Guess The Trouser Style My Tailor Sew For Me!

By Isaac Asabor

There is nothing nostalgic about going down memory lane to recount how this writer in his teenage days in the village, somewhere in Edo state, would put any of his playmates to test few days to Christmas by asking: “Guess the trouser style my tailor is sewing for me”. As a commonly expressed puzzle among playful children in those days, the respondent was to excitedly respond by simply saying “Labu-Labu style” or “Pencil Style”.

How the puzzle which was then a seeming trend among teenagers and youths in the village, precisely Omolua in Igbanke, came about cannot be farfetched as sewing of Christmas clothes was unarguably unaffordable by most breadwinners who were majorly peasant farmers. The irony then was that whilst parents that dwelt in the urban areas, say Benin-City, Abudu or Agbor seemingly buy ostentatious “ready-made” clothes for their children at expensive prices, those of us that are not so privileged patronize local tailors that lacked the creativity and expertise to deliver better and more fashionable styles to us.

Also, the puzzle cannot equally be considered to be preposterous and a solecism at that time as it was usually expressed as a way of showing off in order to impress it on others that one’s family can as well sew trending and fashionable trousers for their children who are invariably opportuned to come from well-to-do families.

Still on the puzzling question, “Guess the trouser style my tailor sew for me!, which is invariably the title of this piece, the somewhat envious respondent, so to say, was usually rewarded with an invitation to see the trouser well packaged in an iron box, and funnily enough, without regard for decorum, would smell it to be assured that the trouser was newly sewn.

The young ones then, at the time when any teenager was considered to be a spoilt child when he or she goes against the rule, was not entitled to adorn trousers as he or she was expected to traditionally wrap wrappers all over his or her body and knot it on the neck. . You may have been wondering why this writer is taking you through this memory lane, permit me to confess that the recent politics that was played around trouser in Imo state few days ago inspired me to express this view. I may swim with the tide that children at that time were not supposed to wear trousers, and that the erroneous belief was even implemented in secondary schools in those days when male students were not qualified to adorn trousers until they are promoted to class 3. Thus, the wearing of trousers by teenagers at the time was considered to be an abnormality as wearing of trousers were exclusively meant for youths and adults. It is not an exaggeration to say that stubborn children that ignored the norm in some families where discipline was not undermined saw their trousers torn with razor blade or get burnt by their “No-nonsense” patriarchs, and such children were collectively tagged as “wayward”.

However, the reason why parents cautioned teenagers at that time not to wear trousers cannot be farfetched as doing that would expose them to young and beautiful girls as well as making them to steal for them to be recognized as fashionistas by their peers and admirers.

But alas! The strongly delivered caution was never considered by the young ones as they went ahead to sew trousers that were stylishly called “Labu-Labu” and “Pencils”. They went ahead sewing trousers that made them came as fashionistas as they resorted to sewing “Labu-Labu” or “Pencil” trouser styles ostensibly to make fashion statements.

For the sake of clarity, “Labu-Labu” style was the style that has an extra-large width so much that it was nicknamed, “Make Nigeria Clean” as it literarily swept the floor as the wearer modishly walked to wherever he decided to go to. On the other hand, the “Pencil” style was so tight that it can reveal the physiological contour of the wearer and even got torn when the wearer seemingly “overdo” things.

Not only did both styles pulled crowd or drew attention to the wearer, they made some of the young ones to resort to working so hard in the bid of ensuring that they wore any of the styles on special occasions, particularly to social gatherings.

Without any scintilla of hyperbole, myriads of oddities so much characterized one’s inability to sew any of the styles as they were then regarded as “Gold” that even some musicians lyrically eulogized them through their hits, and by wearing any of the styles. It would be recalled that both styles were prominently worn by members of the Oriental Brothers fame to make musical statements. Also, local proverb had it (and still has it) that “It is a taboo for a poor man to dream of wearing well sewn clothes such as “Labu-Labu” and “Pencil”. The basis of the proverb can be attributed to how difficult it was for a poor man at that time to afford the money needed to sew any of the styles.

At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, “Does a well-dressed president make for a better president?” Yes, says a political scientist, David O'Connell.

According to a research published in the last quarter of 2020 in the journal White House Studies, O'Connell, an associate professor of political science at Dickinson College who studies American politics with a focus on religion and pop culture, argued that style plays an underappreciated role in presidential politics and has meaningful consequences for presidential power.

O'Connell examined first-person memoirs and historical news sources to demonstrate how presidents can accomplish three goals through their style: communicate messages, enhance their political position and identify with important political constituencies. For example: President Clinton sent a message by choosing a tie with trumpets during the historic White House meeting between Israeli PM, Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat as a Biblical reference to the falling walls of Jericho.

President Kennedy, who preferred shabby dress in his years as a Congressman, enhanced his political position by updating his image to alleviate concerns about his youth.

In a similar vein, President George W. Bush identified with rural voters by favoring cowboy attire, sometimes even while he was in Washington.

O'Connell also makes an argument for formality. "Better-dressed presidents are more likely to be better presidents since they will avoid the kinds of negativity that have historically greeted presidents who dressed more informally”.

He points out some presidential style faux pas that has it that President Obama, known for shrugging off fashion decisions, was criticized for wearing a tan suit, which was perceived as too casual, to an appearance discussing serious issues with Syria.

Going down memory lane, he recalled that Presidents Ford and Carter dressed casually to distinguish themselves from President Nixon, whom they perceived to be an inaccessible, pomp-and-circumstance president. Carter was first president to appear before the country in a sweater, a much-lampooned fashion choice that still gets critics talking.

He added that President Clinton was so image conscious that he once closed half of LAX's runways for a haircut onboard an idling Air Force One by Beverly Hills hairstylist Christophe.

Also, President Nixon's failed photo-op trying to one-up a beachcombing, sun-kissed Kennedy by walking a California beach in dress pants, white shirt and shined, wingtip shoes.

While almost no political scientists have analyzed the implications of style, O'Connell argued that it is no secret that groups in society often make political statements through what they choose to wear or not to wear. He concluded that scholars would be wise to consider style more closely, as there is powerful evidence that appropriately fashionable presidents helped their causes, while style faux pas have done damage to others.

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