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Above: Hakam Singh.


Turbaned Sikh Men Take Their Fashion to the Streets





Growing up as a teenager in Essex, Pardeep Singh Bahra often found he attracted the wrong kind of attention on the streets.

"I found it quite difficult wearing the turban, especially in an area where there weren't many Sikhs," the 22-year-old explains. As Pardeep grew older, and developed a love of style, he noticed that it wasn't just on the streets of Essex that his turban was an anomaly.

"I quickly realised that none of the fashion sites I looked at ever featured a turbaned Sikh man," he says. "I wanted to give the turbaned Sikh man a fair representation within the fashion world, and also show the blend of British and Sikh identities together. I wanted to show that Sikh turbaned men can be just as fashionable as anyone else."

Three months ago, Pardeep launched Singh Street Style.

He started the blog by taking photos of people he happened to walk past in central London who stood out not just because their sense of personal style but also the way they wore their turban.

"I just stop and go up to them and tell them about my blog. I tell them I like their style, and ask if they wouldn't mind having their photo taken for the site," he explains. "Most people are up for it."

He also takes photos of his friends, and often blog followers email him suggesting people whose style they think will fit in with the site to photograph too. Pardeep has since photographed Jatinder Singh, a Sikh model who has done work for Topman and GQ wearing elaborate turbans; and Madhu Singh, from the dance duo Signature (known for their Michael Jackson bhangra dance routines for Britain's Got Talent).

Mostly, he relies on social media to reach out and keep finding stylish Sikh men to keep the blog going (he has more than 4,200 "likes" on his Facebook page and nearly 9,000 followers on Instagram).

Hakam Singh, a 20-year-old optometry student, was one of the first people Pardeep photographed – he wears ankle-skimming, skinny black jeans with lime green socks, brown brogues and a purple parka with a white turban. Elsewhere, Gurj Singh, a 25-year-old accountant, wears a fitted grey blazer and white shirt with prayer beads around his neck.

When Jean Paul Gaultier revealed his spring-summer collection for 2013 in Paris last year, he sent models wearing bright and tightly wrapped Sikh turbans down the catwalk. While many loved the look, some Sikh bloggers questioned whether putting turbans on non-Sikh models was reducing a religious symbol to nothing more than a fashion statement.

An American blooger, Sonny Singh blogged: "I'm not saying that turbans cannot or should not be worn by non-Sikhs, but I am saying that it means something very different for a practising Sikh to be in the spotlight of the fashion world than for a bunch of (mostly) white guys to put on turbans to provide exotic flair to their outfits."

For Pardeep, wearing the turban brings his faith and sense of identity as a Sikh-Briton together. He says: "Sometimes, people are scared or threatened by us wearing the turban because they don't understand who we are. The turban is part of a spiritual uniform for us, and in our religion we are taught to stand out so that people can easily identify us."

But there are no religious discussions on Singh Street Style – it's purely about fashion. Pardeep says he grew up surrounded by a sense of style.

"I look at old photos of my father and grandfather and Sikh men of their generations, and they were all extremely well dressed. My grandfather is known for dressing up in white suits. He is the most stylish man I know."

While his family had hoped he might become a teacher after finishing his English literature degree, Pardeep is concentrating on becoming a fashion photographer and stylist, experimenting with putting looks together himself. In a series of self-portraits, he is photographed in what could be called Sikh geek chic, wearing a nerdy checked cardigan with a bow tie and brown brogues. He wears brown trousers rolled up to reveal bright yellow socks and pulls it all together with a burnt orange turban.

In another set of pictures, he wears a Topman hoodie over his turban with a bright, tight T-shirt. Pardeep says one of the messages he wants to convey through his photographs is that wearing a turban doesn't stop you from being creative, playful or individual with your fashion sense.

"I don't think the turban is a constraint in any way," he says. "It's just that we're not really represented the way I feel we should be."

For now, Pardeep is concentrating on Sikh men's fashion (he doesn't know yet if he will expand the blog to include Sikh women's style, even though some Sikh women choose to wear turbans too). Many of the men photographed either match or deliberately mismatch their turbans with the rest of their outfits. There are plenty of black turbans, but also colourful blue, orange, red and gingham ones too, which don't always get seen as much in the UK as they do in Punjab, where there has always been a tradition of wearing turbans in bright, standout colours.

"The turban can complement an outfit and give you more character," Pardeep Singh Bahra says. "I've noticed more people are taking pride in their turban, and I really hope to inspire younger Sikh guys to be proud of their turbans too."


[Courtesy: The Guardian. Edited for]

July 14, 2013




Conversation about this article

1: Harminder Singh (Jalandhar, Punjab), July 14, 2013, 11:23 AM.

Pardeep, it is good that you have chosen to take the Sikh turban to Fashion Street. It will create awareness among people and they will come to know about Sikhi and the importance and significance of the turban. I live in Punjab and observe that young Sikh Boys these days are tying turbans in great style and they look attractive. When we were young very few people could tie a good turban.

2: Sangat Singh  (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 14, 2013, 5:10 PM.

Is there any area where Sikhs won't excel?

3: Ajitpal Singh (Virginia, USA), July 14, 2013, 5:24 PM.

An interesting concept. Maybe I am going to work on a "turban + beard" kind of blog myself :)

4: Ruchika Sharma (Delhi, India), November 08, 2013, 3:51 AM.

I loved the way you guys have played with the colors.

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