Seven years ago; sporting a Sikh turban could get you killed, as was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas station owner who was shot Sept. 15, 2001 in Mesa, Ariz., after his murderer mistook him for a Muslim.
Today, the trademark black head covering sported by male members of the Sikh religion can get you into the heights of mens' fashion. Such is what happened to Sandeep Singh "Sonny" Caberwal, 29, a graduate of Duke University and Georgetown Law School who on a whim, it seems, decided to take on a most unusual assignment: Modeling mens clothing to make a point about diversity.
Mr. Caberwal . . . grew up in rural Ashboro, N.C. as the son of a doctor and the wearer of a turban ever since he was a small child. His family is from Punjab, India. He has never cut his hair, as all Sikh men have been required to have long hair since 1699. It is always covered by a skull cap and turban. Some time ago - he does not know when - Kenneth Cole, founder of a clothing line by the same name - got an idea for an advertising campaign on breaking stereotypes - and plugging clothing. Mr. Cole hired a casting agency to find a male Sikh willing to be a model. The man had to be American-born, highly educated and articulate. There being no candidates on the usual lists, the agency began calling up national Sikh-rights organizations and Mr. Caberwal heard Cole was looking.
One thing led to another and last October, he found himself in New York posing in some pretty spiffy clothes along with that turban.
"People think Sikhs are fundamentalist, outside the mainstream of society, or immigrants or something is wrong with them," Mr. Caberwal said in a visit to my office yesterday. "Kenneth Cole wanted to represent the fabric of American culture. There's a lot of struggle in the United States as to how we perceive people post 9-11. I as much American as anyone else." [Link]
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