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#112 Creating their own Fashion

November 23, 2011

Submitted by AP

When the EAW first steps off the plane, he or she will usually be dressed as if going on a long hiking expedition, with items mostly found at REI.  This fresh-off-the-plane look includes a large Northface backpack, hiking boots, t-shirts, droopy vests, and khaki cargo pants, inspired by Crocodile Dundee and Indiana Jones.  It doesn’t matter if they are in cosmopolitan fashionable cities like Mumbai, Nairobi, or Bangkok, the EAW will always look like he or she is headed for the jungle.

Soon, the EAW will realize that this is ridiculous and impacts the blending in process. So the EAW will graduate to buying local clothing in order to fit in, bonus points if it comes from a local fair trade shop or street market (in the latter case, the EAW can also brag about what a bargain it was and tell a good story about how they haggled for it).  In tropical heat, no EAW wants to wear business clothes to work like their local colleagues, so they aim for fabrics that “breathe” like linen and cotton.

Sometimes this look is pulled off well...

EAWs in Africa will look to the film “Out of Africa” for inspiration, donning a large sun hat, khakis, and white linen shirt.  In fact, EAWs will be so proud of their new creativity in their fashion that they will lament on how they can’t wear such cool and unique pieces at home.

Shawls (a.k.a. pashminas or scarves) are a favorite in any developing country as they can be bought locally and are multi-functional.

photo: courtesy of the author

But what about clothing that is too different, like in South Asia?  Surely an EAW can’t wear a sari daily like their maid or a dhoti like the driver?  No problem, EAWs create their own fashion, wearing Ali baba pants, bindis, a shawl, and linen kurthas so they can kinda dress Indian.

Although the hiking clothing eventually manifests itself into some strange hybrid of east-west clothing, the one thing an EAW will never compromise on is footwear. You can always spot EAWs easily, even if they are dressed like the locals.

This is because EAWs will never wear local shoes.  They maintain that only western shoes were designed with the right balance and comfort for unpaved roads, and will only wear Chacos, Timberlands, Tevas, or some other form of unflattering footwear.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Halima Begum permalink
    December 4, 2011 4:05 am

    Yep – this one made me chuckle. The Ali baba trousers has been upsetting my sensibilities for many years since i was a teenager – the idea of going out in one of these in a local context is the same as going out in your underwear/PJs – and yet the foreign women wanting to blend in haven’t worked it out yet. Not quite the thing to do in conservative countries. Worse, worse, they start exporting the look back to Glastenbury and Womad. It has to stop!

  2. December 7, 2011 8:44 am

    Overcome with

    • February 22, 2013 2:38 pm

      OH! HELP! I was once chided by one of my horde of domestiques for wearing long, full shorts (instead of a short skirt) for my usual Saturday morning run to the telex office. I must ask: which is more discreet?


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