By: Tuhin Chakraborty
This past September, American supermodel Gigi Hadid took the fashion world by storm by “leading the charge” at Milan Fashion week. What did she wear on the catwalk? Nothing but the finest articles of clothing from renowned brand Fendi, from her “tight knit crop top,” down to her “high waisted khaki cargo pants” and her “black peep toe heels.” As an individual who is rarely invested in his outward appearance, I have never heard that many adjectives being used to describe clothes before. Regardless, the reception that Ms. Hadid received for her catwalk was nothing short of immense and adoring. Aside from the overwhelming support she received from her many admirers, Hollywood Life magazine described a certain blazer that Hadid wore during Fashion Week as “IT WAS EVERYTHING!” (apparently Hollywood Life thought that Hadid’s garments were too mindblowing for lower case). However, as amazing as people think Gigi Hadid is, what an American woman decides to wear for a European fashion show is definitely not “EVERYTHING!,” especially for people in less Westernized parts of the world. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about that Kayan people of Myanmar as well as some other pre-modern societies; you probably don’t know who they are, but what their women wear to be “chic” will certainly make an impression that you may never forget.
According to a custom in the Kan Khwan religion of the Kayan people, girls have to wear bronze rings around their necks starting at the age of five, with more coils being added on exponentially as the girl gets older.
The necks of these women are stretched out approximately double or triple the length of the average neck. It is no surprise that these women are considered “giraffe women” by foreigners. In addition to religious adherence, anthropologists believe that these women also wear the rings to accentuate their “sexual dimorphism” to appear more attractive; in a lot of ways, the neck rings also serve as a fashion statement. Furthermore, when interviewed, the women themselves said that the rings enhanced their “beauty,” just like how Gigi Hadid’s blazer made her so much more beautiful in the eyes of those at the Hollywood Reporter. However, since these neck coils permanently deform the clavicle of the wearer and also leave the neck a floppy, bruised mess if the rings are taken off, the average Westerner probably would not find this accessory to be highly fashionable. On the other hand, to those in the Kayan tribe, a long necked woman is ideal in appearance and is even said to resemble a majestic “dragon.”
As obscure as it seems, the practice of extending a person’s neck with rings is also present in other areas in the world, notably in the Ndebele tribe of South Africa, where both men and women wear rings to show off wealth and status. The richer the tribespeople are, the more rings they wear; similarly, in the US, the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to wear clothes from expensive, model-repped brands like Fendi, Armani, and Versace. In addition to showcasing physical beauty, fashion worldwide is also a symbol of status and attractiveness. When Gigi Hadid walked down that prestigious catwalk in Italy, she was not just showing off fancy clothes, she was also showcasing her status as one of the richest and most influential models and social figures in the world. No matter where you live, or what culture you happen to be a part of, there is always a way of showing society how elegant and respectable you are through fashion.