The evolution of sweater vests in Indian cinema

How a humble home-kint became a Bollywood staple

Adete Dahiya

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The importance of certain costumes cannot be ignored in the Hindi film universe. The home-knit sweater vest is one of them. No one knows when the quintessential jersey, most often worn by sportsmen, with its v-neck, sleeveless style, and chunky knit, became a Bollywood staple — the uniform for the archetypal good boy. It now seems to be ruling Indian cinema with one hero after another donning it to portray a very specific image.

The latest on this radar of films is Tubelight, which since the release of its very first poster is creating a certain perception about the lead character. In the promos and in the songs as well, Salman Khan was seen wearing a button-up collared shirt with cross-pocket pants (something that modern-day male protagonists seldom wear) and a sleeveless, home-knit sweater vest. The touch of boots hanging from the neck added to the character and also strengthened our ideas about what the film might be dealing with.

What’s the big deal about a sweater vest, you might ask. In recent times, almost every actor worth his salt has worn it in a film at least once. Ranbir Kapoor wore it in Rockstar, Shah Rukh Khan wore it in Main Hoon Na, and even Vikrant Massey wore it in A Death in the Gunj.

As Salman Khan plays the role of a man child in Tubelight (and in real life), he has been given a home-knit sweater vest, to pull off the look — in this case, that of an innocent, pure-hearted soul who wants to keep everyone happy. Indian films have a sort of stereotypical approach to this garment; only developmentally disabled simpletons or the good-natured souls from economically weaker sections wear this kind of attire in movie lore and Kabir Khan has just strengthened this label.

In Main Hoon Na, Shah Rukh comes to a Darjeeling school wearing a similar outfit and then goes from being the college nerd to the poster boy in no time while his brattish brother with long hair, leather jackets, and distressed denim — the very definition of a cool dude — loses his ground. The moral of the story is…

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Adete Dahiya

Sharing ideas on how to live & work better | Writer & artist pursuing MA in Psychology I Subscribe to read more: www.adete.co/newsletter