Men, from time immemorial, have tried to stand out in their outlandish quest to be outstanding.
In the 16-17 centuries possessing pineapples were a status symbol and those who had wouldn’t eat and were happy even exhibiting rotten pineapples. Renting out a pineapple for an evening to impress their guests wasn’t uncommon. If board games were gifted to show status at some period, wearing long pointed shoes was considered a rank in the 16th century. Tip of the boots often extended up to 2 feet. Edward III of England even restricted shoe length to six inches for commoners, fifteen inches for gentlemen, and more extended tips for the nobility.
Nobility in Europe picked up from Africa and the Middle East to display massive quantities of sugar to show their enormous power of wealth. Sugar assets were considered a luxury and befitting only the wealthy. Followed by sugar was teeth rotting, apparently from over-consumption of sugar, and such rotten teeth became a symbol of status. If the Japanese women blackened their teeth to show their maturity, the Mayans sharpened their teeth like fangs to show their fierceness.
Wealthy Victorians would buy up mummies to unwrap before their dinner guests, and Chinese women would cripple their feet to small and pointed forms as a symbol of high status. Early twentieth century men flaunted their wealth by being obese, a few tribes across Africa and Latin America deforming their skull into long and flat to show their upper-crest.
Collars and cuffs became a symbol of the rich, to prove that they need not work for a living. With the invention of radium, people queued up in front of the x-ray machines to have a ‘photo’ of their bones or skeletons. Only the very rich could afford one, and it was a status symbol to display it prominently at their homes.
Silk, Headgears, moustaches have all found a place to flaunt their exalted positions in the society as did inhaling a pinch of snuff for women in England. India too had its share, Namboodris of Kerala flaunting their tress on the right top of the head, vocal heraldry preceded higher caste Brahmins to ensure the shadow of the lower caste people does not fall on their masters.
Today, however, black-cat commandoes are a specific status symbol, politicians demanding at least one. Income raids elevated one’s social standing as selfies with leaders are (this around the world). Managing an invitation and be seen in conspicuous seats are cravings for many, as frequent appearances in media by greasing the palm of the presspersons. Wearing white starched ‘veshti,’ stiff over-sized shirts and adorning long ‘angavasthrams’ of appropriate lengths and party colours propel one as unique in the south of India. In North India, it is Modi coat, even if it is sweltering heat!
In West Bengal however, display of party badges of events on the dashboards keeps police away and gives the owner free parking. For commoners, it is wearing a Pyjama and half-sleeved Kurta invariably with a shining new sports shoes symbolises that one is in the ‘league.’
In the pic is a car, belonging to a contractor, parked in my locality! Jai Hind!