However, attitudes are definitely beginning to change – if one were to look at a new breed of men, all of whom have defied the odds and carved a niche for themselves only because of their “differentness”.
Leading the squad is one particular fashion and cricketing icon who carries his turban with inimitable style and swag: Navjot Singh Sidhu.
The Turban Makes an Ordinary Man Look Extraordinary: Sidhu
“My turban completes me,” Sidhu tells me. “It is my pride. You take that pride away and what remains is a man who is like an umbrella without the ribs.”
Such sentiment! Perhaps it explains why the man loves to flaunt his turbans, choosing them in myriad shades and coordinating them with his business suits?
Has he ever been slighted because of his turban, though, or been asked not to wear it by the fashion police? He replies emphatically:
Never. I’ve only ever been praised for wearing it. In fact, I’m constantly asked how I tie it. A good turban dazzles the mortal eye, you see! It makes an ordinary man look extraordinary.
To young men who might face censure from a stray industry-wallah, Sidhu has only one thing to say:
Your turban is a gift from your Sikh gurus. It is your identity. Wear it with attitude and a sense of pride.
On Not Listening to Naysayers
Sidhu’s sentiments seem to resonate with many young men. One of them is 24-year-old Aman Preet Singh Virk, who was the show stopper for fashion designer, J J Valaya, at the Amazon India Fashion Week. Virk, like many others, had to face strong opposition from his well-wishers who felt that a career in medical sciences, rather than modelling, would suit him better. Why? “Everybody felt that the fashion industry had little scope for turbaned Sikh men,” he says.
Despite that, this 6.4” model from Chandigarh continued to pursue his dreams – without removing his turban, of course – and found tremendous success on Instagram, where people complimented him for his look.
Soon enough, companies like Uber, Renault, Numero Uno and Mr Button signed him up for their ad campaigns.
Shehzad Deol, a 25-year-old Sikh model from Delhi too hated it when people commented on his turban. When he moved from Mumbai to Delhi, most people he met suggested that he opt for a clean-shaven look before he tried his luck in front of the camera. Deol is glad he didn’t listen to them.
“People love me for my turban, especially my female fans. They say it adds to my charm!” says the man who was only recently declared first runner-up on Top Model India, aired on Colors Infinity.
On Embracing One’s Identity
Sarab Ghumaan, a 28-year-old artist from the Punjabi industry had to learn his lessons the hard way, too –
Early in my career, I was made to believe that I won’t go far if I wore my turban. I was young and didn’t know any better, so I agreed to do whatever my seniors told me.
Ghuman tells me he believes he found success only after he embraced his identity,
...And it wasn’t just youngsters I connected with. The older audience liked me too; I think many of them respect you more if you just stick to your roots.
Concurs Amarjeet Singh, a popular producer of Punjabi movies, who feels that people have become more open to seeing men wearing turbans now – in films and on fashion runways – perhaps the reason why actors like Diljit Dosanjh, he feels, have found such success in Bollywood.
But he is also quick to credit the young brigade of turbaned Sikh men – models, actors, singers alike – many of whom have gone all out to prove naysayers wrong. It is because of them that the opinions of the industry pundits have changed, he asserts.
(Vani has worked as a business journalist and is the author of ‘The Recession Groom’. She can be reached @Vani_Author)