HOW TO DRESS YOURSELF IN A HOT COUNTRY
An introduction to the problem at hand & the danger of the weekly shop.
For most of my life I have worked in, lived in and travelled abroad to hot countries. I have become accustomed to the most extreme of the warm climates; from the arid dust of the desert to the soggy humidity of the Far East. What I am yet to become accustomed to, what I still find perplexing, sometimes shocking, even upsetting is what happens to normally well put together people when they touch down at their holiday destinations.
I am not sure what it is that makes them decide to forgo the basic shorts and t-shirt combo? Why do they become unable to resist the urge to opt for a colour palette loaded with the lurid hues normally reserved for confectionary packaging? A newfound love for animal prints or oversized ‘jazzy’ patterns, often further embellished with the addition of diamantes, pompoms, tassels, or all of the above. Normally this ensemble will be fashioned in such ill-suited synthetic materials that are so hot and sticky that I feel uncomfortable even thinking about them.
And we’re not done…
This assault on the senses would not be complete without the obligatory oversized hat, sandals that are yet to be broken in, and the inexplicable urge to get ‘dressed up’ and put on a full face of makeup to carry out even the most mundane of tasks.
NB: I use the word holiday or vacation loosely because some of the same bizarre decisions can also occur on business trips to warmer climates.
I thought that this phenomenon was almost exclusively reserved for us Brits, and yet after some discussion with my peers I am somewhat relieved to confirm that this is not just another shortcoming of the awkward British traveler and indeed a global issue. Yes, there are some nuances, slight cultural disparities and such, but for the most part this flaw does not seem to discriminate.
It’s hard to establish the exact triggers for these peculiar lapses in judgement, it’s actually reasonably easy to avoid them, but to be able to do this you must first identify your particular violations.
I should also say at this point that these choices are not always mistakes. They can be entirely deliberate, some of us will look back at those holiday photos with fond memories, those carefree days of cutting it loose in Lanzarote, that favourite (sweaty) polyester zebra print, fuchsia plastic bejewelled, kaftan and, that is absolutely fine — you go ahead. Embrace that cover up the size of a tent for 6 people, swoosh those tassels proudly, slay that floppy hat with the huge stuck on faux flowers, and enjoy that crippling waddle to the beach in those thongs (Flip Flops to us Brits). If you are someone that can own these eye-bleeding ensembles — then I tip my hat to you, this bravery should be celebrated. If you are that person, then I cannot help you, you have reached the quantum supremacy of past holiday confidence, there is no need to read on, I salute you…
This is for the rest of us!
So who am I to dish out advice on how other people can dress? What experience do I have in this particular field that qualifies me to offer guidance? Well, a lot. I myself have been a victim of this cruel mistress, I too have made extremely regrettable ‘fun holiday purchases’ and when I have looked back at the snaps (or evidence as I prefer to call it) it has sent such a violent shiver down my spine that I have been forced to deal with the situation head-on. By head-on I mean to remove, delete, eliminate; throw into a flaming bucket of gasoline, expunge into the ether, never to be seen again, so I am sorry to say that at this stage I have very few photos of my good self and am relying heavily on the kindness of my friends to illustrate the problem at hand.
The Supermarket Sweep
We should acknowledge that a large part of the blame can be assigned to retailers, in fact, in my humble opinion supermarkets are especially guilty. I mean think about it; they strategically place giant banners of ‘the perfect couple’ frolicking on a tropical beach in their festive accoutrements.
Your primary objectives were originally cat litter, toilet paper and frozen peas, so it’s pretty easy to see how you could be lured into the fantasy world of white sand and palm trees, how in that setting, that (heavily staged and edited) photo, that gaudy kaftan looks perfect, stylish even, I mean she looks great right?
It’s not long before you’re sucked into the aisles of patterns, colours, beads (seriously pick any embellishment you like, I am pretty confident it will feature) and this ‘quick look’ has escalated to you throwing things into your basket with such blind abandon that you are now staggering around with a mass of leopard, neon, polyester, spandex, unicorn vomit spilling out, thinking how well prepared you have been and how fantastic you will surely look.
Good work! Go you!
See — see how they trick you? It’s evil, pure unadulterated evil.
Some of my most hideous holiday disasters originated in the basket of my weekly shop so it’s fundamentally important you are extra diligent in that particular environment.
There are some extremely basic questioning techniques that you can apply to help you to assess the item/s suitability. This should work in almost any retail location, and can also be referred to when shopping online.
Is it Neon, Pastel, Animal print, Patterned, Embellished, Synthetic, Sheer?
Would you normally consider wearing anything similar to this? A cold weather version if you will…
Do you have the same Features, Physique, Skin tone, Boyfriend as the marketing banners?
Do you sweat and what will happen to the fabric if you do?
Do you wear sunscreen, what will happen when it gets on this item?
How much frolicking do you plan to partake in, is this really the right thing to frolic in?
Do you like walking?
Do you like your feet?
How do you look in hats?
Do you need a hat to protect you from the sun?
How can you pack this hat?
This should help you to expose some of the most common misdemeanours immediately and force you to have a good hard think about what you are contemplating doing before it’s too late.
Does this mean prints and hats and sandals are wrong? Absolutely not, these can all be perfectly chic, flattering and comfortable when considered outside of your manic weekly supermarket expedition.
Does this mean all of these fashion faux pas are as a result of supermarket purchases? Again no, but we have to start somewhere, and as almost all of us will at some point be exposed to the universal danger that is the supermarket it seems as good a place as any…
The perils of humidity.
It’s now rainy season here in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as you may also know it) we have 2 seasons; extremely hot and dry or extremely hot and wet.
Rainy season itself is pretty spectacular. Super dramatic ear skull-splitting thunder, every type of lightning, with only a few seconds between each hit, rain so heavy it’s like being pummelled by millions of wet golf balls, not forgetting the daily flash flooding.
You might think that things would grind to a halt, people would retreat to the safety of their homes and wait it out, but no, not here, everyone just pulls over at the slightest spit of precipitation, puts on their poncho and carries on as normal, albeit slower, in the 3 foot (or so) of water like it’s not even a thing.
So it’s the run-up to the rainy season where the difficulties arise, the humidity can get up into the ’90s, and the pressure whilst you are waiting for the storms to arrive can leave you exhausted, with excruciating pounding headaches, but that’s not the worst of it, not really…maybe the worst thing about this is the total and utter destruction it causes to your appearance.
It’s a hidden adversary, you are unable to see or understand the damage it is likely to cause until you are right in the thick of it and it’s too late to do anything.
It will systematically take apart every single inch of your appearance and turn you into a soggy mass of misery unless you are prepared and that is why I am here.
To help you to avoid this hidden antagonist, to give you the tools you need to fight back.
Are you sitting comfortably because I shall begin…
Let’s start with hair, I used to work with a guy who would joke that he could tell if it was going to rain or not by the state of my hair. I am a naturally curly hair owner so different levels of humidity can have varying effects from the good to the truly horrific. when I left the hotel I had curls, 30 seconds of waiting for a taxi and I now have a huge mass of Sideshow Bob going on, which I could style out with my afro comb of course, if I had one… Or, as I was prepared, I have emergency product stashed somewhere safe… you could also wear a nice hat — you must forward plan in times of extreme humidity!
Yeah YOUR face. If you want the dewy look — this is your moment to shine. Literally, like someone has dunked your face into a vat of oil. I did have makeup on and unbeknown to me (until arriving at my destination) it had become a smeary affair dappled with some remaining traces of blusher, which had slid across my face sideways.
I suggest minimal. Go minimal, anything that is a stain will survive, waterproof mascara always, because it’s practical, and you might need to shed a tear and such like.
Face blotters are amazing, they do exactly what they say on the packet. THEY BLOT YOUR SWEATY SOGGY FACE. Awesome, carry these always.
Wearing any clothing that can show sweat is a definite nono, because even if you don’t sweat, upon stepping outside you become immediately veiled in a mist of pollution from head to toe, meaning you are now wet.
If you are wearing anything light in colour you have failed so hard because not only will it start to go transparent, but this humidity is actually filthy so then you get gross tide marks everywhere.
There was an excellent example of this sort of faux pas from a man waiting for a taxi in front of me wearing what I would imagine from the sleeves was a pale blue shirt, only the back was sort of a soggy darker soaking wet shade of pale blue *vom*.
Don’t wear tight clothes — are you mad? Do you really want that sticky, sweaty, filth attached to your skin? Don’t wear smart clothes, suits — what?
Be PRACTICAL PEOPLE!!
Style out that casual look, it’s ok!
NB. This does not give you carte blanche to break out your Aztec harem pants, we are not in Bali, and shorts can be a really bad idea sadly — see below — MOSQUITOS.
Sports luxe is de rigueur anyway, so use it, destroy it, this is the clothing choice for winning at humidity. #winning #sportsluxe #athleisure #fuckyouhumidity
There are mosquitos everywhere. Making even simple tasks more complicated. (again forward planning) Going to the toilet requires industrial-strength mosquito repellant, a swotter, bravery and cunning to escape unscathed, because let’s face it being savaged by mosquitos is not a pretty sight.
I found out a few years back that if you know there is a/some mosquito/s in a room all is not lost, no need to suffer in silence. Go in unload a fuck tonne of repellant, and I mean a FUCK TONNE, then turn off the light (you don’t want to attract any more) and shut the door. When you return you will find the nasty little pests, and you will find them DEAD on the floor. (or if you have some very resilient ones, dying, so unload some more poison and close the door again) Brutal yes I know, but bites are unsightly, and this is all for vanity’s sake.
Always carry an umbrella, and pray that soon there will be rain. Here it is generally raining, or humid, so as it’s humid, chances are there will soon be rain.
If you don’t like being hot, then you’re fucked.
I am joking, well kind of. Get an atomiser spray, and wait for your friends to totally rip the piss out of you, but then whilst their hot sweaty faces are mocking you, you can spritz yourself with the water spray that you oh so cleverly kept in the fridge so it’s ice-cold, and do the ‘fuck you I win’ dance whist you are spritzing.
Flip flops, pool slides, or shoes that won’t be destroyed by constant moisture, and won’t rub your hot swollen sweaty feet. Even your most comfy shoes will have a tendency to rub in these conditions. NB: Great for breaking in new shoes if you can bare it though esp. converse etc.
Don’t wear socks — are you stupid — seriously — NO SOCKS!
Wet wipes, always, just because. Tissues always, just because.
A large cotton scarf and or some sort of jacket/cardigan — ideally cotton/linen/something natural that won’t make you sweat even more.
Why? You know why, this is a hot country, so this means anywhere inside will be air-conditioned to sub-zero temperatures. They asked me why I didn’t have the air con on in the sample room. I explained that it wasn’t that hot and it was ok. They replied ‘but you are from England, it’s cold there’ erm…
Yeah. Anyway, I digress, I have a nice big cotton madras check scarf (well actually it’s a loincloth I got in the airport in Chennai/Madras because I didn’t have time to get an actual proper scarf, but that’s between us) and it’s a lifesaver it has been a blanket, scarf, comforter and most importantly excellent disguise. I would highly recommend everyone carrying a giant cotton loincloth (scarf) it will save you in many different situations and surely rescue you from fashion disaster.