Friday, April 30, 2010
Ubud fashion (1): the Thai fishermen pants
As a woman of healthy proportions, just turned forty, with a plodding gait, I should maybe not be considering the Thai fishermen’s pants, that can be bought in every second store on Jalan Hanoman in Ubud. You will know the ones if you have ever set foot in town. They are hard to miss; square and wide with a baggy crotch, fold-over pants with ties at the back, which somehow have to be brought forward and fastened at the front. One size fits all.
The pants come in many colors and lengths and usually have a contrasting striped lining on the inside, which shows when folded over. Some are bright pink, green, turquoise or white, but the preferred colors are terra cotta, blacks, greys and browns; backpackers’ colors, which do not show the dirt. For enthusiasts there are various batik motifs. They are cheap and cheerful and many people succumb to buying them, as witnessed on the streets of Ubud.
I have been able to differentiate roughly five different dressing groups on the streets(not counting the local Balinese):
a) The old fashioned tourist; with money-belt, cargo shorts, t-shirts with tight, round collars, the sun-shocked flesh underneath, pushing against the fabric, which is just a little too transparent. On the women; new cheap sundresses that only look good on the young and nonchalant, hanging awkwardly on most others. You can see their sandals were bought just for the trip and still need to soften to the feet.
b) The backpackers in grey/khaki tones, hiking boots, walking with the backpacks on the front of the body, arms wrapped around for extra protection. Their faces are a little red and transpiring from the effort (“yes, we had a great time, really...”), making their way to their homestay on the uneven road. They smile politely and shake their head, saying: “no thanks” to the shouts for ‘transport’ or ‘taxi’, coming from the midst of men chatting on the street, hardly making an effort to win a client.
C) The yogis and yoginis – with their 'om' shirts, flip flops (black havianas)and a collection of leather bracelets around the wrists, sipping their spirulina drinks at Kafe and Bali Buddah. The men may wear their beaded necklaces with tassles. The ladies brought their Lululemons with them, or got new pants just down the road at the Yoga shop.
d) The expats, meeting together in Bar Luna with their laptops, drinking excellent Italian coffee, looking busy and earnest, discussing the latest visa problems.
e) The spiritualists, with their singlets and sarongs, the men that is. The ladies wear tattoos and silver anklets with bells and wrap long scarfs around their head.
The above groups are not mutually exclusive and cross pollination regularly occurs. Most have incorporated the fishermen pants into their style of dressing, to a varying degree of success. It is only a question of time, it seems, before you do.
We joked when we arrived that we would know when we were starting to lose our grip on reality, the moment we would start to dress like this.
But you know, acceptance slowly seeps in, the steps are gradual. Not noticeable if you are close by, like a child growing. So it may yet happen.
I wasn’t intending on buying a pair of fishermen pants, convinced I did not need this item in my life. But the other day I found myself bargaining, as I was waiting for my ride. Ten minutes and the equivalent of ten dollars later, and voila!: a pair of medium length grey Thai fishermen pants with a contrasting grey striped lining were mine. Allard has a few too. They are really handy for yoga, you know.
Once I got home I tried them on, but found there is a skill to the wearing. All I achieved was something resembling a garbage sack pulled in at the top, and I know what you’re saying: it isn’t far off.
But then Allard explained to me you have to fold the top on either side before you tie and fold, like so.
I have practiced and although still a little wary, I dare wear them out. It is like they say on the internet, when you google 'Thai fishermen pants';
“Thai Fisherman pants are perfect for those Practitioners that want an authentic look and feel. Do you seek that comfortable loose fitting clothes? They can be worn anytime day or night. Wear them for your Thai massage sessions, yoga, or whenever you are looking for that comfortable feeling. They make perfect pajamas. Also good to provide for clients that are receiving a Thai massage.”
Although undoubtedly they look best on people who would look good in a garbage sack too, and those people most probably would be male and muscled, I will admit they provide me with a certain pleasant breeziness in the heat. I might just buy one more.
Next up in the series on Ubud fashion: the shapeless Batik bag dress.