While the majority of blokes are matching their shirts to their turbans and ladies are matching their chunis to their handbags, let’s take some time out to appreciate the simplicity of the reliable t-shirt. This fool-proof garment has been around for thousands of years since caveman times (maybe not that long) and in the last decade has been adopted by Sikhs in the Diaspora as their number one must-have article of clothing (after the Kacchera obviously!) In this series of articles, i’m writing about the various t-shirt makers to find out what drives them, starting with Canadian company B-Coalition who make some of the most popular tees for the Punjabi/Sikh masses.
B-Coalition is described as a platform for like-minded individuals to come together and unite. The ‘5 Rivers Runs Through My Veins‘ tee features an image of the entire Punjab as it was under Maharaja Ranjit Singh and really illustrates this point effectively as it incorporates the forgotten Punjabi brethren chilling in West Punjab, Himachal Pardesh and Haryana. Along side this is a range titled ‘Rep your District/Pind’ which is slightly confusing at first as it sounds a little divisive; but then again the Sikh Misls of the 18th century united when they needed to… and so can the pinds when the time is right! Quoting B-Coalition founder Baljit, “What better way to instil pride in our culture and roots than to pay homage to where our parents and grandparents are from, where our culture was born.” I can imagine these tees being especially cherished by recent immigrants and Diaspora Punjabis alike as it creates a visionary acknowledgement of our ancestral homelands and who we are. It was refreshing to see pinds outside of modern day Indian-Punjab being repped too such as Lahore and Gujranwala which are places many people originated from but know little about today.
As i’m not a fan of t-shirts with the biscuit-tin, kid-sized Punjab, it was unfortunate to see it appear on a number of their tees. That aside, I was impressed with what B-Coalition are doing. The founder Baljit told us he began B-Coalition “to help show my daughters the importance of our culture. I wanted to make a difference in my children’s lives and show them how important our cultural roots are.” I’m impressed that a man with kids and bills to pay has found time to create this clothing line. It really is no mean feat to manage time that effectively and pull off the level of multi-tasking needed to run a business.
B-Coalition aims to educate the community as they were tired of “stereotypical Indian and Punjabi designs that had no substance“. That might be a little harsh on other t-shirt producers, some of whom I believe depict a similar message but through a very different style – from humorous to morbid. But you can’t deny there is something uniquely special about the ‘Kharku’ line. It depicts Sikh martyrs through a superhero lens. The Baba Deep Singh t-shirt has the word ‘avenger’ to represent him, Bhagat Singh is the ‘inspiration’ and Sant Jarnail Singh is ‘fearless’. I also love the ‘History’ line featuring Kartar Singh Sarabha, Udham Singh and Hari Singh Nalwa – three names often forgotten. B-Coalition describes it as “something unique in showing half of the icons along with a word that represents what they truly meant to our history“.
There’s no doubting these lines were created to educate and inspire folks especially if you don’t know the Shaheeds being depicted. B-Coalition is ticking a lot of important boxes with the t-shirts they’re bringing out. There has clearly been a lot of thought gone into each design and having a variety of designers really shows a high level of creativity. As well as founder Baljit and his colleague Jaz, there are two further designers, Gary running Inkalaab and Gurneesh who is responsible for the Kharku designs. For B-Coalition, “this is always about the message and to find like-minded individuals, it strengthens our message in numbers.”
When we sit back and really think about why a person would want a t-shirt like this, it’s simple: you want to say something without having to say it. It’s a lot easier to rock a t-shirt which speaks to everyone automatically, in silence.