What are you wearing? 5 minute guide to clothes around the world.

Finally I know what I’m wearing!

Being an ignorant is a true blessing. Take for example clothes. My education on this topic ended when I was like 7 years old and since then no new extra nouns were added to my vocabulary. Shockingly for me, for the most part of my life this “wide spectrum of knowledge” was handy enough to move ahead without any trouble but once in a blue moon there was this peculiar moment when I felt like maybe, just maybe I should update my erudition. You know — open my mind for some fresh ideas and add some fancy, adult words like cuff or frock coat. I had this brief moment of enlightenment especially when I went back from Dubai and whenever someone asked me what did I see. And guess what all I could reply? “Lot of turbans and burqas”.

Jesus Christ, let someone slap this idiot in the face.

So because I don’t want you to feel so dumb and ashamed as I did I decided (because “why not?”) to prepare quick, 5 minute guide (for those “lost souls” like me) about clothes around the world and their proper names. This way your vacation stories from now on will sound more believable.

Yes, I won’t be able to cover all of the material (especially religious stuff like epanokalimavkion or cicit) but at least we need to start somewhere, right? And boy, oh boy, believe me when I say there is a shit lot to cover in this short period of time.


Let’s start with my poor experience with Middle East, shall we? You recall that fancy shawl that most women wear? “You mean burqa?”. Nope, I mean hijab, dummy. Those little guys are available in four different versions:

  • shyla —single, colorful version wrapped around the head, falling loosely on the arms,
  • al-amira —yet again single, colorful version covering both face and neck,
  • niqab —a BLACK version covering all the face except the eyes,

and finally

  • khimar — which unveils the whole face but on the other hand covers rest of the body.

Hold your horses! But I don’t see burqa!” — you might yell. So to explain it once and for all — burqa is usually found in Pakistan/Afghanistan and it’s a type of full, blue outfit hiding (to the extreme) all of the body. Simple? You bet! So let’s move on to confusing men’s world.

That “white robe” that sheikhs are wearing is called thawb — or as they say in Syria, Iraq and Kuwait — dishdashah. A mandatory addition (except some oil barrel in one hand and camel in another) is a white/red&white headkerchief known as ghutra or shemag mhadab or kuffiyeh. It can be arranged in many different styles — cobra, butterfly or anything else depending on preferences and fashion. “Do colors matter?” Hell yeah they do! White is purity and red is patriotism so... “HA! But I saw black&white version! Explain that!” — I can hear you laughing out loud. My little grasshopper —this version is a sign of freedom and a special pattern widespread by Palestine (and especially by Yasser Arafat) so I hope this answers your doubts. Not a mainstream but you should respect it just the same way as others.

Moving on — maybe you want to buy tunics or as rich people say — bisht? Good luck getting this in Morocco where it is called djellaba (not to confuse with summer, doh, edition — gandora — with specific, vertical lines) yet at the same time in Africa it is known by name boubou. Did I say boubou? Excuse me as it is quite popular to also call it agbada, babariga, darra’a or k’sa. Easy mistake, right? Oh, but don’t get too confused and don’t worry too much as in Egypt you may also say gallabya and they will certainly know what you need .

Side note: did you know this piece of cloth should come included with hat know as tagiyah — looking like upside down bowl for cereal — which in India is known as topi, in Bangladesh as tupi but in USA as kufi?

Side side note: I have to admit that we live in a pretty, messy world where one piece of cloth can have so wide range of synonyms.


Speaking of mess— I was lucky enough to overhear in planes (by accident, but of course) some of the craziest conversations by people as ignorant as me so let’s jump right away to some of the most popular mistakes and explain them once and for all:

  • “Hindu underskirt” is known as sari (or seree orcheera) and “that red laser tag” on their head is bindi (BTW it it related to ajna — sixth chakra or third eye connected to energy); “white, kickass jacket” is called mundu and trousers worn by Hare Krishna — dhoti.
  • Asians don’t work in “samurai straw hat” but dǒulì or — as they say in Vietnam — nón ła.
  • Korean women don’t wear “festival dress” but hanbok and, for the love of god, Chinese girls don’t use kimono (it’s Japanese!) but rather hanfu. And that “funny pijama” you like to make fun of? It might be Bhutan’s suit known as gho.
  • Austrian “sexy outfit” is known as tracht — women wear dirndls and men — lederhosen — Spanish matador is equipped with traje de luces and Dutchmen’ wooden shoes are called clogs.
  • Turkish “red, monkey hat” is called fez, African people wear dashiki and in Mexico we can find not “Spaghetti movie outfit” but sombrero, poncho and huipil.
  • And for the last time — don’t assume your taxi driver was a terrorist. That turban might belong to Punjabi (very friendly and peaceful people) believing in Sikhism. Oh, and to be clear — it’s not turban but pagri.

Shit gets intense when we look at Asia. Take for example Tajikistan’, floral, hand made gown, full of red color (element of happiness and joy in life). This suit can be mentioned by many names — chakan, atlas, chitakov or gulduzi; on Maldives similar, bright outfit is called libas, Tripuri people will likely to call it sa (for upper half of the body) or rikutu (for lower part of the body) but Rajasthan people will on the other hand say it is ghagra.

You know what? Screw it. Maybe after all it is better to be an ignorant? At least I have slight idea how to call my underwear. And that’s good enough.