Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Mon Aug 21




Neh-ruing the Day: No to Nehru

Is the Nehru ever "in"?

As Lisa Simpson might say, "Neh."

The Nehru is never acceptable. Not if you're a Mumbaikar barister with a penchant for exploiting slum dogs; not if you're a Western male, aged 59, vacationing in Bali spending your plummeting-value dollars on Thai import hookers and knockoff Aussie brews; not even if you're one or more of the Beatles (dead or alive).

Quite simply, the Nehru shirt is to acceptable as Dr. Evil is to reasonably achievable nefarious plots. It's the reason India was so backward before the Brits brought their unique imperialism to rule the subcontinent. It's the Greyhound buslines of suit apparel, the DSL of broadband, the weak vegan cousin of the chocolate mousse.

It's the jacket the Antichrist will wear.

Nehru shirts, jackets, or any variation thereof, are the lazy man's entrance ticket into a barely palatable textile shirtgatory, a visible statement of fashion agnosticism--not brave enough to go full-tee, not devout enough for a collar. You're lukewarm, baby, and not worthy of being kept in God's sweatshop, much less His mouth.

Wearing the Nehru implies a faux-pop-mod-minimalist aesthetic, but where's the proof? After all, you've only donned this foreign-ish item in the hope of besting your slack-jawed yokel competitors, out-mint juliping William Faulkner, or challenging Bobby Jindal (the American/Republican/Southern Jawaharlal Nehru) to a fisticuffs duel, and impressing your late 1960's music/entertainment devotees, but you have no prior claim on the sensibilities that defined our cultural forbears and contemporary heroes. You're saying you abhor the blight of pin-striped formalism and appreciate the exotic splendor of subcontinental parliamentary politik. And with the right shade of skin, or if you're Sammy Davis Jr., you may have a chance at pulling it off.

But you're not, and you don't, so you can't.

What you're really saying is that you're rather good at wiping out old ladies' savings account with a glitzy Telethon of Love, Benny Hinn style. Think about the modern connotations. When you think Nehru, the image that comes to mind is not a Monkee or Johnny Carson nyucking it up on late night, but the Tim Robbins' "Ian" character in High Fidelity, all greasy, graying ponytail, patchouli stench, and world-pop jungle music on the stereo. And do you really want to stroll down the Steven Seagal backalley, with all its weight gain and weird sexual deviancy baggage? That's not a light burden, my fashion forward friend.

If we have to appeal to your base instinct for categorizing everything along a moral plank, then consider this: pop fiction evildoers are often the leaders in Nehru torso-wear; Dr. Evil, Bond villain Ernst Blofeld, and Dr. Who arch-nemesis The Master all secreted Nehru-ism, as if it was a glandular outgrowth of their own demented desires. Villains have their charm, but for all their bluster and schemes, in the end their only real talent is in pairing with a midget to perform Will Smith parenting parody raps. And that's what we call "dated," the hipness equivalent of pretty much any S&L skit from the late nineties.

Like overwrought TV villains might say, you'll Neh-rue the day if you pick this emasculated buttondown over a solid two-piece. Leave it on the Goodwill rack, or better yet, fiddle while Nehru burns; you're better off saying no.

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