by Towheed Feroze
1986: the height of the pop punk rage. Everyone is wearing trainers, or in our local lingo ‘Keds’. From the early 70’s, all forms of sports shoes were, for some odd reason, known as Keds. We wore Bata/Khadim Keds to school and by the 80’s, style meant Nike, Reebok, Roadster or Pan.
This was the time when baggy trousers ruled supreme. Mr Ganju, our local fashion aficionado, loved to come out on the road, wearing a red T-shirt, sleeves rolled to expose the muscles, baggy trousers and Nike ankle trainers.
Can anyone today imagine wearing basketball court shoes outside for regular use? Don’t think so, but back then if a young fellow didn’t wear trainers, he was outdated. Leather shoes were for grizzled people. So, even at formal occasions, people matched dark coloured trainers with their clothes.
However, buying a branded pair was no joke; at least, in a time when every Taka mattered, paying 1,000 for a pair of shoes was inconceivable. One pair came after several conditions were fulfilled by a youngster and, the first in the list almost inevitably was: get top grades at school and you will have your wish fulfilled.
That coveted branded trainers were given the best care, even a speck of dust on them was promptly removed with concern. It was Tk 1,000 in a time when rickshaw fare from Elephant Road to Mohammadpur was Tk 7, a cup of tea was Paisa .50, a large singara was Tk 1 and a guy could have a sense of exhilaration with Tk 20 in his pocket.
The term shopping mall didn’t exist in our lingo. Since I grew up in Elephant Road, the main shopping district, others looked at me with awe. The shops on both sides of the road from Science Lab to Shahhbagh were the ones for clothes, shoes and perfumes.
During Eid, possibly, 1984, one special pair of Hara jeans came to one shop with a price tag of Tk 600. The news got around. In small groups we went to see the trousers with a funky yellow plastic rivet on the pockets. We marvelled at its cut, touched the smooth denim, looked at it wistfully and, came back.
In dreams that night, several of us wore that jeans and, of course, Reebok trainers. Such was the rage of sports shoes that many other brands quickly emerged in the shops: Roadstar, Pan, Nitaku, Puma and Adidas.
Some local entrepreneur had a bright idea: he took a pair of Nike Air basketball shoes and then made local copies using top class leather.
This was sold at Tk 400 lower than the usual Tk 1,000 rate. Once again, in a time of economic stringency, one could either buy a jeans or a pair of trainers.
For perfumes (only the adults could afford to buy them), the top names were BRUT or Old Spice. To be honest, most people never used a perfume, but strangely, they didn’t have body odour either.
Maybe, in a cleaner city, the people didn’t have to hide bad smell – you are at liberty to take that line for as many interpretations as you want.
When in 1984, Jovan Sex Appeal, a dodgy cologne came to the market, only the most daring managed to muster the courage to ask for it at the shops. We were still in a Puritan society where the word ‘sex’ was hardly uttered in the open.
Perhaps many will find it hard to believe, two to three days before Eid, the lanes of Elephant Road became jam-packed, resulting in a tailback – something everyone savoured because at that time one could travel from any spot of the city to another in thirty minutes flat.
Very few ventured beyond Mohakhali because Gulshan was only the area for the super affluent and the foreigners. And why go to an area which had a rural setting with individual homes and very few shops?
The Eid shopping for most of us was a significant event since we got new clothes twice a year and this was one of the two. In 2016, we never feel that feverish anticipation because shopping for clothes and accessories is done throughout the year.
Eid shopping is often dismissed by a lot as an infantile activity!
I see that the fashion now among many is to treat this with marked nonchalance.
Back then, we brought out the new clothes every other day to look at them, smell them and make plans for the Eid day, wearing the new attire.
For many reading this piece, we may seem totally outmoded, but honestly speaking, I would not mind going back to simplicity.
Going back in time is impossible though no one is preventing us from holding on to those habits of the bygone days.
Window shopping, going around late at night making plans about what to buy, sharing excitedly the details of a new fashion item and, then, on Eid day, targeting the adults for the special Eid salaami – no use celebrating without these essentials.
And then, there was the Eid afternoon hangout in front of the famous ice cream shop, ‘Snow White’ in Dhanmondi and Moghbazar – for us, the icing on the cake.
That ungarnished vanilla on a cone, priced Tk 7, was ambrosia. The culture was to sit outside on someone’s car, furtively look at the girls chaperoned by their guardians and play on the car stereo: Wild Boys, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Self-Control and, my favourite, Abracadabra…….
So, if you are interested to experience the pre-Eid thrill the old fashioned way, talk about Billy Ocean and show me what a great shirt you bought, then I and my kachchi biriyani addicted acolytes are all yours….
by Towheed Feroze