Meet The Saree Man of India Who Wishes We’d Wear Them More Often

Meet The Saree Man of India Who Wishes We’d Wear Them More Often

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Many have succumbed to the seductions of the saree – its gentle drape has bound many a tender waist. But why must the saree be a woman’s prerogative, asks Himanshu Verma.

Can you really answer that question, except to glibly say that that’s how its always been?

It is here that Himanshu begs to differ.

Himanshu Verma, in one of his gorgeous drapes. (Photo Courtesy: Saree Man)
Himanshu Verma, in one of his gorgeous drapes. (Photo Courtesy: Saree Man)
I started wearing sarees as a gesture of re-appropriating the saree as a male garment and highlighting the historical traditions where it was all about the fluidity of the drape and not about the structure that was gender specific.
Saree Man

Himanshu Verma has been wearing sarees for the last 12 years – his fascination grew in part because of the curatory work he was doing on the subject. He puts together The Saree Festival every year, a celebration of the garment that pays equal attention to both the contemporary and traditional versions of the garment.

(Photo Courtesy: Saree Man)
(Photo Courtesy: Saree Man)

Even though the festival stocks all sorts of sarees, from the subtle ones to the ones high on bling, an older Himanshu seems to prefer the simpler, handloom ones.

When I started wearing sarees I used to wear what I call the chamiya sarees... the blingy ones, the slinky ones... but as I am growing older with more grey hair, I am wearing the softer ones, handloom ones. 
Saree Man

Like other boys who sometimes play with their mothers’ sarees, Himanshu also played with them as a child.

Everyone has their saree fantasy you know... Lots of young boys sometimes play with their mother’s sarees but I didn’t know it would take this form.
Saree Man

When I ask him why he thinks sarees are gender-fluid and not necessarily feminine, he says:

The saree as we know today is actually just 150 years old, and it is what is called the Thakurbari drape or the drape pioneered by the Tagore ladies. It is also associated with the Parsi Bombay ladies. Before that, the saree was worn in so many ways and the men would also wear dhotis and sarees, and in many parts of India the two terms are interchangeable. So I think saree is a generic term and it is not a garment for women specifically.
Saree Man

On The Name ‘Saree Man’

The Saree Man was actually a self-proclaimed title that caught currency and now everyone calls me saree man, but it was a megalomaniacal gesture on my part to do that.
Himanshu Verma

On India’s Relationship with Sarees


(Photo Courtesy: Saree Man)
(Photo Courtesy: Saree Man)
I think it is a sort of love-hate relationship. It’s true that only a small percentage is wearing the saree but if you look at saree-wearing among the cognoscenti and the urban elite then you see a lot of women wearing it. So it is not in a sorry state. It’s just that the handloom saris are no longer a part of the common man’s dictionary or vocabulary or even within his reach anymore.
Saree Man
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