Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Short History of Goan Briefs

Goan for the Jocular

by Cecil Pinto / The Times of India
Nov 5, 2003

Everybody knows that Wendell Rodrigues is writing this Great Book of Goan Fashion. It will trace the History of Style in Goa from pre-historic times to the present. Since Wendell is right now very busy handling the thousands of international bulk orders that have poured in after India Fashion Week, he has enlisted me to help him out with some chapters. The first chapter I get to work on is Male Undergarments (Wendell has selfishly kept the Women's Lingerie section for himself!). My research till date has come up with some startling facts. Here is a preview of my initial findings. The timelines and dates are a bit flawed but I'm working on it.


In pre-historic times Goan males roamed around bereft of any undergarments, or overgarments for that matter. Civilisation was centered around the coastal belt of Calangute, Candolim and Baga and the diet was mostly fish-curry and rice. One day in 3024 BC some adventurous males from the Bhau tribe went into the interiors and captured and killed a panther. The skin was claimed by the leader of the tribe. This pompous guy, named Bhimblo, used to go around the villages with the panther skin draped around his shoulders and called everyone else "nanga panga". This incensed the other tribes who were pure vegitarians. They moved to Anjuna and Vagator and finally to Mandrem and Arambol where some of their descendants still laze around in the buff and don't eat meat.

The Bhau tribe thus came to control the lucrative mainstream coastal belt. They all started draping panther pelts on their shoulders and building shacks on the beachside and rentback condominiums. One day a young tribe member killed a lion in the nearby jungle and returned with the hide. The other tribe members all wanted a piece of the hide and in the ensuing melee the hide was torn to pieces. One enterprising young man, Bablo, wrapped a piece of lion-hide round his waist and let the pelt hang down and hide his manhood. This was shocking. In those days one's manhood had to be proudly displayed - to attract females for purposes of procreation. This new garment would make a female unable to distinguish between a tiny or a well-endowed male. It was an instant hit accessory. As you must have guessed, the Bhaus were not very well-endowed! The first ever undergarment was born in Goa!

Bablo instantly registered his invention with the local Panchayat, as a "lioncloth" and wanted Royalty Tax from everyone who wore such an undergarment. The other Bhaus just ignored him and wore lion pelts anyway and called them 'loincloths' to avoid taxes. The first instance of product piracy thus was also in Goa.

These loincloths continued to be standard underwear (later called innerwear) for Goan males for many centuries. In 1267 AD, or thereabouts, Goa came under the Vijaynagar Empire. These Vijaynagar folks were extremely fastidious about religion and worshipped the banyan tree. They wore a light cotton sleeveless innershirt while performing their pujas (in modern times this has evolved into a single string worn diagonally across the chest). This innergarment was quickly adopted by the ill clad Goan tribes and for lack of a better name they called it a 'banian' too.

We fast forward now to 1510 AD when the Portuguese landed in Goa. They were fascinated by this local 'banian' and adopted it themselves as an innergarment. Back in Europe, specially in fashion crazed France, it became an instant hit with variations for the colder climes there. So a standard banian got named Singlette, a banian with short sleeves was a Doublette, a banian with long sleeves a Tiblettee, and a whole-body covering banian was an Omlette.

The next major change came in 1634 AD. The Great Scotland Fire destroyed all the distilleries there and rendered many distillers jobless. Many of these tradesmen found their way to India and to Goa. They helped the locals perfect their distillation procedures and that's why we get such good Fenis today. They also brought with them their fascination for checkered designs like the ones on their kilts. Using local handlooms they started producing large handkerchiefs with a checkered red design which they called 'Scotch Tees'. A local Goan descendant of Bablo, in the manner of his innovative ancestor, one day wrapped a checkered Scotch Tee around his waist and strutted around proudly as an insult to the Scots who he disliked. "Bloody Charter Trash!", he exclaimed. Being the trendsetter he was, others started using the Scotch Tee as an undergarment and started calling it the Kashti, again to avoid copyright implications. Thus was born the quintessential Goan undergarment - the Kashti.

The humour column above appeared in Goa Plus, the Friday Magazine section of The Times of India, on 22nd August 2003.

- Forwarded by

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