Outfit Streaks

31 Mar 2003

I overheard a comment from a female student to a male student before class last week: “Hey, you finally changed clothes!” I didn’t want to laugh, but I was just totally cracking up inside. It was one of those “totally China” moments.

So what’s the deal? Put simply, Chinese people often wear the same outfit for several days in a row. At first I found it strange, but before long, I was adapting to this aspect of culture. Allow me to demonstrate pictorially:

clothinginchina

Clearly, this is not a cleanliness issue. Americans frequently wear an outfit for one day, then put it away, “clean,” ready to wear again some day in the undefined, not-overly-soon future. Why can’t we just keep wearing the same outift? Cultural programming. If we wear the same outfit for several days in a row, people might think that we don’t actually have a huge wardrobe. People might think we’re poor! Even if we were to have only 5 outfits, we would cycle them meticulously.

But in China you can wear the same thing for several days in a row, and it’s cool. No one will really look down on you for it (although they might comment if you overdo it).

I kinda like this, being free of a cultural chain that, until China, bound me without my knowledge….

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. that not weird or strange at all. Over here in Europe it’s quite normal (unless you’re a reallly snobby, of course, no one wil stop those people from doing it)

  2. It’s weird. In a famous Seinfeld episode Jerry keeps seeing a girl he’s dating in the same outfit. He starts to think that maybe she’s some kind of superhero who always wears the same dress. He tries checking to see if her closet’s full of them.

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