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OP-ED: A freedom fighter and our very own Kingsman

  • Published at 12:06 am December 7th, 2020
AT_Jan 17,2019
Photo: Courtesy

Shahzaman Mozumder was truly a man for all seasons

For the fashion conscious urbanites, Shahzaman Mozumder Bir Pratik is the name of a style connoisseur who knew how to dress to kill. But Shahzaman Mozumder’s biggest identity was that he fought in the Liberation War and was awarded the Bir Protik for his gallantry. If I am not mistaken, he was the youngest fighter to have received the state honour.

Shahzaman bhai passed away recently, and with his demise we have lost the man who could have easily been a contender for the role of 007 if there was the provision to choose a South Asian for the role.

Tall, elegant, suave with a disarming smile, he exuded refinement topped with unmistakable kindness. Usually, people who are from privileged backgrounds and have known comfort all their lives tend to be a little aloof from the hoi polloi, but not this man. He could be at ease with his tailor, a top ranking dignitary, and a journalist.

The icon of refinement

Those who knew him will admit that, in an age of vulgarity and tawdry fashion, he epitomized sophistication. 

Mr Mozumder was a man of many virtues and certainly some delectable vices. Before death, he, along with his equally flamboyant son, Shezzane Mozumder, was running the Dapper Bespoke tailor shop with the sole objective of familiarizing the city slickers with strategic dressing. 

Oscar Wilde once said: “It’s only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.” And no matter how much we dismiss the importance of being well groomed, at the end of the day, the shabbily dressed person, unless it’s Einstein, hardly creates a lasting impression.

Admit it, even Einstein would have a tough time in the modern age where most people spend literally minutes to form an idea about a person.

Before Dapper came into the tailoring scene and “bespoke” became a common word for the Dhaka debonair, Shahzaman bhai had a blog on men’s corporate dressing where he posted his attire throughout the week under the catchy headline “What I am Wearing Today.”

The blog is still available on the net and it opens up a world of gentleman’s fashion. 

Almost the whole of Dhaka followed the blog fervently, initially with a little amusement but then with avid interest because this person knew what he was talking about. 

The extravagant French cuff, the difference between a notch lapel and a peak lapel, to the masculine presence of Jodhpur boots, the understated Chelsea boots, plus the difference between brogue and toe cap Oxford shoes were all described in the blog. It became clear that this man was studying and meticulously assessing the nuances of men’s fashion.

Looking at his images, I was reminded instantly of one of my favourite actors, Christopher Plummer.

What is more intriguing is that, as days passed, more women, especially younger ones, began to take a keen interest in his blog. Shahzaman bhai possibly did not know, but his daily posts were topics of eager discussion in corporate circles.

Like I said earlier, in the beginning, people took these posts in light humour, but soon they began appreciating the sense of style and the invaluable information about how to wear a suit properly. Around 10 years ago, most suits made in the city were like boxes, and 90% hid the hands and the trousers sagged at the heels. Shahzaman bhai taught us the beauty of the fitted suit which enhances a person’s aura.

A man for all seasons

Fascinated by him, I decided to meet him and got an appointment at the lobby of Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, which also housed the first shop of Dapper Bespoke tailoring. 

He appeared just in time, looking immaculate in a grey suit, light blue shirt, a pair of double monk shoes, sporting his trademark smile. 

Being a freedom fighter, he had also developed a fascination for weapons and could talk at length about all sorts of armaments used in 1971. 

At a young age, back in the early 80s, when society was rigid about drinking, Shahzaman bhai in his youthful exuberance made wine in his home.

Though an aficionado of western attire, Shahzaman bhai had never harboured the idea of settling abroad.

But during our meeting, what struck me, in addition to his unwavering patriotism, was his devotion to men’s styling and the urge to make the modern day young aware of the importance of wearing the suit properly.

“You see, a person makes an impact with two things -- his/her way of talking or the skill of elocution and then, in the corporate world, one needs another virtue, a sense of style,” said Shahzaman bhai.

What did he make of me, wearing a casual shirt over grey gabardine trousers? Smiling broadly, he added: “You are a journalist, the dress is always secondary for a man from the press … it’s what you do with the pen that matters.”

But talking to him made me realize the importance of having a bespoke suit, and Shahzaman bhai made sure that I got a real taste of what “bespoke” meant because it took three months to make with seven trials; during each trial, Shahzaman bhai was present with his hawk-like eyes to find out every single flaw.

The suit making charge, along with the material, would have come to a significant amount but Shahzaman bhai simply brushed me aside when the payment time came. 

Eager to show my gratitude, the first thing I did when I landed in London in 2017 was go to Jermyn Street to buy a tie for Shahzaman bhai from Hawes & Curtis.

Shahzaman Mozumder Bir Protik has left us, but I am sure that he is teaching the saints and sinners up there a thing or two about fashion.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of London.

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