Colonialism still rooted in SVG
In 1979, St Vincent and the Grenadines gained its Independence. Theoretically, that means we have been a free country for 39 years. Unfortunately, upon close examination, I have realized that mentally we have a long journey before we can achieve real sovereign Independence.
Firstly, I think it is imperative to note that 39 years of Independence is not a long time. As disturbing as it might sound, Europe was extremely successful in their attempt to mentally and physically enslave our ancestors. Not only did they use our ancestors’ bodies for labour, they forced their ideologies and customs as well. They systematically erased and fragmented our African customs, while replacing it with theirs.
There are so many colonial roots in St Vincent and the Grenadines; so many customs we share with other islands that can be directly linked to slavery. The most innocuous has to be our dressing, particularly professional dressing. Have you ever wondered how silly it is that we force men to wear ties in a tropical climate? Not only men, but school children. I’ve never met a man who enjoyed wearing a tie; they might like how they look, but never how they feel. Personally, one of the best feelings coming home from school was removing my tie. Yet, ironically, if everyone hates them so much, why do we insist on wearing them?
Our colonizers forced us to wear their clothes that were ironically suited for colder climates, not the tropics. So why do we still hold on to that custom? Once again, slavery and colonization were so successful that they managed to permanently alter our perception of fashion, even in freedom. I feel I should note that we have made strides in breaking that mould and trying new things. The natural hair movement has taken firm roots in SVG, and it is no longer seen as unprofessional to wear your own natural hair in a work setting. I see the drastic change in perception and I am amazed. Five years ago, when I cut off all my hair I was mocked, last year I cut it, and no one batted an eyelash, except to lament that they missed my long hair.
Observing such a swift shift in beauty standards has given me hope that in time we will find suitable trends and ideals for our workplace and social dressing. Of course, African print has become popular, but it is not accepted enough to be worn in the workplace. The irony of it all is that we embrace polyester and reject cotton when we live in a TROPICAL CLIMATE. Cotton breathes, ladies and gentlemen, polyester does not! I’m not telling you to go out and burn your clothes, but next time you’re sitting with an uncomfortable tie or jacket on, you’ll think of me. I guarantee that you’d wish that Vincentians would change their dress codes already.