Chappals as formal wear

Written by Ravi Bajaj | Updated: Sep 29 2008, 04:17am hrs
In the mid nineties a very famous shoe company from Switzerland set up a joint venture in India to manufacture footwear for the domestic market as well as exports. While the exports were okay, the domestic sales target, which was about 10% of the production, was unable to sell in the Indian market. The company was disappointed as well as surprised that a product like theirs did not go down well with the Indian consumers and they could not push any significant numbers. They probably did not over estimate the market size but failed to study the behaviour of Indians when it comes to footwear.

Most of the country prefers to wear open shoes ie chappals or sandals to wearing closed shoes! Except for north, almost everywhere you go you find both men and of course women wearing open toe footwear. And I often wonder if there is any historical significance to this

The Indian male poshaak never really had scope of closed shoes. In the north they wore the peshawaris while the rest of the country wore different forms of chappals. The kolahpuri being the most famous. But why is it that whileIndian men have taken to the more western way of dressing, their choice of footwear still remains Indian Is it because ofclimatic compulsions, economics, or simply a matter of habit If it has to do with our tropical climate then why would we not wear the dhoti or kurta pyjama which are more comfortable to wear After all the Arabs wear the abayaseven to state dinners and board meetings and they wear sandals with them.So I guess it is not just climatic reasons. Are they preferred to closed toe shoes as they are more expensive In India yes, but internationally that may not be the case, in fact in Italy making a chappal/ssandal costs as much as making aproper shoe!

And if people prefer to wear open toe shoes, then could it become acceptable in the corporate world as well After all major designers abroad show models strutting down the ramps in tailored suits worn over chappals! So could it be that wearing chappals becomes an acceptable code with suits Well, I for one hope not! And the reasons for my reservations against this are many. To begin with, most men do not take care of their feet! A pedicure being a far cry, they dont even clip their toe nails often! In fact,except the metro sexual male the rest find it effeminate to get a pedicure.

Another reason for open toe shoes not working in the formal dressing is the lack of sense on how and when to wear them. So while wearing a linen suit over a T-shirt, you could wear a pair of sandals or even kolahpuris but to wear them with pin stripe suit Well that may be a bit too edgy for most men here and abroad!Another reason is the highly unhygienic conditions that are prevalent in India.

There is way too much grime on our roads and streets and this can make for serious hygiene issues. Can you imagine slugging it out in these conditions Of course the one time having open toe shoes on is when you are paddling through the floods in Bombay rains! So let us look at some occasions when you actually can wear open toe foot wear:

* At the beach or pool side.

* In summer with white linen pants

* With shorts while lounging

* With Indian clothes

* With a suit if you are Arjun Rampal

Besides these occasions, I would strongly recommend that you take good care of you feet, especially if you are going to make a public display of them and if not then just keep them under wraps of socks and shoes!

Ravi Bajaj is a fashion designer