Personally, I think wearing shoes in Sri Lanka is madness. It’s just way too hot. If the President wears sandals it’s good enough for me.
West Is Best?
Years ago there was this idea that Western fashion was fashion, even though it’s oriented around seasons we don’t have. I mean, try to wear a woolen suit here. Thankfully, people like the designers at Colombo Fashion Week (see interview) have been pushing a new season/style called Resort Wear. This is an international style marketed for upscale Westerners who traveled to destinations like St. Barts, because they liked to dress comfortably and well.
This is the paradox of the colonial hangover. We retain Western foolishness long after those countries have moved on.
Not Looking Like A Hobo
That said, there’s something for places wanting to maintain a certain look. They are, after all, private establishments. However, is the look we want to preserve really pleather shoes and tucked in shirts over bundis? Is that smart casual? In this weather it’s just foolish and colonial.
Instead of bouncers that curate a crowd, what we get are dudes that just stare at your feet. They’re toe nazis. If they see some toe, you’re out. You can be wearing Gucci shorts and slippers, but if they see toe and, God forbid, ankle, you’re out. We recently went to Flag & Whistle (in Kotahena) to try and review it and they wouldn’t let us in because Shru was wearing slippers. As a man I’m used to being kicked out for foot violations, but this is the first time I’ve seen them boot a girl. And the place was (as usual) empty.
Nightclubs especially are like this, and quite rude about it as well. No one’s taken the leap of having a dress code where people can look comfortable and good, it’s like uncomfortable is good, because that’s how we see Westerners dress on TV, even though that’s not how they actually dress when they’re here. Banning rubber slippers, well, OK, even though Arugam Bay and the late Urban Thongs have made them fashionable. But banning chappals or ministerial footwear? For shame. Banning sarongs is even more backwards, and I’d venture that shorts should also be allowed.
But what to do. The culture is changing but slowly. Till then we’ve started adding whether you need to wear shoes at certain establishments or not. We actually end up avoiding these places most of the time cause they’re generally not awesome enough to justify the lifestyle change. But just so you know. Look out for the toe tag.
Photos here by Smriti Daniel