Practicality, politeness or pure tradition, there are many things people do to and with their clothes to signal a certain social or personal moment or position. These cues are done in a variety of ways and for different reasons (both imposed and optional) and can be confusing to someone who is not familiar with them.
Having a good understanding of fashion-related habits, you can have a better grasp of the world and a better understanding of the people surrounding you. Of course, not all people from these countries respect these customs, but, it’s good to know them if you see them. This way, you will make sure you will avoid a cross-cultural faux-pas.
Here is a list of interesting clothing-related customs from around the world.
In Israel, a birthday child wears a crown made from leaves or flowers and sits in a chair that is decorated in streamers. The people who celebrate his birthday dance and sing and the parents lift the chair while the child sits in it.
In India, it is common for children to get new clothes on their birthday. As a sign of respect, the child usually knees and touches the feet of his parents.
In China, it is common for a bride to pick not one, but three wedding dresses. The first one is the quipao or cheongsam, which is a traditional garment that is slim fitting and that is generally made red for weddings, as red is a lucky color in Chinese culture. The second dress might be a classic ball gown that is the same as Westerners wear and, thirdly, the bride wears a cocktail dress or a gown of her color of choice.
When it comes to business, while the universal uniform for men remains the suit, in China, Japan, Russia, India and most of the Middle East, women are expected to keep their knees and elbows covered and to wear butting shirts up right to the collar.
Moreover, a woman wearing pants in a business environment in Japan or most parts of the Middle East is not encouraged and cleavage is a big no-no as well, even at parties organized by the business. Also, women are expected to wear black, white and nudes and not be too colorful.
On the other hand, in Latin American countries such as Argentina, brightly colored outfits are considered the norm for women.
Also, in this part of the world, as well as in Western Europe, it’s totally fine with women wearing pants to work.
In Academia, as well as in other similar contexts, it is generally accepted for men to keep their hands in their pockets in the US, while in Europe, it is expected to keep them out. In some parts of Europe, such as the former Eastern Bloc, keeping your hands in your pockets while holding a lecture or a presentation is even seen as rude.
While Europe doesn’t have much of a dress code, it is important to know that when you are visiting religious places such as churches, temples like the Pantheon or the Vatican, it is important to dress up modestly. Both men and women are expected to have their shoulders covered and to wear long pants in the case of men and long or knee-high skirts in the case of women. Never wear shorts, a mini skirt or a tank top.
In Japan, as well as other countries such as Korea, it is a very well-known habit that you need to take your shoes off upon entering someone’s home. This practice is even extended to some restaurants, hotels and other similar semi-public places.
Fashion is something that influences almost every aspect of our lives: from business to personal relations and having a good understanding of the ways in which we use fashion will ensure you that you will be navigating easier through the world.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. We want to hear from you! What is a habit that is specific to your country or culture? What customs do you follow? What experiences have you had with fashion-related traditions? Share your feedback, questions or thoughts in the comments below! For more articles on style, fashion tips and cultural insights, you can subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!