August 12: Very soon members of Parliament in Bermuda will go to work wearing Bermuda shorts. This is what the lawmakers of Bermuda Islands have decided.
Usually, parliaments across the world are known for their sober dress sense to convey that being a member of the legislature is no laughing matter, and the prestige of the Parliament has to be kept in mind while dressing for it.
The Bermudian House of Assembly, which is where the members of Parliament assemble, recently voted to relax the dress code of its parliament. So colourful, knee-length Bermuda shorts will be allowed now. Safari suits and collarless Nehru suits for men and trouser suits for women, will also be acceptable.
Patriotism lies at the heart of the lawmakers’ decision. After all bermudas are generally regarded as the Bermuda Islands’ major contribution to world fashion. And yet, Bermuda shorts do not really have a Bermudian origin. They were created in the early years of the 20th century by British military forces, in London.
Those were the days of the British Empire, when Great Britain ruled in a wide sweep across undivided India, Africa and other tropical regions of the world. Soldiers in military outposts in these regions had a tough time surviving the heat. So they began to cut off their trousers at the knees to get some relief.
At first, the officers of the British army did not know how to react to the soldiers’ actions. Should they be angry or should they accept it. But common sense and comfort won the day. And style, too, came into play. Soon, the officers were seen wearing smart khaki shorts with gleaming leather shoes.
Seeing them the people of Bermuda, too, began to get out of their long sweaty trousers to get into the dry, airy, cool shorts. And what a difference it made to their peace of body and mind! British tourists arriving by steamship to escape their long winters were the first to get into the style. They helped spread the fashion to the US and elsewhere around the world. And the shorts got their name in the process.
Today Bermudas can be found in various colours, made of a blend of linen and polyester or wool. But Bermudians claim that only the dress shorts – that is what they wear – are the real Bermuda shorts. They are as well-constructed as a real good pair of trousers, complete with waist band or belt-loops and a seam in the centre back.
Everyone in Bermuda wears them – school-kids, civil servants, businessmen. In gray, beige or navy blue. And also in orange, pink, green or yellow.
And now they can be worn to Parliament! The Times of India quotes the Prime Minister Jennifer Smith as saying that Bermudas are acceptable business dress in Bermuda. They would in no way diminish the dignity of the house. “People do tend to judge on first impressions and how they are dressed. But ease of comfort and practicality rule fashion,” she said seriously.
To the world outside, Bermuda shorts are seen as a shortcut to fun in sun and sand. It remains to be seen whether Bermuda’s parliamentarians can prove them wrong by performing as well as they always do, or better, in Parliament.