Saturday, November 01, 2008

Good Mourning Istanbul

Today the sun was positively shining, a blue, cloudless sky burst forth provocatively to 16 million Istanbullites and I excitedly popped on my regulation shorts and T-shirt before trotting off to endless hours of traffic jams through fifty-three neighbourhoods on public transport to teach some English.

This week, me and the kids are focusing on irregular forms of the simple past. In English, this requires discarding notions of logic and modern teaching methodology and instead resigning oneself to memorising a rather tedious list of verbs.

Deciding against to forbid and to beget among others, my eyes soon glazed over and I leaned against the bus window to examine instead the faster-moving world outside the 42M Levent-Bahçeköy un-express-yet-clean-gas-powered otobüs. Black. More shades of black. This is not Saudi Arabia or pre-war Sicilia, so why the fascination with wearing a colour that makes you look like a dirty rotten gangster?

I'll never understand it. Growing up in sunnier climes, I never, ever remember wearing a single garment the colour of death and mourning my entire childhood. To be honest, I cannot recall donning once a Grim Reaper-inspired number for any occasion, no matter how sober the event.

Turks love wearing black. Far too much.

I've never worn a tuxedo. I've never dressed as a Carmelite nun. I've never wanted to wear a hue I associate with depression, gloom and nasty, ominous things. Black looks good on evil omens; the crow, for example. It's a great colour for ink, a pentacle, and also, in my opinion, computer keyboards. But on people black looks, well, dark. Gloomy. Shady. Mafia-esque. Alla Camorra. People from Naples called Carlo and Donatello are supposed to wear it brazenly. But for me, black belongs in funerals, on over-ripe bananas and up chimneys.

There's clearly a link here between the Turkish addiction to melancholy and their choice of garments. In a nation where ninety percent of citizen's hairs waver between ebony and soot, ninety-five percent of moustaches charcoal and all five o'clock shadows jet-black , the all-encasing chador-wearing women of the city's more conservative neighbourhoods just look a little too over-the-top.

I just checked my wardrobe. No simple cocktail dress. One black item. It's a belt, and that's more correctly classified an accessory than a garment.

Someone needs to explain to me why people choose to wear this hue. I mean, think about this: when someone wearing lime-green Prince of Wales check shorts and a dark blue Quicksilver T-shirt (for example) smiles at you, you're going to return the warmth, right? While someone smothered in funereal garb doing the same, well, it's not smiling - it's a leer, a sinister warning, an I-know-what-you-did kinda oblique look that makes you turn away in fear and cross to the other side of the road.

And another thing. Have you ever wondered about a stange yet likely correlation between those who wear black and missing teeth? I have. And it makes me shudder.


ASLI said...


Black is the absence of color and is the most misunderstood color. A black tie dinner is very formal and elegant. Women can wear that "must have little black dress" to the black tie dinner. Yet the bad guys wear black hats. Black symbolizes death in some cultures. Native Americans thought black was good because it was the color of soil, which gives life. Dress in black if you want to become inconspicuous. And a black suit or dress can make you look thinner . And lots of people think black underwear is ‘sexy’. Black is also used in clothing to make a bold statement of mystery and self control. Black clothing can say "Notice me but do not intrude." In times of fear and uncertainty black contains the energy of the threatening unknown. In a positive state, black is seen as a restful emptiness into which anything may emerge and disappear once again. It is also mysterious, providing a sense of potential and possibility. In color therapy, medicine uses the color black to give self-confidence, power and strength to the patients. One more positive thing about the color black is that, it can make other colors appear brighter .

Put some black in your life when you want:
• to become inconspicuous
• to open the door to mystery
• to prepare for the unknown
• a restful emptiness

Türkçe’de bir deyim var, biliyorsun. ‘’Renkler ve zevkler tartışılmaz’’ . Ve son olarak Mr. Heywood, karga bazı kültürlerde kutsaldır ve şeytanla uzaktan yakından hiç alakası yoktur. Hayatta her şey nereden ve nasıl baktığınıza göre anlam ve şekil kazanır, çünkü görme fonksiyonunu yaratan göz değil, beyindir...

James said...

Her zamanki gibi, doğru söylüyorsun. Ama...benim sorun bu. Neden Türkler o kadar sıyah giyinmeye seviyorlar?

Hep kültür renklerden farklı fıkır var ama mutlaka hep Türk daha zayif görünmek istemiyor!

Neyse, yazımı okuduğunu çok sevdim!

ASLI said...

Bu sorunun kesin ve en doğru cevabını bulman imkansız. Siyah giyen her Türkü yolda durdurup sor. Herkes sana kişisel bir yanıt verecektir. Bence asıl cevap kültürel bilinçaltımızda yatıyor. Çünkü bu bölgede ve Ortadoğu'da insanların çok tercih ettiği bir renk.Belki gerçekten de, bu bölge insanının bilinçaltındaki hüznü ve kaygıyı temsil ediyordur, kimbilir? Bu işte uzman birine sormak gerek.

Simone said...

But I wear black all the time and you adore me! The main reason black is so great is that it goes with *everything*. Seriously - embrace the black.

James said...

You're both right and I'm clearly wrong.

Now move on to the next post please.

And Simone, I'm not embracing anything. That's how I ended up in the Emergency Ward last time.