New Delhi: Who would have envisioned a 74-year-old man making a fashion statement with his white kurta pyjama and Gandhi Topi in the 21st century? But Anna Hazare has allured youth who are not only supporting his anti-corruption movement but imitating his style as well.
According to designers, the Gandhi Topi - a slim boat-shaped cap often worn with a slight tilt that was the sartorial symbol of India`s freedom movement - was always in demand but the reformer has pushed its popularity to another level and made it look very "cool".
"The Gandhian Topi has been in trend since the 1900s. The cap was usually worn by people on Republic Day and Independence Day. What we can say is Anna has brought the fashion trend back," designer Anjalee Kapoor told reporters.
"But his style of wearing the topi has become a very important aspect of the movement. He has made it look very cool," she added.
The market is flooded with these caps which have "I AM ANNA" written over them and street vendors from all over India - Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad - are selling it.
"We had made around 1,500 topis only for Independence Day and I was doubtful whether I would be able to sell the whole stock. But it was a surprise to find youngsters buying these caps. By Aug 16, when Annaji went on fast, the caps ran out of stock in no time," said Amrit Kumar, a vendor who sells at Ramlila Maidan, the site of Anna` protest fast.
"At the time of independence, Mahatma Gandhi spearheaded the revolution and today Annaji has stood like a wall in his fight against corruption. Both used the same `Topi`. By wearing these, people want to prove that they are with him," he added.
The white-coloured Gandhi cap was made popular by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian independence movement. It was then adopted by India`s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, followed by Lal Bahadur Shastri and Morarji Desai.
Even freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose wore a cap, but a khaki coloured one, to symbolise his military ambitions.
Though in recent times, the cap was almost forgotten, thanks to Western clothing aspirations, in the interiors of Maharashtra, people are often seen wearing them.
Hazare`s battle against corruption has given it new life. These topis are disappearing from shelves like hot cakes.
Made of cotton, the topis are being sold at Rs.25 each, which is a discounted price, especially for the "Anna movement".
"Last Saturday we received an order of 18,000 caps. Each topi normally costs Rs.50 but keeping in mind the spirit of youth and the motive behind the movement, we have decreased the price to Rs.25," said Raj Kumar, a vendor in Janpath.
The street vendors are contributing to the movement in their own way - apart from topis, they are offering Anna merchandise, t-shirts at discounted prices.
"With people from different corners of the world supporting Annaji, how can we be so mean and increase prices? We are getting 10 to 20 percent profit on each topi and that is more than enough for us," said Ashok Kumar, a shopkeeper in Sadar Bazar.
"Sometimes we even sell topis for free. We are selling the t-shirts carrying the slogan `India Against Corruption` at the price of Rs.100," he added.
It`s not just a street vendor who is mobilised by this moment. Many fashion designers too are also trying to do their bit.
A Delhi-based designer brand, Bellaragazza, will launch its "Gandhi Topi" collection purely made of khadi and cotton next month.
"The Gandhi Topi is very much back in fashion. I can see teenagers wearing the Gandhi Topi with a high pony tail. As today`s generation does everything with style, the Gandhi Topi is very much in vogue," said designer Mamta Rawal of Bellaragazza.
"We have already started working on Anna tees and the next will be topis with a touch of modernity. I am really happy that the trend our forefathers used to follow is back," she added.
Even at the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, celebrities like Vidya Balan, Sridevi, Vidya Malvade and Hard Kaur were seen attending the shows wearing a cap with "I am Anna Hazare" written on it.
To add to the craze, as many as 20 students of IIT Kharagpur have decided to give their graduation caps a miss on the convocation day and instead receive their degrees in "Gandhi Topi".