Generic full length clothing for a tall dude
June 3, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 6'4 dude, medium build, long arms. I wear 38/36 pants and a medium tall shirt. I am a non affiliated humanist. I would like ankle to knee length clothing, loose fitting and of plain style. Complication: cultural overloads.

My research on this type of typically Arab/African attire suggests there are many stylistic variants that have certain meanings and/or cultural overloads. While I live in Canada, my city may be the most culturally diverse with many visitors and residents from related backgrounds. I don't want to piss anyone off or give the wrong impression by wearing what are to me just comfortable clothes, but to someone else suggest a certain religion or nationality.

Note I don't care about generic assumptions ("maybe he's Muslim") by people who are basically clueless.

Think about kilts: tartans Mean Something to those who know. I want to avoid meaning anything, like one does by wearing a plain fabric kilt. So I kind of want the Utilikilt version of desert wear.

Or am I over thinking this?

Suggestions on specific online retailers who would have such garments in my size - especially with appropriately long sleeves - appreciated.
posted by seanmpuckett to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You describe the kurta pajama, variations of which are worn across Central and South Asia. As day wear, evening wear and as night wear. I don't think you'll have trouble with the basic kurta pajama sending any signals other than comfort. You are in Canada, are you near any Asian neighbourhood where you can either try them on for size or get it tailored to fit?
posted by infini at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2012

When purchasing a garment, you can maximize one of these three factors:
1) Quality (including preferred style, fit, appearance, comfort, durability, suitability, desirability)
2) Accessibility (how easy it is to find and how long it takes to get it)
3) Affordability (low price)

Your question suggests you are trying to maximize the quality (style you prefer, fit, comfort, suitability, etc.) Here's what I would do. Collect a few images of styles similar to what you want and find a shirtmaker who will have access to quality material and will know how to make the garment fit you. This person will need to be interested in creating a custom style for you, changing details of the images to better suit what you have in mind. It will take time and cost money but you could have what you want. Thereafter, you can reorder as needed, or you can learn to make it yourself.

Good luck. Finding out what kind of clothes you really want to wear is a very good thing. Moving ahead with that knowledge and actually getting them is sometimes not at all easy. I really think this is a worthwhile thing to do. I hope you can accomplish it.
posted by Anitanola at 1:35 PM on June 3, 2012

You're way overthinking this. Granted I'm female, and we get a lot more leeway in dress than men do, generally. But I brought back plenty of traditional clothes from my trip to India a few years ago, which I wore until they wore out or stopped fitting properly. I don't recall getting any stares on the street.

As long as you don't wear it like a costume, or put on some kind of affected "going native" personality, you probably won't offend anyone. Also, sidenote, the tartan thing is bullshit, and anyone who gets worked up about it is a chode.

Another question: what is this for? Are you just looking to experiment with your personal style? Are you looking for a non-bifurcated garment that would be socially acceptable for a man to wear in public? Are you looking for ways to beat the summer heat? Are you trying to affect a more "worldly" aesthetic? Are you looking for clothes to pack for Burning Man?
posted by Sara C. at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "Why?" is a good question. Comfort.

I'd like more freely/loosely fitting clothing that looks designed to fit freely/loosely, rather than just too big for my frame. Traditional male bifurcated leg garments are annoying; the usual kilt is too short for active photography. I have a Macabi skirt but it is awkward. Usually I wear good quality Ts and cargo work pants, which is basic, cheap, utilitarian and functional but not really comfortable. Heat and sun avoidance during the summer is a bonus.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:20 PM on June 3, 2012

If it's about comfort and practicality for photography, then sure, yeah, go get yourself a basic Kurta Pajama. Nothing too elaborate. I loved the stuff FabIndia carried in their shops when I was in India, but the men's section of their website looks a little more generic. Then again, generic is probably good in your case.
posted by Sara C. at 3:50 PM on June 3, 2012

Yeah, I definitely think generic and minimal is the key here. This is a place where new-age appropriation of all the world cultures could be used to your advantage, I would think.

Motionary pants seem pretty easy to come by; I googled "Mens hemp yoga pants" and came up with this. Hemp blends are usually concepted with a relaxed cut, and yoga would be the magic word for dudepants with a range of motion.

Shirts/tunics, I'm having a harder time sourcing. Some of the kurta tops in the FabIndia link look all right. Here's an etsy seller with alot of turkish kaftans. Indian shops/Asian shops/Museum shops/surfer shops sometimes have tunic-y pieces, with the advantage of being able to try them on. I occassionally spy fabulous goth/steampunk/postindustrial men-in-skirts, so I'm not unconvinced there wouldn't be help waiting for you at some avant-garde boutique somewhere in a gritty corner of town.

Once you find a shirt/tunic that works for you look into having it reproduced. All the better if the only garment you can find with the right shape comes in some glaring day-glo polyester satin. Remake that puppy in cotton/linen and happiness ensues. Or hit up a "Renaissance Faire" if that happens where you live. Tunic central.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 4:52 PM on June 3, 2012

These folks might have what you're looking for. (I would suggest that a knee-length kurta or tunic would be far less surprising in a western city on someone who didn't look ethnically North African than would an ankle-length dishdasha or djellaba.) These folks do offer the latter in neutral colors.

Something else to think about would be going to a tailor who works with traditional West African style clothing and asking them to make up a suit in perhaps this style in a less culturally significant fabric (a neutral hemp linen, maybe?) Another option if you live somewhere where there is a large Nigerian expatriate community is having a traditional Nigerian men's business suit made for you, though the tunic might be shorter than you are looking for.

Also take a look at Deva Lifewear for ideas, maybe?
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:35 PM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

And Peter Lappin made some zouave pants a while back that might appeal to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:47 PM on June 3, 2012

The mundu and its variations.
posted by infini at 10:46 PM on June 3, 2012

If you don't want "bifurcated leg garments" that means no pants? Then a kurta pajama might not work, as the "pajama" refers to pants. These pants can be very loose drawstring pants (or tight depending on style), but they are pants. I suppose you could just wear the kurta (and sew the sides down, or they may show too much skin).

In India, men often wear a lungi or a veshti/dhoti. Lungis are usually for wearing around the house or on walks down the street -- you wouldn't wear it to work or out shopping really. A veshti is a South Indian form of a dhoti -- it's a bit more formal, and men (especially older men and politicians) do wear these to work. Also, unlike a dhoti, they don't go between your legs (unbifurcated). They are usually worn with dress shirts.

The above are worn in India by Hindus, Muslims, and Christians (at least in the South Indian city where my family lives), and if your city is as culturally diverse as you say, you should be able to find an Indian clothing store selling them (any place selling traditional Indian men's clothing would be able to get them for you).
posted by bluefly at 7:41 AM on June 4, 2012

It looks like they sell dhotis on Amazon, though you would have to learn how to tie it (YouTube is lots of help!).
posted by bluefly at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2012

The pants on a Kurta Pajama are extremely loose compared even to American-style "pajama pants" or yoga pants or the like. The way the crotch is built is totally different because the long tunic hides all that -- you don't need a nice aesthetically pleasing flat front with a seam for a zip fly.

(actually I don't know if the trad Indian version has a fly...? Might be something to consider for ease of going to the bathroom in them)

But, no, it's not a skirt-like garment, no.

I would be wary of wearing a dhoti out and about. That really is verging on costume/cultural appropriation. I know a few people who wear a lunghi around the house, though I don't know that it would be any more practical than a utilikilt.
posted by Sara C. at 7:56 AM on June 4, 2012

The proposition that your clothing can ever devoid of meaning is specious to say the very least. Your choice of attire always has a social agenda, even if the only message is that you value your personal comfort over the need to conform to the standards of your present company, in which case you may as well wear your pajamas.

With this in mind, I would encourage you to try the kilt. It's stylish and surprisingly practical, it can look as formal or as informal as you like, and everyone thinks it's sexy. The idea that tartan means anything at all (beyond a perfunctory association with Scotland) was cooked up by the wool mills in the 19th century in order to sell more kilts. All it will mean in any context is that you are making a bold but ultimately culturally acceptable personal style choice.

Try renting one for a day or so, in any plaid that you like, and see what happens. The only problem will be that everyone, but everyone, will want to know what you're wearing underneath it.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2012

Response by poster: Nothing but what I was born with, Elizabeth the Thirteenth -- I'm a proud Utilikilt owner and have joined the gang for the "flash dance" on Solstice in Seattle. But it is not, despite marketing claims, practical attire for crouching, kneeling, squatting or rolling around on the ground -- all of which things I do frequently as a photographer. And it doesn't have great sun protection for the legs, or underbrush protection for more sensitive regions.

I also have three or four beautiful sarong wraps I sometimes wear in summer months, but these lack practicality plus are more restrictive to leg motion and also have a (lesser) risk of exposure. They're casual strolling/party wear rather than get-out-and-shoot gear.

Seems like the most sensible combination would be the longer (knee-length) kurta tunic, plus the kurta style PJs. Plain in style but available in quite a few colours and fabric weights.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2012

FWIW, any non-bifurcated garment is going to be equally impractical for your photo shoots.

I'm a lady, and I absolutely LOVE skirts and don't understand why they're not unisex clothing when they're so amazingly practical and stylish and all-around awesome. But then the copier breaks and I have to root around underneath it on the floor in the hallway of my office, probably while the executive producers or hot actors or someone else important walks by, and I curse myself for not wearing jeans that day.
posted by Sara C. at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2012

(actually I don't know if the trad Indian version has a fly...? Might be something to consider for ease of going to the bathroom in them)

There are two types - both drawstring - one is the salwar and the other the pajama - but I've noted (in Dad's) that there's an extra gusset in the middle and its built for comfort in the heat.

You might enjoy both the salwar version and the pajama version.

It is also known as the Pathani suit.
posted by infini at 10:50 AM on June 4, 2012

Don't worry about meanings applied to kilts and tartans. A lot of this is bollocks invented in the 19th Century to sell the idea of Scotland to impressionable upper class English twits.

Speaking as a Scot, I'm distressed by the constant association of the kilt with Scotland, and the assumption that non-Scots are somehow transgressing on a Scottish cultural artefact. Fuck that. More guys should wear kilts. Kilts are great. Why should women get all the fun? Kilts are wonderfully divergent garments - they allow you to get in touch with your feminine side, but they're still overwhelmingly masculine things to wear.

The kilt is a fantastically comfortable and stylish garment, and a Scottish kilt has a lot more material and heft than a utilikilt. Comparing the utilikilt to the real thing is like comparing Coors to a Belgian Trappist. The swish of the real kilt from behind is wondrous to behold. And universally, chicks dig kilts. Go for it, man.
posted by daveje at 3:54 PM on June 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

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