Associate professor, PhD at the Department of Diplomatic Service and 
Communication of the Faculty of International Relation of YSU, YEREVAN 

Basic Rule #3: Clothes can also unmake the man 

Black tie, green tails. It was a very proper black-tie affair in Australia’s capital of Canberra. In a sea of ebony dinner jackets and starchy white shirtfronts bobbed a small riot of color – namely, the U.S. ambassador clad in dazzling pea green sports coat and multihued plaid trousers. Why, the ambassador’s wife asked plaintively, do these Aussies gape at us every time we show up at one of their fancy-dress receptions?

Wherever you are, what you wear among strangers should not look strange to them. Which does not mean, "When in Morocco wear djellabas,” etc. It means wear what you look natural in – and know how to wear – that also fits in with your surroundings.

For example, a woman dressed in a tailored suit, even with high heels and flowery blouse, looks startlingly masculine in a country full of diaphanous saris. More appropriate, then, is a silky, loose-fitting dress in a bright color – as opposed to blue serge or banker’s grey.

In downtown Nairobi, a safari jacket looks as out of place as in London. With a few exceptions (where the weather is just too steamy for it), the general rule everywhere is that for business, for eating out, even for visiting people at home, you should be very buttoned up: conservative suit and tie for men, dress or skirt-suit for women. To be left in the closet until you go on an outdoor sight-seeing trek:

• jeans, however haute couture

• jogging shoes

• tennis and T-shirts

• tight-fitting sweaters (women)

• open-to-the-navel shirts (men)

• funny hats (both)

Where you can loosen up, it is best to do it the way the indigenes do. In the Philippines men wear the barong tagalong – a loose, frilly, usually white or cream-colored shirt with tails out, no jacket or tie. In tropical Latin American countries the counterpart to the barong is called a guayabera and, except for formal occasions, is acceptable business attire. In Indonesia they wear batiks – brightly patterned shirts that go tieless and jacketless everywhere. In Thailand the same is true for the collarless Thai silk shirt. In Japan dress is at least as formal as in Europe (dark suit and tie for a man, business suit or tailored dress for a woman) except at country inns (called ryokans), where even big city corporations sometimes hold meetings. Here you are expected to wear a kimono. Not to daytime meetings but to dinner, no matter how formal. (Don’t worry – the inn always provides the kimono.)

One thing you notice wherever you go is that polyester is the mark of the tourist. The less drip-dry you are, the more you look as if you have come to do serious business, even if it means multiple dry-cleaning bills along the way.

Take it off or put it on – depending

What you do or do not wear can be worse than bad taste – ranging from insulting to unhygienic to positively sinful. Shoes are among the biggest offenders in the East, even if you wear a 5AAA. They are forbidden within Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples. Never wear them in Japanese homes or restaurants unless the owner insists, and in Indian and Indonesian homes, if the host goes shoeless, do likewise. And wherever you take your shoes off, remember to place them neatly together facing the door you came in. This is particularly important in Japan.

In certain conservative Arab countries, the price for wearing the wrong thing can hurt more than feelings. Mullahs have been known to give a sharp whack with their walking sticks to any woman whom they consider immodestly dressed. Even at American-style hotels there, do not wear shorts, skirts above the knee, sleeveless blouses, or low necklines – much less a bikini at the pool.
1184 reads | 06.03.2014

Copyright © 2018 tel.: +37491206460, +37499409028 e-mail: