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Uptight in the ’60s

August 04, 2012

THEY were known as the Teddy Boys (and girls) — adherents of a youth subculture that started in the UK in the 1950s and soon became strongly associated with youth, rock ‘n’ roll and teenage assertiveness. In London, the Teddys favoured high-waist ‘drainpipe’ trousers, crepe-soled shoes and greased-up hair with a quiff at the front. In Karachi, the ‘teddys’ turned that into a look that swept across urban campuses. Along with making their own clothing choices, the ‘teddys’ of urban Pakistan took upon themselves to stand fast against the oppression of the generations. Thus it is that a news report from Aug 3, 1962, published yesterday on these pages, tells us that Karachi’s director of education expressed grave concern about growing ‘teddyism’ and banned ‘teddy’ dress — understood as tight-fitting clothes worn mainly by students.

Levity aside, though, the circular he sent out is illuminating in terms of what Pakistan has become in the ensuing half a century. “Dress … shows culture and traditions…. Pakistan was founded with the express purpose of enabling Muslims to lead [an] Islamic way of life. …[I]t is desired that our students, both boys and girls, should follow the ideology for which Pakistan was created and reflect it in dress also. As such, no tight-fitting dress should be allowed to be worn by students….” In apportioning the blame for setting Pakistan on a course at the end of which lie the more conservative trends that are the hallmark of campuses today, the Zia administration is the most obvious contender. But the seeds that Ziaul Haq nurtured into full-grown monsters were always there, even in the 1960s that are today considered a remarkable period for liberalism in Pakistan. The journey that led Pakistan to where it is now has been a long one. Could it be as long as the country itself?