Chaz Singh Fliy, creative directorPhoto credit: Amit and Naroop
Judging by these striking images, being a Sikh in the modern world is about wearing traditional garb, but doing it in style. In their Kickstarter-funded series ‘The Singh Project’, London-based photographers Amit and Naroop profile British Sikh men and show how they embrace both the turban and the times they live in.
What was the inspiration behind your project?
The idea actually came from how beards are now trendy in fashion and mainstream culture. We felt it was pretty interesting to look at it from Sikhism, where the beard – a symbol of discipline and spirituality – has been an integral part of a man’s identity for hundreds of years.
Did you think that hipsters lessen the spiritual value Sikhs place on beards?
Not really. In fact, they have a commonality. Hipsters wear beards for a similar reason to Sikhs – for individuality and respect. They don’t feel they need to conform to the ‘norm’; instead they are following their own path. So I think the hipster trend reinforces why keeping a beard as a form of identity is so powerful. You’re wearing your beliefs on your face.
Having a beard has gone mainstream. Any hope for the turban?
It would be amazing if it did. Young Sikh men are starting to tie their turbans with elaborate cloth, so it’s an extension of their style. But I doubt right now that this will catch on with non-Sikhs.
Have British Sikh men always been expressive with their dress sense?
The Sikh men we profiled are doctors, watchmakers, designers and architects, and they all take great pride in wearing a turban and beard. But some of the older Sikh men we interviewed described how they had to cut their hair when they first came to England just to be accepted so they could get a job. At the other end, lots of the younger men have embraced the tenets of Sikhism, grown their hair, and left behind their previous false pleasures like drinking, smoking or getting themselves into trouble.