Thursday, April 29, 2010

What to Wear in the Green Hills of Africa

And now for my relevant post on men's business casual attire in Africa, yes please! I know you have all been waiting for this and yes it has been a long time coming but it is finally here! So, you are going to Africa. First off all, learn French, you will need it. Second, read The Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway. You might also try Going Solo by Roald Dahl and while you are at it, you may as well read the prequel Boy: Tales of Childhood. I'm also going to recommend that you watch African Queen and possibly a certain guilty pleasure of mine titled, The Ghost and the Darkness. 

Now that we've taken care of our minds, we can begin to look at the body and how one might dress it for their time in Africa. Something to remember about location appropriate clothing is that you often won't know how to dress until you arrive there. It may be difficult to measure your level of comfort in your clothes when you are not immersed in the environment you will be wearing them in. Also, it may be hard to obtain the style of clothing that you need in your area, depending on how different it is from your destination. So, plan on spending some money on clothes when you arrive, believe me you will feel much more comfortable after you have done this, it helps you to blend in, even if you are mixing and matching local clothes with foreign ones. The good news about Africa is that the locals pretty much do the same. Many people there wear western style clothes (i.e. jeans and a t-shirt). Some of them mix and match western clothes with more traditional African clothes. Obviously, we are talking business casual here so we don't want you running around in jeans and t-shirt even if that is what the locals wear. Still it might be helpful to have a picture of the general population.

This picture was taken in Cameroon after church services. You may note that the women are wearing below the knee garments, this is because the upper leg is considered to be a very sexual part of the body and it is not to be exposed. You can also see here that there does seem to be a mix of western and traditional wear. I am enjoying the lovely prints scattered about this group.

This photo was also taken in Cameroon. These outfits are looking pretty business causal to me. From the pictures I have seen the men seem to dress in varying degrees. Some of them wear loose, short sleeve, button up shirts with slacks. Some of the men wear sandals with their outfits. Some of them wear ties, some wear jackets. In the business culture, however, it seems best to be over-dressed rather than under, so in first time situations I would suggest wearing a jacket, tie and dress shoes, if you feel over-dressed you can always take your jacket off. I read that clothing is important in African culture. It defines status and how you dress for an occasion can express the level of respect you have for the host. At the same time it is important to conform to the societal norms of the community in order to gain trust, so there must be a balance.

One thing I noticed while looking at the pictures of people in Africa is that mostly everyone wears light colors. I think this is an easy way to fit in and it probably advantageous in the heat. Look for pastel button up shirts. It is probably a good idea to have some long sleeves and also some short sleeves, but you can always just roll up the sleeves of a long sleeve. It is a good time to find light colored men's wear, so get shopping! I found these at J. Crew.

Basically, if you are going to Africa and need some business casual men's wear, you need to head over to J. Crew. I hate to say it, but it's true. They have tons of light-weight, light colored men's clothing right now. It is simple, practical, stylish and easy to mix and match. I recommend investing in a nice light colored business suit. You can wear if for when you need to be less casual and you can break it up for more casual wear. Make sure to bring plenty of cotton or linen button down shirts, this will probably be your staple. You'll also want to invest in light weight slacks, again cotton or linen. The pants pictured above are business style and made of linen. I think they would come in very handy. I also like the idea of wear a boating or moccasin style shoe with slacks and no socks. It's casual but not less professional and I think it is a good substitute for the sandal.

When I think of going to Africa, or dream of it rather, I like to imagine that it would be something more like this. Tall boots, large hats, kahkis, open shirts, rifles and nobody around for miles. The phrase "business casual" and Africa may as well be positively charged ions as far as I am concerned... but when I look again at the J. Crew photos above, they really aren't that far off. They just need to get wrinkled and sweaty, unbuttoned and accessorized with gun powder. 

I have been lazy about crediting these photos. If one of them is yours and you would like it to be credited of removed, let me know!

1 comment:

  1. lady, you can visit me in Africa any time :)
    Thank you.


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