As Mumbai's finest flaunt their shiny new caps, is this the end for the traditional, Gandhi topi-inspired blue cap of yore? Right off the hat, the city's designers are pleased that the new cap will give much-needed relief from the sun, but they wish there was more attention to detail in the design.
Mumbai policemen have finally got protection from the sun's glare. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
The new baseball caps in Prussian blue with yellow trimmings, bearing the Mumbai Police logo on the front panel, had so far been worn by only a few cops in the pilot phase over the last two months. Now, the cap has been made available to all employees from the constabulary up to the Assistant Sub Inspector rank.
The new caps are now available for purchase at police canteens; (right) the older design will also remain in service
The Mumbai traffic policeman's headgear has been the subject of constant discussion, with the demanding hours they put in under the hot sun, requiring that they have sufficient protection from the sun. The older design offered neither a visor to keep the glare out, nor any protection from the heat around the nape.
Western design is not an issue
While the members of the design fraternity agree that the new design is functional - it keeps the sun out of the eyes and is possibly a better fit - it is clearly American in spirit. But Kunal Rawal, hat enthusiast and fashion designer, argues, "I don't see anything wrong in adapting an American-style headgear if it serves our purpose. Why should every piece of your uniform be representative of India?"
"There is an aspirational value attached to being a part of a government body and the quality and design of a uniform can help build that spirit," he adds.
Mumbai-based Shilpa Chavan, one of India's best-known milliners, wonders why designers like her aren't approached by government agencies to offer their inputs. "I'd see traffic cops sweat it out on the roads and thought the baseball cap would work wonders. I had an idea in my head but didn't know if I should approach the authorities with the design," she says.
Some like it old
On the occasions when the authorities have reached out to a designer name, things haven't quite worked out. In 2010, there was news of leading trousseau designer Manish Malhotra having suggested that the khaki uniforms of the Maharashtra police be changed to blue, with tweaks in the cap and belt design when the department was considering a change. The khaki uniform continues to rule, however.
More than a decade ago, Wendell Rodricks was assigned the task of designing uniforms for the Goa Police on the lines of what the Singapore police wore.
The traditional khaki was swapped for a modern blend of navy blue trousers and white shirts with a native coconut palm logo. But the uniform failed to find support from the Goa police, who successfully lobbied with the state government to switch back to khaki.
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Shilpa Chavan, milliner
'I'm happy with the change. It's one thing to look cool, but if design isn't accompanied by functionality, there is little point. The old Gandhian topi inspired cap did anything but provide relief from the heat. I'd suggest though, that the new design be made in a lighter colour like khaki, so that it retains less dust and heat. A mesh on the sides and back can help keep the head cool.'
Kunal Rawal, hat and menswear designer
'As a wearer and designer of headgear, fit and finish are important to me. Although the new design looks cleaner and formal, attention to better construction can be paid. I'd have said a trucker hat works better. Here, the front panel above the visor is made from foam, and the rest from plastic mesh to offer breathability. The foam front stands up stiff, alluding to a cop's stature.
Nida Mahmood, fashion designer and hat maker
'While the original design has lost its native charm, the new one looks cool. It's functional, but lacks detailing. It appears bland, with no voice. A policeman's headgear should denote stature and position, which I don't find here. It's way too informal.'
Cost of each new cap
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