Posted January 11, 2019 from Kenya


A true story by Simon Kahoko Mureu

When my father saw me he began to laugh. “I have always warned you against those bell-bottoms but you would not listen. Pride always comes before a fall,” he continued amid laughter.

I looked at my soleless shoes, my tattered bell-bottom and dusted body and felt ashamed. If my father knew I had escaped death narrowly, he would not continue laughing at me.


I passed my father and entered my small ‘cube.’ I now took a closer look at my trouser. It was irreparable. Whom could I blame for the mess, except my pride?


I had been introduced to bell-bottoms in mid-1970s by a nephew who was then a student at Thika High School. When I first saw him in a bell-bottom, I could not recognize him. He looked slim and tall. His trouser was tight around the waist but very wide at the bottom. It stretched above the waist to cover the whole stomach. “How much did it cost you?” I asked him even before I greeted him.


When he told me the cost was not high in Nairobi, I determined to own a pair. I saved all the money I got from my tomatoes and in three weeks I was ready to own a bell-bottom. My nephew took me to where I would get a pair inexpensively. I also bought a chain with a cross with a figure eight on top of the cross. I did not know the meaning of such a cross until many years later when did research on Satanism.


As we walked in Nairobi, I discovered many young men had bell-bottoms. I felt proud to know that in a short time I would be like one of the city fellows. After buying a bell-bottom I also bought a platform pair of shoes. My nephew taught me how to dance ‘kung fu’’ and told me it would match my new attire.


I now felt equipped to move out displaying myself. When I found out that people were getting moved by fashion I became so boastful that I even stopped teaching Sunday school. I joined naughty boys and we moved in groups at night going to bars to dance the juke boxes.

‘Kung fu,’ a popular dance, required one to choose a partner to bump against. The craze went and middle aged men joined it. Young house-wives who had no chance of going where they would join others bumped against chairs and tables in their homes.


In our village, we formed a dancing group and identified ourselves by calling every member of the group ‘kinga’ng’I,’ crocodile. The aim of a dancing club was to dance during inter-village competitions.


One time a friend of mine invited me to a farewell party in Ngara, Nairobi. In the party we danced for a long time. At around mid-night a young man missed a step and stepped on my bell- bottom. Instead of apologizing he stated that he was not ready to be bossed over by a person from ‘uchagu,’ an area outside Nairobi. I at once jumped on him and held his neck with my two hands threatening to strangle him. As we struggled someone hit me on the head and another kicked me from behind. I let go of the man’s neck. “Stop boasting with your dirty bell-bottoms,” the man I had wanted to strangle told me.


Another time we were invited to a circumcision ceremony at Thigiu, a village near Limuru. We were to arrive at Thigiu a day before the ceremony so as to dance throughout the night. On the way, we came to the railway line and found a cart used by the railway staff to repair the railway line. We agreed to use it and instead of going to Thigiu went to Dagoretti. We climbed on and two of our strong men pushed the cart until it gathered  speed and they jumped in. We passed by the house of the railway master. When he saw us he was very surprised. He waved us to stop but I wave him back with a red flag I had found in the card and others wave  him with their  wide brimmed straw hats. The card sped on and we sang the cowboys’ songs as we had heard them in films.


We seemed to be enjoying ourselves as we passed through villages displaying our trousers, bats and high-heeled shoes. Just before we reached Dagoretti, the cart moved faster because there is a gradual slope. Then we heard a train hoot. It was the cargo train heading to our direction! Our songs that cowboys never die dried on our lips as we saw death face to face. Just before the head on corision, a boy gave a strong push to our cart that made that made it fa11 to the side throwing us against hard rocks and railway line chips. We began rolling down the slope. When 1 stopped rolling I looked at my torn bell-bottom and my soleless shoes. But I did not have much time to access the damage before I beard the train come to a halt. I did not want to be arrested so I ran as fast as I could through bushes until I arrived home. It is at this time that my father began laughing at me.


I was still disturbed because I did not know what had happened to my friends. I was relieved some days later when I learned that none had been badly hurt or arrested.


Three days after the day we almost corrided with a cargo train a preacher preached against the bell-bottoms at Gitaru market. He said the bell-bottoms were used to hide bhang and other drugs. On that day I resolved never to buy any other bell- bottom. From that time I never hurry to buy a new fashion.



Now as a born again Christian, I know there are fashions that the devil uses to make people boastful as my bell-bottoms did. Again, I remember in the craze for fashion I used a neck-chain; yet it was a symbol for devil worshiping. I remember our Lord saying that we should not worry over what to wear because God will take care of us as He takes care of the lilies, making them more beautiful than King Solomon in all his splendor (Matthew 6:28- 30). God can make His people presentable without them rushing for any fashion that comes to the market.

i BELIEVE MANY WOMEN WIL life a good free life if they free themselves from fashion  enslavement.



 Chaplain and writer living in rural Kenya


This story was submitted in response to A World Free of Violence.

Comments 3

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Jill Langhus
Jan 11, 2019
Jan 11, 2019

Hi Simon,

Thanks for sharing your informative post. I don't agree, however, that what a woman wears is a symbol of devil worshiping or that women won't be free until they are free from fashion enslavement either. Instead, I believe that every woman has a right to wear whatever she pleases, too. It should not be governed by anyone else, and should not be regulated by fear of something either.

Tamarack Verrall
Jan 12, 2019
Jan 12, 2019

Hi Simon,
Jill has made an important point. Your story jumps from how a young man - you? - twisted the meaning and use of the bell bottom fashion, to a "tough guy" trouble-making style, with life decisions that almost led to death. You also mention a chain necklace with a figure 8 as a sign of "devil worshipping". Your conclusion is that women need to free ourselves from fashion enslavement, and included in your message is to turn from "devil worship" to Christianity.
Although I am glad that you challenged yourself to make changes in how you led your life, I want to add that wearing bell bottoms in my life (and I wore them happily in the 1960's to 1970's here) were a fashion popular among young people creating a peace movement. The meaning of the "figure 8" symbol is a symbol used in religions that exist and predate Christianity, a symbol representing infinity. I would hope that here we can learn some each other and appreciate all religions that bring peace and call on us in many different ways to be our best selves.
As a man you are in a position to speak directly with other men to change the behaviour of judging women for whatever we choose to do. We all make mistakes, but respect is necessary for us to become a more loving human family.

Jan 20, 2019
Jan 20, 2019

Thank you to you both and I take the comments seriuossly