Out of the Closet | Pankaj Advani
Pankaj Advani, 27, has been the world champion in cue sports seven times. The only Indian to have won the world title in both snooker and billiards, Advani won his first world title when he was just 18. Winner of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, Arjuna award and a Padma Shri, Advani is at the top of his game. He says he also likes to be on top on how he presents himself to the world.
We caught up with him before he left for a week’s vacation in Goa and asked him how he differentiates his formal “match” look with his casual everyday style. Edited excerpts:
When did your interest in fashion and clothes start?
The year 2005 was my year of discovering style and it all began with a haircut. A model friend, Shakeel Shariff, suggested it and I even got dark brown highlights that were a rage at the time.
Being a sportsperson, I have always had a preference for casual wear. But after the haircut, I became interested in grooming in general and decided to update my wardrobe too. Until then I wore formal pants and loose shirts. So my first picks were well-fitted jeans and T-shirts. It took some effort to dress well at the start, but now it comes naturally. I wasn’t and am still not fascinated by brands, but at 20, I needed to know that I could present myself well. I even walked the ramp for some designers.
How did that happen?
I bumped into Bangalore designer Namrata G. one day and she said she’d be calling me soon. When the Bangalore Fashion Week took place in 2010, she asked me to walk the ramp for her. I wore a formal bandhgala suit for her. This was followed up by walking the ramp for a Wendell Rodricks show, and twice for Babita Malkani shows.
You do have a lot of formal clothes for a sporty guy.
When you go for a lot of these black-tie events then you really don’t have much of a choice. You have to dress formally. Otherwise you are not taken very seriously. I do try and not do boring black and black kind of outfits. A nice tailored suit that fits well always works. I am fond of bandhgalas with black trousers more than Western suits for a formal event. I would wear a jacket like the Wendell Rodricks one, which has no buttons, with a T-shirt to add some sport to formal wear.
What about casual clothes?
I have 10 pairs of jeans. I love distressed jeans. I have one from Diesel and my favourite is by a brand called Replay. It’s young and keeps with the direction in which my sport is going, younger. Since I am largely seen wearing formal pants with a waistcoat during a match, to suddenly do a contrast with almost torn jeans and a T-shirt is fun. It surprises people. I’d wear a jacket with a shirt for a party perhaps. I love checked shirts and naturally I have a couple of Burberry shirts. My most recent buy is a bright yellow hoodie by Hollister; it totally stands out in my cupboard. Since I am in England for a large part of the year, I wear my grey Zara jacket a lot.
What’s your style when you are at your snooker or pool table?
Though the game has been growing younger for the past few years, the dress code hasn’t changed much. At present we can’t mess with the formal look of the game. We have to wear pants with a formal shirt, bow tie and a waistcoat. I find it boring, to be honest. I wouldn’t mind keeping the waistcoat but we could wear jeans, or make the waistcoats a little more interesting and funky. Or at least be able to roll up our sleeves. I have separate sets of shoes for game days. They are formal black shoes with comfortable soles and slightly broad on the front. I also wear a watch that has a slim strap and doesn’t interfere when I am playing.
What kind of a shopper are you?
I am not brand-oriented. If I see something nice, I pick it up impulsively. The Hollister hoodie was an immediate buy. I never let somebody else shop for me or shop online. I spend about 15-20 minutes at the most in a store.
I like watches, all with dials. No digital stuff for me. Watches have to look classic. I have a TAG Heuer, Fossil, Citizen and one Xylys watch. I also like belts. There’s one casual one from Burberry and one from Ermenegildo Zegna.
You travel a lot. Do you have a certain method of packing?
When I am going for months there’s most of my wardrobe in the bag. When I am going for a week, I would take two shirts, one checked and one plain, for evening functions or dinner plans. Two match shirts. I’d wear casual shoes while travelling and carry my match shoes which would work in case there is a formal event as well.