Lifestyle Fashion and Beauty 25 Sep 2016 History, they say, r ...

History, they say, rejuvenates it’s style

Published Sep 25, 2016, 12:55 am IST
Updated Sep 25, 2016, 7:27 am IST
When it comes to style, the trends taken from centuries long past take on experimentation and quirk in the modern era.
Armbands have traditionally connoted rank, status or group.
 Armbands have traditionally connoted rank, status or group.

Ever wonder where certain fashion elements and style statements originate from? Surprisingly many elements added on as a matter of style actually have their origins in culture, political references and some ethnic traditions as well.

The “armband” sported by the likes of Micheal Jackson, David Beckham, Hollywood celebs and fashion icons, this statement has its origins in political history, culture and medieval times. Armbands have traditionally connoted rank, status or group. A differentiator among crowds. Seen on football team captains, military uniforms and other factions of society. Armbands had various connotations.


• Functionality
So that the sleeves don’t drop.
• Distinction
To someone apart from the crowd. A leader, a group, a society, etc.
• Expression
Armbands have been sported to indicate political affiliations.
• Tradition
Mourning armbands are symbol of respect for the deceased.

It even found its way into our daily use of phrases. The phrase to wear your heart on your sleeve, meaning to show your feelings, to display an emotional affiliation or conviction, is supposedly related to armbands. In medieval jousts, ladies of the court were said to tie a piece of cloth — a scarf or kerchief — around the arm of their favourite knight, who thus displayed his affection for the lady. And here we thought, it was just a fashion accessory!


The beret
A fashion statement that transcends time, geography, language and affiliation. The beret represents the Parisian chic, the socialist ideal, the military camaraderie, the preppy schoolgirl, the Scots, the French and The Spanish Basque. Sported by the masses, and the masters, from Rembrandt to composer Richard Wagner to jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie and of course, who can forget the iconic image of Che Guevara.

Never has one piece of attire taken so many varied roles and shades. Divided by boundaries and eras but united by fashion- it seems! The “beret fever” doesn’t spare the couture and runways either. From Louis Vuitton, to Gucci to D&G; it appears the beret will continue to grace us with its presence on the fashion weeks across the globe.


Standing tall
Think “high heel confidential!” Women have always been associated with heeled footwear. It’s almost symbolic — from stilettos, to wedges to platform shoes and the various permutation combinations that years have brought out.
Here’s an interesting piece of information, in the ninth century, Persian horseback warriors wore an extended heel made for keeping feet from sliding out of stirrups.

This kept riders still when they needed to stand up and shoot arrows. How about that? Metrosexual has been around longer than we know!
The most famous predecessor of platform shoes are the Zoccoli in Venice of the 15th century. During the Qing dynasty, aristocratic Manchu women wore a form of platform shoes with a separate high heel, a style that was later adopted in Europe during the 1590s.


Women from upper class Italy were seen sporting these embellished babies in the 16th Century. Even the Manchu women were forbidden to have bound feet, and instead wore high platform shoes that stilted their gait and allowed them to emulate the desirable shuffling “lotus walk” of women with bound feet as shown above.

From armbands to berets to high heels, it never ceases to surprise me that fashion today, as flamboyant as it may seem, comes from a history that makes it possible for even more experimental than I could imagine.
Till next time keep it sharp!


A fashion aficionado, film maker, script writer, stylist and marketing junkie. The writer indulges in the latest fashion and currently drives marketing for youth fashion brands in Indus League — A division of FLF.