Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Sarong Tale

I don't know the history of the sarong but I have a feeling that it's not the most interesting one, as histories go.........

So, since typing that previous sentence I've googled "history of sarong" and learnt fuck all if I'm honest. It's a Malaysian word and it's a tube of material worn in a few countries including Sri Lanka according to Wikipedia.

There just isn't much history that's sarong related. I'm beginning to wish I'd decided to write a post about Henry VIII or Isaac Newton, who everyone knows invented divorce and gravity respectively, two things that coincidentally affect my life every day.

But, it was a sarong, not a dead King or a Physicist, that I chose to wear to breakfast in public the other day, and that's what I want to tell you about. Henry VIII with his wives, divorces, starting new branches of Christianity and Newton with his universal gravitation and calculus will have to wait.

Let me put my cards on the table; I'm a believer in the power of the sarong. To me they're the sartorial equivalent of a tri shaw, perfect attire for the warmer climate. I've worn one at night for as long as I can remember, not the same one of course, and I have a collection so big that it makes the rack of sarongs downstairs at Barefoot look like a small sample from the RD sarong drawer.

There's nothing that looks smarter on a man than a nice looking clean and ironed sarong, worn with a smart shirt, though footwear choice is a puzzler for me. I guess proper shoes are out and slippers of some kind are the correct things, I'm just never sure which type is best and, through my years of living here in the UK, I have a sort of ingrained feeling that slippers are casual. But it's best to go with the flow and not to dwell on these minor things.

Many years ago I was staying at the Triton with some good Sri Lankan friends. After an afternoon of relaxing we met up for dinner. The Triton, or whatever it's called these days, remains one of the best Lankan hotels for a decent buffet dinner. We had all "dressed" for dinner, not in a Bertie Wooster at the Glossops' way, but in a Sri Lankan we aren't tourists who have spent all day lying in the sun and want to look better than the trash way.

My good friend L sauntered down for the evening's troughing session and looked like a Sri Lankan James Bond. He wore a lovely Barefoot sarong, clean and ironed and positively glimmering with its lovely colours, smart slippers and a crisply ironed shirt. It should be noted that shirt selection is of vital importance in a situation like this, too much in the way of colour or pattern, as seen so often, just make the shirt and sarong clash, fight and vie for the attention of the casual observer.

God is in the details and God is a subtle chap, except when he causes disasters and ice ages.

He had worn a belt as well, L that is, not God, something I made a mental note of for future reference. It would be ironic if God wore a belt wouldn't it? You'd think he'd have made sure all his clothes fitted him perfectly. Unless he wore one of those combat type belts that are all the rage at the moment, to be trendy and cool.

I mentally noted the belt as it answered a question I have often pondered and I knew that one day I'd need the information for my own use.

Frankly, if I can be frank with you, L looked the business. Or, as we say in London, he looked the dog's bollocks. It must have been about fifteen years' ago but I can picture it today as if it was fourteen and a half years' ago. Ever since that night I've wanted to wear a sarong in a smart dress situation.

But living in England, though it has advantages like opportunity, the availability of Superdry clothes, decent roads and jeans in short leg lengths also has negatives, one of which is the fact that, should you choose to wear a sarong in public, people will stare at you, may beat you up and may laugh at you. On top of that you'll probably freeze your Sri Lankan bollocks off while it's all going on.

My battle has raged for all these years, the battle between wanting to wear a sarong and not wanting to cause Suddas to stare in amusement. All this time I've wanted to be able to wear a sarong somewhere other than in the comfort of my own house and yet have hurriedly changed from sarong into jeans whenever the doorbell has been rung by a postman or delivery of some kind early in the morning.

Some people, probably DD and other less cultured types, are probably happy in the knowledge that their postman has gone back to his depot and said to his colleagues

"here this bloke in Princes Road opened the door to me and he was wearing a skirt, all patterned and coloured."

Then the colleagues all mention that they've seen the guy too and that he must be some sort of poofter, David Beckham or one of these idiots. Look at them. My combat belt wearing God, they should be banned.

Well I prefer to avoid the attention. You know me, I like to keep myself to myself, I don't like people to know details about me.

So it came to be that, some years later, I found myself sitting at breakfast at the Fortress Hotel wearing a sarong, a T shirt and some early morning hair. I hadn't even moisturised my face.

I'll tell you about it in Part 2.

to be continued.......


Drifter in the cosmic wind said...

sarongs rule man...they're the most comfortable garment ever...they were made for chillin out...


boo said...

I totally know what you mean; you should see the shocked look on my roommate's face when im walking around the apartment wearing a green sarong.

Dhammika Dharmawardhane said...

smiles :)

Anonymous said...

Ha Any given time, you will find at least four to five people in sarongs in public in Berkeley. Specially in and around the campus. But I am surprised that you found Ari's page! I wear the sarong like the east Asians do, wear jeans and then the sarong. But we have made two nice lamp shades, yes we kept the size, with Barefoot Sarongs!
Enjoyed the post!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Drifter - totally agree with you.

Boo - it's good that we can educate them I suppose.

DD - ditto

KS - I just hope you're not one of the pictures on that, all my images of you would be shattered!