In our more multicultural cities we see a lot of different people from many cultures today, be they tourists, immigrants or students. Sometimes they wear unusual clothing.
Just recently, I saw a bunch of Arabs with white tunics and the red-white headscarfs, some African women in their colourful attire, Indian women with beautiful saris and their men with equally foreign clothes. Muslimic headscarfs and cloaks are not even unusual any more.
Travelling, you meet even more people in their traditional clothes, and not just for special occasions. And most of the time, it looks fantastic! Dark skin goes extremely well with bright colours, lighter brown with the intricate design of saris – the whole thing simply fits together very nicely.
If a white, western person wears these styles, however, it usually looks quite odd, like they dressed up. The most natural thing sighted so far are the Scottish and their way of wearing kilts.
Yet, the other way around has become a natural thing. Western attire is worn by people around the globe; jeans, skirts and t-shirts have become universal. About the only thing that may elicit a chuckle are things like the habit of some arabs to mix their white long tunics with shirts, ties and suit jackets.
I guess this fact is due to the massive export of western culture since colonisation times, by force, movies and business. There are two sides to this: Of course there always is a sort of sadness in seeing another culture soak in or even take over. But if handled properly, it may also enrich and diversify the first culture.
To the people of the exported culture, this does not happen. Unless conventions like way of clothing have not at least partially been assimilated, any member of society following them will stand out. In this case, they might be seen as romantic fanatics, trying to be someone they’re not, and thus be ridiculed and not taken serious.
This I see as a loss for the exporting culture – Western culture in this case. Being an obvious member of it inhibits you from taking over most of other cultures’ traits, while the other way around there are more elements of choice – though, of course, there still is the danger of the new culture taking over completely.
(Yes, I just want to be able to wear a sari or kimono on the streets without funny looks.. :P)