Brown Man Clothing Co. dispels stereotypes about Indians, Pakistanis and immigrants in America through pop fashion.
Growing up as a brown boy in North America during the early ’80’s, Faisal Tahseen was always aware that he was “different” from his white peers. He was always among the minority in his white-dominated public schools in Canada. But it did not bother him much.
Then 9/11 happened. Soon Tahseen, a Pakistani Canadian, began experiencing first-hand some racial stereotypes that were so deeply ingrained in North America and in the western world in general. He wanted to make a difference by dispelling the myths about South Asians.
But what really acted as a trigger was when he saw t-shirts with messages such as “I am an Indian – Can I get a Green Card?”
“I decided we needed to counter these prejudices by celebrating our identity and making a statement,” he told the American Bazaar.
That’s how Tahseen went on to launch the Brown Man Clothing Co. 10 years ago. The clothing company ships funky, pop culture-inspired t-shirts that unabashedly speak about South Asian identity. So from messages such as “I love Curry” to “Mind the Gujju,” and “Cup of Chai” to “Eat, Sleep, Butter Chicken,” the tee-shirts take the stereotypes headlong in a funny and unapologetic way.
The clothing company also makes no bones about the inestimable contribution South Asians have made to the Americas.
“From the people who brought you brought you Butter Chicken and Kamasutra”— that’s how the company identifies itself. Brown Man Clothing Co. products are available in boutique shops in the United States and Canada. It also ships products across the globe.
Though the company was launched post 9/11, the messages it conveys continue to hold relevance in Americas and the world even today. As anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States continues to rise — and particularly anti-H-1B, green card and H4 visas sentiment — this fun, nonchalant way to create an identity awareness seems to be working well.
However, Tahseen has also received some bashing from within the community initially. “A few years ago, we launched tees with the message, ‘Hijabis Are Hot.’ Back then, people did not understand that we may be normalizing the hijab, instead they thought we were sexualizing the faith based attire,” he said. “We received death-threats over it. But cut to today, it remains one of our best sellers. People now are more confident about talking about their roots, identities, ethnicities and that makes a difference.”
A lot of first-generation immigrants are also happy to see the mark many popular brown faces in entertainment are making. Suddenly, it is not so bad to own up, where we came from and wear it on our sleeves.
“We participate in a lot pop up shows and trade shows and interestingly we are seeing a lot more interest from those who are in their 30s or 40s as they want to assert their origins,” he said.
A more confident generation, as it appears from the fun tees, does not want to pretend that they prefer a sandwich over a samosa, or would pass on a cup of chai for Coke!