In 2 weeks time I’ll be back in Delhi for another 9 days visit. Sadly, most of my time will be spent in a modern office building training Indian engineers, there will be some downtime at either end of the visit and evenings underway. So while the climate outside will be tropical, most of the time is spent in climate controlled offices, and offices are pretty much the boring same wherever you go. Well, in India they sit closer and serve curry for lunch, so a bit different, but travelling 22 hours halfway around the world, you kind of expect a whole other level of different, right?
Venturing out into the actual Delhi climate though, that is a lot more special. Last time I had only a vague idea of what to expect, i.e. this was going to be warmer than what is usual for me, and probably very sunny. I’m more of a cold weather person, preferring to add clothing when cold. Delhi turned out to be less hot than expected, no doubt due to the inland dry air, and less sun as well, as much of the day there was so much smog that the sun was effectively filtered out. The dust, the noise, the people, the rubbish, the new impressions though, that adds to the different, in good and bad ways. I’m curious as to how I’ll feel about it a second time around.
What really inspired me for this post though was khaki linen. I have had a pair of linen trousers in the archive for a while now, not really finding their purpose. I had initial plans of creating a sort of Summer suit, appropriate for lawn games and Pimm’s on an utterly British Sunday, though the sizing was all wrong and the waistcoat and jacket have found new homes. I did find a nice linen shirt last week though, in a matching shade of khaki, and a new idea was formed. Rather than the cricket and Pimm’s look, could I go for more of a style more along the lines of gin & tonic and adventures in tropical climates?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unaware that turning up for work in Delhi in the style of a vintage representative of the British Empire may find me drawn into a hasty meeting with the local Director of Cultural Sensitivity. And I’ve not seen a pith helmet in any of my local shops. The rifle could be substituted with one of those handy walking stick/seat combos, I suspect. Work with me for a second and consider the look. We’re talking linen, in light and khaki colours, possibly a borderline military style and lose cut. It should be quite dashing, right?
Khaki linen. Looks pretty nice, right? Those are the trousers, in Irish linen, unless I’m much mistaken. The shirt is no doubt of a lesser variety, but still quite splendid. Just look here:
I would like to mention that the usual office attire for an engineer in India appears to be jeans and shirt, as in very Western casual look. That’s just the guys though, the female engineers wear their traditional costume, apart from on Fridays when they do a more casual look as well. Shirts may also be t-shirts, and often in quite unsubtle colours and with plenty of branding. Management go for sober suits though.
Given that I already had the trousers and shirt though, the matter I was really pondering was what shoes would go with the look. A pair of brogues? A pair of sandals? Rugged work boots? Going by the vintage photos it looks like proper leather shoes are the way to go. I’m interested in your input though, let me hear your thoughts. Oh, and tips on where to find a pith helmet and a portable tonic water cooler.
One interesting aspect of how Westerners will dress in a hot climate versus how natives will dress is that Westerners will strip down to as little clothing as possible, where more experienced hands will dress in more flowing and lose garments to keep the sun out and some airflow around the body.
In the end though, it may be a moot point, as looking at the forecast it looks like I’m in for temperatures around 30+ and constant rain. The climate controlled office may actually be a blessing.
I may really be thinking more of the Long Range Dessert Group that were active in North Africa during WW2. A fantastic story and the novel “Killing Rommel” by Steven Pressfield is very highly recommended.