India’s right-wing Hindu national group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is discarding its trademark uniform of flared khaki shorts for brown trousers in the name of comfort.
The sartorial shift comes nearly after nearly 90 years, during which the shorts have been an indispensable part of the RSS identity. Other parts of the uniform, such as the white shirt, black cap, brown socks and bamboo sticks will remain the same. The decision was described an attempt to “move with the times”, with the colour brown being chosen because it “looks good” and was “commonly available.”
“Pants are a regular feature in today’s social life, so we took our decision accordingly,” RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi said during an annual meeting. “We are not orthodox.” However, it will take around six months to implement the changes across its 51,000 shakhas or units spread across the country.
The pants will be designed to ensure comfort during exercise. RSS members undergo a combination of religious education and military-style drills and self-defense exercises.
The RSS was founded in 1925, when India was still under British colonial rule. Only ‘Hindu males’ are allowed to be members of the organisation. It has been banned thrice since Independence, including after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by former member Nathuram Godse. It is considered to be closely affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This isn’t the first time that the RSS has changed its uniform. Its original uniform comprised of khaki shirt and shorts, which were replaced with white shirts. In 1973, leather shoes were substituted for long boots, with rexine shoes being allowed later.