Rivers, canals, ponds and lakes make Thailand one of the world’s most water-filled countries. And wherever you find water, you’ll find people fishing. And most of them are wearing unisex trousers, known as fisherman’s pants. Those simple trousers are everywhere, and so much so that they’ve transcended all Thai borders and have morphed into something more than the original. Pants for massage, yoga, sports and pregnancy – a whole raft of possibilities. On Samui there’s even a store dedicated primarily to them: Fishermen Pants Shop. Drop in and you’ll see how this store goes further still and recommends them if you’re seeking a laid-back vibe.
“Just put a pair on,” says owner-manager Erez Shmargad, “and you’ll feel different. You’ll feel in the mood for relaxation, no matter what you’re doing.” He should know as he’s one of Thailand’s keenest aficionados of fisherman’s pants. He goes in search of materials and designs, and then working with Thai tailors, he puts together remarkable collections that reflect great creativity, whilst all the time keeping with age-old traditions.
‘Artisanal’ is the word we’ve all been hearing on the street for a couple of years now, and these days it’s all the rage to suddenly start rolling out all manner of things from beer to sausages, soap to perfumes that normally only big manufacturers can hope to produce. Erez doesn’t refer to his products as artisanal – he started making fisherman’s pants
well over 14 years ago. That was in Goa, but now he’s in the country where they originated, and he’s continued what he was doing in India.
He’s definitely not bucking any sudden trend. He’s just doing what he’s done for many years. And doing it well. Meet him in person and you’ll find that he’s quite self-effacing. “I’ve worn fisherman’s pants all my life,” he says. “It’s really a way of living. Nobody believes that fisherman’s pants can be good quality. Even Thais doubt this. But they don’t have to be shoddy. If you start with decent materials then it’ll help you to end up with a good product. I’m not re-inventing the wheel, or anything like it.”
If you’ve ever bought a pair of fisherman’s pants before, you probably won’t expect much of them: flimsy materials and unsteady dyes which prompt a question at the back of your mind – how long are these going to last? Your purchases are probably a cheerful nod to your holiday and no more than that. What Erez makes is of a different order. Only if you’re
short-sighted and have no tactile feel in your hands could you think that these are the standard, flimsy pants of a thousand dusty stalls in tourist spots.
Let’s start with the materials themselves. There’s cotton but there’s also hemp and linen; two unlikely candidates for most fisherman’s pants. This makes them stand out and, of course, they’re also remarkably comfortable. There are also plenty of designs. You’ll find embroidered pants that feature animals or maybe swirling patterns, and sometimes a nod to artists – the almost fractal white cap of a Hokusai wave or a Matisse cut-out, bright with colour – along with different places of origin: prints/patterns from Rajasthan, hemp from Nepal and batik from Chiang Mai.
Erez, along with his life-partner Belinda Basa, live in a traditional house in Lamai, close by the sea, and it’s here that they have their store. It’s easily recognizable from the street as the facade is decorated with Tibetan prayer flags. It’s definitely not like going into a usual shop, although all the products are nicely laid out or hanging in racks. It’s quite different. Erez and Belinda also like to cook, bake and offer coffee, and there’s always food and drink available for people dropping in.
There’s no charge for any of this, by the way – the couple simply share the dishes that they make for themselves. And the food’s definitely good, too. Erez appreciates people visiting, he says. “We’re not in the centre of Chaweng so people make an effort to come here, so we like to give something back.” To get to the store, turn off the ring-road and onto the beach road as you head into Lamai from Chaweng, then turn left at the first crossroads. The store is a hundred metres down towards the sea. Opening times are 10:00 am until 7:00 pm daily, except Sundays, when the store’s open from 2:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Outside those times, just give Erez a call.
Many customers also order via his website – he ships fisherman’s pants all round the world via registered post. You can even chat to him online via a special link here. Scroll through the site or browse through the store and you’ll find yourself falling in love with the simplest yet most engaging of clothing – fisherman’s pants.
For further information telephone 0 895 865 263 or 0 623 516 192.