Last week, we talked about the dignity of food culture with tips from Anthony Bourdain.
This week, we’ll discuss another topic within the same theme of cultural fundamentals: clothing.
Grouped together with food, shelter, and transport, clothing is one of the 10 Cultural Universals.
It’s easy to understand why.
Clothing viscerally represents culture in a way that’s often traditional, fashionable, and practical, all at once.
Clothing tradition also evolves with the times, as we’ll discuss in the section below, entitled “Cultural Clothing Movements.”
In many parts of the world, traditional clothing has gone by the wayside, traded in for modern Western clothing.
Or, in some cases, traditional dress is worn only for special occasions, like births, weddings, funerals, or other big life events.
In some parts of the world, however, traditional clothing is still everyday wear.
For instance, it is not uncommon to see the Newar people of Nepal wearing traditional woven clothing in everyday life.
Women’s dress is called Kurta Suruwal and includes a patterned blouse, covered by a draped scarf, and loose pants cinched around the ankles.
If married, women also wear Tika – a red powder – on the browline of their forehead.
Many Nepali men, on the other hand, have transitioned to Western wear. It’s more common to see men wearing jeans and t-shirts or button-ups than it is to see them in traditional garb.
In this way, some part of Nepali culture has moved away from the traditional to what might be considered modern fashion.
Cultural Clothing Movements
Sometimes, culture evolves as social freedoms do. Often, it takes a movement to progress these changes.
For instance, in the case of forced hijab in Iran.
For nearly forty years, Iranian social codes have obliged women to wear the hijab in public. This has been Iranian law since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
But recently, with the help of social media, widespread protest of forced hijab has compelled some to shed or revolt against this cultural tradition.
This protest is not a complete rejection of the tradition or the hijab, itself. Rather, many believe it should be a woman’s right to choose whether she wears the hijab or not.
Masih Alinejad is one of the advocates driving this movement for social change. Alinejad started a Facebook page in 2014 called My Stealthy Freedom, in which she posts pics of Iranian women out in public, removing their hijabs.
While the regime has cracked down on the revolt, the campaign for freeing women of forced hijab is going strong and may just result in a cultural clothing revolution.
This is how clothing traditions evolve and how culture, inevitably, changes.