Shirting Along

For reasons beyond my capacity to understand, my thoughts of late drift toward shirts I want but do not own—have never owned—and, to my recollection, have never even seen for sale. I’ve seen these clothes, but only rarely being worn. I recall seeing men on television wearing them and, on occasion, I remember photos. The recollection of the photos prompted me, last night, to go exploring, using Father Google as my guide.

I did not know what to call these shirts—still don’t—but I decided after long guided explorations of Father Google’s shadowy netherworld to call them either dashiki shirts or tunic-style shirts (perhaps both). The term “dashiki shirts,” though, seems always to correspond to images of brilliant-colored geometric patterns scooping from the neckline to the lower waist, in a “vee” pattern. Tunic-style shirts tend to refer to a broader range of design, but often without the requisite colors and geometric displays. Perhaps I’m after a hybrid; yes, that’s my objective, a hybrid piece of attire suited to my body, my taste, and tailored to my comfort.

The provenance of these shirts is cloudy, but for a variety of reasons I believe they are of African origin. Most of the images I’ve found in Father Google’s private collection sport elaborate batik designs and most of the models wearing them are Black. Both male and female models wear them; the few white models I’ve come across tend to wear more muted designs. I gather, too, the shirts were high fashion in hippiedom before I became conscious of hippiedom; several of the older images I’ve found are from Simplicity Patterns. Once such pattern I came across was labeled “Vintage 70s MENS Hippie Tunic Top Pattern / Mens Dashiki Pullover Shirt Pattern/Simplicity 7441.” That one, though, is a long-sleeved version; nothing wrong with that, but I began my quest with spring and summer attire in mind.

All of this fashionista-thinking takes me back to thoughts I’ve had in the not-too-distant past when I was (and, in all honesty, I remain) intrigued by clothing popular in other cultures. For example, a couple of years ago I explored churidar pyjamas and lungi (both pants) and kurta (shirts) of the Indian subcontinent, more than half-hoping I could either find those articles of clothing to buy or patterns I could use to make them (which would require the acquisition of a sewing machine and the skills to use it, not to mention the missing knowledge of the behaviors of specific types of cloth when sewn). As it happens, kurta appear to me to be quite similar to dashiki/tunic shirts, though the former tend to be much longer, their bottom hems falling below the knees. Dashiki/tunic shirts look to me to be equally as comfortable and probably would prompt fewer stares from dim-witted bumpkins (I really did not need to sully this post with my prejudicial bias, did I?).

And, so that marks the beginning of another Saturday, an early-February morning on which yet another weight record has fallen; down 18.8 pounds. At the current rate of shrinkage, I might actually look presentable in a dashiki/tunic shirt by the time I acquire a sewing machine and learn to use it.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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