A generation ago, the turban was the “crowning glory” of all Punjabis whether Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. Muslims and Hindus have given up their turbans, but it remains an article of faith for Sikh men whose religion forbids them to cut their hair. The kurta, a long straight-cut, loose shirt teamed with pyjamas, the loose baggy salwar, or a kind of sarong called a loongi or tehmat makes up the traditional dress for men. Winter sees the rustic Punjabi in colourful sweaters that wives and mothers are so skilled in making. Chadra is also worn by farmers working in the fields.
A blanket known as Khesi / Loi finishes his ensemble. When the urban, educated Punjabi steps out to work he will be in shirt and pant or a suit—sartorially indistinguishable from his counterparts in Tokyo or Toronto. Back home in the evening, he is likely to be found in more traditional dress.
The traditional Punjabi shoes, called juttis retain their popularity with both rural and urban men; they are both elegant and comfortable. Patiala and Muktsar are famous for juttis.
It is impossible to tell by dress whether a Punjabi woman is a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian – they all dress in salwar topped by a kameez (a garment that can be fitted like a dress loose like the kurta) and accented by a rectangular scarf about 2.5 metres long called the chunni or duppatta. She’s fond of her sweaters, but she is passionately proud of her collection of woollen shawls.
These can be breathtaking. The women of Punjab are responsible for the state’s most famous item of handicraft – the phulkari. This is a shawl completely covered in dense silk embroidery, folk motifs in jewel-tones on an ochre background. Gold is her weakness – brides are loaded with it.
The jewellers of Punjab stock an enormous range of designs in bangles, necklaces, rings and earrings, nose-pins, ornaments to pin in the hair, anklets and toe-rings. A particular kind of bangle is the tip-off in recognizing Sikh men and women. It’s called a kada and is made of steel.
Punjabi girls and women wear salwar kameez’s with bright colored duppattas. A salwar kameez has two pieces of cloths: the kameez, or shirt or top piece, and the salwar, or pants or bottom piece. A duppatta is a piece of colorful cloth that women wear around their necks. Salwar kameez’s and duppattas come in a variety of colors and designs. There are many stores that specialize and sell only these articles of clothing.
Men and boys generally wear loose pants or slacks with a collared shirt or t-shirt. Some males also wear the kurta pajama, an Indian shirt and pant outfit, especially the Punjabi farmer. On their head, many Sikhs also wear bhuggs, or turbins.
In winter, both women and men generally wear a woolen shawl, a small blanket, around their necks. Many men wear jackets and woolen caps as well.