Polish dress code flop

One of the more popular Polish proverbs is: Nie szata zdobi człowieka. English has two equivalents that render more or less the same message: Beauty is only skin deep and Don’t judge a book by its cover. I think the latter better suits the topic I want to bring up. Indeed we shouldn’t judge other people by the clothes they wear, but on the other hand a person’s outfit can speak volumes about them.

To my eye, the role of proper attire is to communicate to the world that you really care and to show respect to people you meet. A proper outfit is not enough though. Last week a new colleague joined a sales team in my department. When he came to my room to be introduced he was impeccably dressed, but as we shook hands he kept the other hand in a pocket and chewed gum. I don’t know whether I was the only one in the room who noticed this gaffe, or if my other colleagues also decided to turn a blind eye to his misbehaviour as I did. Here’s the rub — there are many DOs in savoir-vivre, but to avoid such embarrassing situations it’s sometimes more advisable to focus on the DON’Ts.

The topic of dress code has been widely discussed in recent weeks as Poland was plagued by a heat wave and many office workers had to resist the temptation to break the dress code rules they normally strictly abide by. High temperatures put us to the test, and not everyone passes. The hotter it is, the more likely Poles are to slip up when choosing what to wear.

I decided to write about men’s fashion only. After the heat wave and all the sensations it involved I now have no reservations about women’s outfits, although actually it’s better to cover more of your body if you want to appear in public. As a witty observer I’ve drawn up a short list of the crimes against dress that men in Poland tend to commit.

1. Wearing sandals with socks is, according to the Polish statistics office, the number one sin committed by Polish men. It is slowly sinking into oblivion, because younger Poles have already realised this combination is horrific and they simply don’t wear them together, so as not to lay themselves open to ridicule.

2. An even more disastrous shriek of inelegance is choosing to wear sandals, socks and a suit. Your chances of seeing this are near zero because Samoobrona has been out of the Polish parliament for three years and is unlikely to come back, but a bad taste remains.

3. A short-sleeve shirt, a tie and a suit — a profanity seen quite frequently in Warsaw in mid-July 2010. To put it simply: if it’s too hot to wear a long-sleeve shirt, it’s also too hot to wear a tie and a jacket. Go to the Polish countryside and you’ll see an enhanced version of this slip-up. Rural lads wear short-sleeved shirts with waistcoats, plus, by dint of their attachment to tradition, they have ironed creases in their sleeves. Below: Polish gentlemen, (in)famous for their elegance in every corner of Europe. Watch out for the paunches and indispensable spare tyres.

4. Even if a Pole wears a suit and a long-sleeve shirt there are still many traps he may fall into. A jacket usually has two or three buttons, but just because someone has sewn them into the jacket doesn’t mean you have to do them all up. This is young Poles’ sin. They won’t put on socks and sandals but they still have problems handling the buttons of their jackets. The general rule is that you don’t fasten the bottom button, no matter how many buttons a jacket has. Please don’t try to stretch this rule to the top button as our model did.

5. Even if the footwear is matched properly, only the right buttons are done up and your attire is beyond reproach there’s still some room for making gaffes when you have to choose what to carry your stuff around in. I wouldn’t advise you to use a shopping bag, which is fortunately infrequently seen, but it’s not a great challenge to find a Pole wearing a suit with a rucksack on his back. I have nothing against rucksacks and, if you dress casually, they can prove capacious and convenient, but if your dress code is ‘business casual’ or higher, please leave the rucksack in your closet and invest in a briefcase.

6. Move a level higher from ‘business casual’ and you encounter ‘business informal’. No matter how not formal it sounds, this code involves wearing a tie (so forget about short-sleeved shirts!). The tie is a symbol of elegance, but many men feel sick at the mere thought of knotting it. Length matters – the biggest plague I have noticed are ties that are too short, their ends not even reaching the belt. Another affliction all the rage these days in Warsaw are narrow ties, so called śledź (literally: herring) ones – they make a nice element of party-time dressing, but don’t seem suitable (at least to me) for official meetings…

7. Show me your shoes and I’ll tell you who you are. Footwear reflects upon a man and, regrettably, the sight of dirty (usually soiled with mud) or totally worn-out shoes worn together with classy clothes is not uncommon in Poland. There is also another remarkable issue about elegant shoes. No matter whether the temperature is -15C or +30C a Pole will wear the same pair of elegant shoes. I am one of a small number of weirdos who have three pairs of elegant shoes – insulated winter ones, normal ones (for warm winter, cool summer, typical spring and autumn) and ventilated summer ones. If I wore only one pair, my feet would get cold in the winter and sweat in summer. I suppose few men have the same problem, or few men admit they suffer from it, because shoemakers rarely distinguish between “winter”, “summer” and “in-between” shoes. Actually it took me a lot of shopping around to find shoes suitable for extremes of weather.

8. Patent leather shoes—once deemed to be a symbol of elegance and these days a bit of a way of showing off your alleged importance. Acceptable, as long as worn with a good quality, dark suit; unacceptable if combined with worn-out denim trousers.

For sure this short list could be supplemented with several other examples of blatant dress code violations. At this point I’ll finish the hapless litany and leave the floor (or keyboard) to the witty and observant readers of Polandian.

Rather than summing up what I’ve written, I’ll illustrate it with a picture – a model example of how (not) to dress. Feel free to copy it and paste it anywhere on the Internet, don’t hesitate to print it out and put it up in a public place. If it helps one person to avoid a slip-up, it will have been worth the effort.

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59 thoughts on “Polish dress code flop

  1. I knew it was a Pole who had written this post as I read it, before I saw your name Bartek! :-D Especially when mentioning having several pair of shoes.

    Hm, I agree to some of this, but cannot say I find following dress code (strictly) important. You would be terrified to see how people dress in Sweden, where we have a very laid back atittude to this. Here are my comments:

    I agree to no. 1, and would forgive no. 2 because I would assume something terrible had happened to the original shoes and that the sandals were an emergency solution.

    No. 3, why struggle with a tie if you don’t have to?

    No 4, now this is picking on details. If it had been the trouser button instead… ;)

    No. 5 is one I do not agree with. To me, it depends on how the rucksack looks like. A colorful rucksack, like the once kids use to school, is not appropiate. However, a black or discrete colored rucksack like the one in the picture would be perfectly fine with me. I travel to conferences a lot, and it is not good for your back to carry heavy things including your laptop in a briefcase (or my case as female, in a nice bag). Rucksacks are ok, as long as they don’t look too casual.

    I tend to accept the śledź ties in no. 6 and other odd tie models as a way to express yourself. I don’t think men have to be perfect copies of each other when dressing for business. It might not look great, but it would still be nice to have a little variation in men’s outfits.

    I like the description in No. 7. It is convienient to have different kinds of shoes, and I have no idea why so many men haven’t noticed yet.
    No 8. reminds me of Poirot. :)

  2. siudol says:

    Wearing sandals with socks? Never! A big No-No. However, I often wear socks with flip-flops. That should be fine, right? But you won’t believe how much stick I get for that from all the fashion purists. For the life of me I don’t understand why. And if the socks are black, for some reason the crime is even worse.

  3. I hope that Poles don’t succumb to the Eurosheep blandness of Western Europeans in general and Brits in particular and stop wearing their trademark sandals with socks. I remember my uncle from Katowice, an artist, who forbid his students from wearing sandals to art class, proudly wearing his socks and sandals all year round. It is an identifying feature, a way of meeting another Pole in a faraway land, like the famous newspaper hats on the beach. Because of that classic Polish style, I had the fortune of running into an interesting Polish philosopher at a nudist beach on Cape Cod, and another Pole on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, who became my boss and benefactor back in Washington, DC. Poles, please don’t succumb to the dictates of the fashion police! Wear your sandals and socks with pride!

  4. bob says:

    Good one Bartek.

    I had a guy working for me in Poland in 1991 (as a senior director). He had the most god awful suits and shirts that I gave him a couple of US C notes (which was a lot of money back then) to buy 2 suits, some shirts and ties. He bought a blue suit and a green suit. And over the next year that is all he wore suitwise. He would be creative and wear the green suit pants with the blue jacket and vice versa. A freshly laundered shirt would be worn on Monday and be worn all week. By Friday it was rank and had blood stains all over the collar from shaving nicks.

    The next year I had a sit-down with him and gave him a fashion critique – some improvement but still looked like a guy from the wies. As they say you can take a burak out of the wies but never the wies out of the burak.

  5. adthelad says:

    Sure, beauty is only skin deep etc but clothes are a totally different matter .Actually, I believe that none of the quotes you gave are appropriate to the Poish one. The antithesis of the quote you gave is more revealing and highlights why perhaps the best suits are made by the British and the Italians. Remember this quote and remember it well (I believe it was Mark Twin that coined it) and it’s ‘Clothes maketh the man’.
    Many a fine actor has confirmed that the place to start when building a character is from the shoes – after that all falls into place:) How you dress affects the way you behave and consequently how people perceive you.

  6. I will give up my North Face backpack when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

  7. Fisz i Czips says:

    Yeah, tons of people wear backpacks to the office in the City. When you look at the people streaming across London Bridge in the morning you’ll see what I mean.

  8. Bartek says:

    Yes, Island1 had two pairs of shoes and then he got married…

    2. Sandals = an emergency solution? Something would have to happen to several pairs of shoes if sandals were to be the last resort…

    3. I’d ask the same question.

    4.To translate another Polish proverb “the devil sticks in details” ;)

    Regarding other comments, I don’t argue, there’s no accounting for taste.

  9. Bartek says:

    Look at the thumbnail pic – do you think white socks and KUBOTA flip-flops look parutcularly well?

  10. Bartek says:

    In early 90’s a real plague were patent leather shoes + white socks + too short trouser legs laying bare hairy legs. Or maybe it was a legend – I’m too young to remember beginnings of Polish capitalism well :)

    Your senior director was a walking fahion disaster. Thank God this doesn’t happen today. And colourful suits are no longer in fashion. I can’t imagine any of my collaegues at work wearing a green or blue suit.

    Five years ago my friends from Germany wanted to foist upon me (for free) a green suit which, according to them, should suit well my father. I bent over backwards to shy away from taking it and eventually didn’t bring it to Poland. Than I regretted – I could have sold it for a song via Allegro to a weird fashion freak.

    PS. How to translate aptly and amusingly Polish concepts of wieś and burak into English?

  11. Bartek says:

    I know many women who judge the men by the shoes they wear, this is why I find footwear a particluarly important element of one’s outfit. First impression often depends of shoes. Good point. Plus how you dress often affects your self-confidence!

  12. island1 says:

    My pet hate is the light-grey shiny suit—some of them are shiny to the point of looking metallic. I saw a groom the other day who looked like he was wrapped in baking foil.

  13. Cosi says:

    I second Basia. Western Europeans used to wear much weirder clothing without any shame. In Poland at least that’s strongly condemned.
    What I hate is “Japanese” flip-flops worn as if they were elegant footwear – even in official situations.

  14. Point Seven. Muddy shoes. This is Warsaw, goddammit man! I cannot walk from my house to the station without having to go ankle-deep in puddles, slosh through sloughs of muddy despond or tramp along verges of unmown grass. MRS HGW: WHERE’S THE EFFING PAVEMENT?

    I have five identical pairs of lace-up shoes by Loake Brothers of Northampton (three black, two brown), the perfect English gentleman’s shoe. With Dainite soles they withstand the rubbish that suburban Warsaw’s unpaved streets can throw at them. They don’t need too much maintenance, and Pan Heniek the cobbler is actually delighted to be called upon to work on such shoes when the heels wear down.

    Why can’t Poland’s shoemakers create the equivalent? Robust yet timelessly elegant (neither blunt-toed nor pointy-toed) comfortable, made from the finest leathers. Why is it I have to buy decent shoes in London?

  15. What’s interesting about #4 – rucksack, is that you will see quite a number of young men in Manhattan wearing them. I find it goofy, but my wife’s theory is that young American students wear rucksacks to carry their immense load of books to class, and just got used to using them.

  16. island1 says:

    wieś = in the sticks
    burak = bumpkin (or ‘country bumpkin)

  17. island1 says:

    Women do not judge men by their shoes, women judge men by how they think about their shoes. If you genuinely don’t care, your choice of shoe is irrelevant. If you genuinely do care and your shoes are bad, you’re in trouble.

  18. island1 says:

    Ah yes, the repairable shoe. Signing up to the idea of the disposable shoe was the stupidest thing we ever did.

  19. odrzut says:

    I am so glad there is no dress code in my company.

    I pity those classy, city people dripping in theirs ties and suits when I cycle in short trousers and t-shirt to work.

    I remember to not mix sandals and socks, although nobody ever said me why it is so strong rule, and sometimes it would be comfortable to wear them together. Apparently people will be shocked if I break that rule, so, being good citizen, I obey. But some explanation other than “it is wrong” would be nice.

    It seems to me some people feels better when they can look down on others, so, if that’s your thing, call me a burak from a village. I don’t mind.

    But please, don’t make me wear those uncomfortable, expansive suits all day to maintain proper “image”. That’s just silly.

    And really, what is a tie for? Every other wear has some purpose, even if it suits it not well. But tie? To make it easier to hang you in case of emergency?

  20. siudol says:

    Well said Odrzut. Couldn’t agree more.

    I’ll go further and say this. I like wearing flip-flops but my feet often get cold. So what am I supposed to do? Change for some shoes simply because only then I`m also permitted to wear socks? No, I put socks on and still wear the flip-flops. Much more practical … and comfortable. I’m a proud flip-flops with socks wearer.

    Bartek`s article, in my view, raises an interesting point. How far do we go trying to conform to some unwritten, and sometimes frankly silly rules? If someone wants to wear a badly tied tie, wearing socks and sandals with a rucksack on their back to boot it doesn’t offend my sensibilities. What does bother me however, is when somebody’s clothes, be it a fancy suit with proper shoes or a scruffy t-shirt, have not been washed for a few days, especially in the middle of a summer heat-wave. That however may be a topic for a completely separate discussion.

  21. siudol says:

    They look quite all right to me. A tie, which is just a piece of fabric (serving no practical purpose) hanging off somebody’s neck, looks quite ridiculous to me. Isn’t it just a matter of individual perception, Bartek?

  22. Bartek says:

    Jamie, you’ve just won the translation competition no. 7.5. Bumpkin excellently overlaps the defintion of burak, I had to look for the definition of “in the sticks” (I had never heard it before), but doesn;t fully render the concept of wieś, which is is a mixture of countryside, rural bad customs, backwardness, place full of coarse people, etc. “In the sticks” is more like “back of beyond”.

    Anyone to stand up for Jamie’s idea?

  23. Bartek says:

    There’s no practical purpose and it’s role is to communicate that you care. Plus knotting a tie is considered to be a stressful activity which also requires some sleight. You take trouble to wear a tie and show that you care

  24. Bartek says:

    So someone who doesn’t care and wears anything is better than someone who tries but doesn’t get it right? Maybe indeed true. In the case of the former there’s still a glimmer of hope…

  25. Bartek says:

    I know what you mean. Those shiny suits are all the rage, but in fact are tacky and tasteless.

    If marriage is a piece of cake, why not baking it?

  26. Bartek says:

    Is it an excuse? Maybe indeed the route from your house to W-wa Jeziorki station is much worse than mine to Mysiadło bus stop, but hang on? Do you meet people in town in grubby shoes?

    Identical? So still you’d wear the same pair when it’s +30C and -15C. I know good shoes easily adjust to temperature variations, but so such extent?

    Polish shoes? I bought last year excellent Polish summer shoes in Fashion House (paid 229 PLN on a sale), put them on a few times in the spring and wore them for almost a month (excluding last week when it was cool), 11 hours a day and guess what – I had to glue them today. Insulation and comfort of wearing is beyond reproach but quality of leather leaves a lot to be desired. Thank God the effects of glueing are not visible, but after a month and for such a price. Shame on the shoemakers (Conhpol company) and on me – in spite of all their virtues I think I paid over the odds…

    Go shopping to London?

  27. Bartek says:

    Odrzut, where do you work?

    My father used to have a time when he was the most elegant man in a “company” where he worked, but then he got married and went into another extreme and now thinks clothes don’t make the man. There should be a fine balance between elegance and comfort. Both overdressing and underdressing don’t pay off.

  28. Bartek says:

    Good point Siudol – read between the lines. But try to answer the question why we conform to the rules.

  29. siudol says:

    That is the question. Why conform to the rules if we find them silly and impractical? Most people do because we are tribal creatures and want/need to fit in. Luckily some don’t. I don’t want to get too philosophical here and the point may be a bit of a stretch, but where would we be now if guys like Copernicus, Galileo or Darwin simply conformed to the rules of the day and didn’t go out on a limb? Goodness me, I have just made a link between a dress code and science without even realizing it!

  30. odrzut says:

    I’m a programmer, that probably explains everything ;)

    I have no contact with clients, and people I work with wear t-shirts etc, only managers have to wear suits.

  31. siudol says:

    I agree with you, Bartek, but to a degree. We wear ties to show we care on occasion, but in a lot of cases we simply do it to conform. And don’t think I’m such a non-conformist. Sadly, if my company’s dress code requires a tie, I will obediently go through the every morning torture to try to knot that blasted thing, swearing up a storm in the process. However, ask yourself a question. If your company has a strict dress code and a guy shows up for work wearing a potato sack, what do you think of him? I think the guy has balls.

  32. Jubal says:

    Now, Bob, if you weren’t such a buc, you might have better chance to improve your burak.

  33. Jubal says:

    @author: (snotty bitching about someone else’s choice of garments, usually while pretending to be on a mission to improve an overall outlook of Polish population, is one of the most typical and obnoxiously Polish behaviours, also one that I like to deride the most; thank you for providing me an occasion for doing so.)

  34. Bartek says:

    Siudol, usually those dress code are not inhuman. Officially, my company requires “business informal” dress code, in practice as I work in the office only and don’t meet clients my dress code is “business casual”, which means suit trousers and a long-sleeve shirt. I wear a complete suit and a tie only when I have an official meeting with a superior.

  35. Bartek says:

    It’s only the outfit. Much more important is to have courage to have a different opinion and stand up for it. So Copernicus, Galileo or Darwin could dress as everyone but had guts to stand out in a different way.

  36. Bartek says:

    My pleasure Jubal, I;m glad you exercised your right for dissent, but please don’t offend other commentators as you did with bob.

  37. siudol says:

    You just beat me to it, Bartek. I may disagree with you on the topic in hand, but I certainly agree with your response to Jubal.

    Jubal, just because you disagree with someone, doesn’t mean you can be abusive, pal.

  38. siudol says:

    Bartek, you said “usually those dress code are not inhuman.” Well, if someone forces me to wear a thing around my neck, which makes me feel like I’m about to be strung up, I find that inhuman (I may not be a 100% serious here).

  39. Kuba says:

    Most business have a dress code albeit unwritten. Most technicians, programmers etc. were pretty much what they want. However, if they are to attend staff meetings, non technical then there is that dress code. It can be embaressing to them if they are dressed down. And if they are requied to present imformation it does not look good for the leader of that particular group. The one exception I see is Apple they seem to wear jeans in there conferences. But I would be willing to bet if they meet other corporate officers they do the uniform, tie, suit etc.

  40. Steve says:

    Why do we conform to the rules?

    The clothing standard dictatorship is one of the fascinating elements of Polish class attitudes: the sophisticated city dweller versus the worker and peasant. There is absolutely no logic to it beyond the narrow minded need to conform to the expectations of self-styled sophisticates. I was an office worker for over 30 years wearing the suit and tie uniform, but I had no problem with anyone who didn’t: indeed. I preferred not wearing my uniform at the weekends. I had a guy working with me who wore an old British WWII soldier’s jacket who I took along to suit, senior management meetings. He was a bit scared at first and he must have looked strange to others at the meeting, but he was excellent at his job. That’s all that mattered. Only mediocre people have to hide themselves within their aspired position in the class system.

    I have no problem with any of the things you object to. In particular, socks are essential with sandals as I don’t want to see ( or show my) ugly dirty feet, but I understand in extreme heat that this may be too much. When I am told that I look like a worker or peasant, all I say is ‘thank you’. I am pleased not to be tied by Polish class attitudes.

  41. Point 4 – I thought you’d be talking about the second faux pas being modelled by our model. The length of the sleeves! It’s not just Jarek K. who insists that it’s somehow modish to wander around with just the fingertips and second knuckle showing; a suit with correct length sleeves should reveal (with the wearer’s arms at his side) about half an inch – a cm or so – of shirt cuff.

    Point 9, which no one has yet mentioned, is that utterly, utterly ghastly item of clothing – the vest. Wearing a vest under a shirt, its neckline and sleeve line hideously visible, should disqualify a man from ever going to bed with a woman. A vest is useless. Why wear one in winter, when a discrete white t-shirt is more effective at trapping warmth? Wear one in summer and you are weird, have stains around the top of your trousers and are probably interested in young boys..

  42. Bartek says:

    An interesting observation, although I’ve never considered wearing a tie perilous. I don’t mind it

  43. Bartek says:

    Steve, I agree we should let the dress code tyrranise us. But still no matter how good at my work I’d be, I can’t imagine myself wearing jeans trousers and a t-shirt or a jumper when all colleaugues wear suits…

  44. Bartek says:

    According to Polish norms, a shirt cuff should stick out by around 1 centimetre, I’d say half an nich so around 1.3 centimetres would be even better. This problem is not that very frequent, byt when it occurs I think the problems is generated by the length of shirt sleeve, not jacket sleeve. At least as at happens to some of my shirts, my arms are a bit longish plus I have a narrow neck and I learnt to watch out for sleeve length when buying shirts.

    The vest – if visible, I agree it looks hideously, if visible and indeed a white plain t-shirt looks better. I think this is a part of PRL-fashion heritage…

  45. Jubal says:

    Oh, you mean that the nice story that included both (a) use of the word burak (as a description of an subordinate, to boot) and (b) an allusion to the US Bible Belt mentality, coupled with (c) a story about a Good White Master(tm) giving the poor province boy a couple of banknotes, wasn’t a perfect example self-serving bucerka?

  46. Jubal says:

    “a perfect example of self-serving bucerka“, of course.

  47. Jubal says:

    that’s perfectly understandable, the need to conform to the society’s rules and to belong is not that unusual

    on the other hand, it’s also good to know:

    that the rules are arbitrary,
    that there are no fixed rules, really,
    that the customs differ,
    that if you’re thinking yourself an arbiter elegantiarum it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are,
    and that judging people only from the way they dress is just, well, low

  48. Grze$ko says:

    As a person who gets paid for my brains, not my ties I don’t understand your statement: “You take trouble to wear a tie and show that you care”
    Care about what? How?

  49. ut_eagle says:

    Did you come up with all these fashion rules all on your own? Or has a very smart woman trained you well over a number of years?! Seriously, I’m laughing out loud and very impressed that a Polish guy seems to know the fashion rules AND is trying to educate his peers. But I just can’t believe you happened upon these conclusions without a woman’s influence!
    True fact that women judge a man by his shoes. But then we also understand that men just don’t have a clue so there’s grace if he’s otherwise okay!

  50. Bartek says:

    Believe it or not, but no woman has trained me. I did it off my own bat, just to be dressed properly and believe me, outfit is assessed not only by women but also by men.

    The other thing is that women do appreciate when someone knows something about fashion, so maybe that was the incentive to explore the topic.

  51. Bartek says:

    If you think I’m judging people by what they wear and how they match the elements of their outfit, you’re wrong. I never even personally reproach somebody for making any of the gaffes above, but seriously I’d prefer if they didn’t make them.

  52. Name says:

    I actually got a job because of someone’s awful dressing. :-) Well, not completely true, because it was more the over all attitude that went along with the clothes that was the problem.

    There was a Swedish company and a Polish small company that wanted to do business. Unfortunately they run into an awful mess because of some middleman who was just after money. The polish company was near bancruptcy. The owner of the swedish company wanted to try to sort things out and for the first time contacted the polish business man directly. To their first meeting they had found a man to interpret for them. This, in general very incompetent, interpreter shows up dressed in the worst outfit imaginable! Patent leather shoes, shorts, short sleved shirt, braces (to keep the shorts up), and a brightly colored bow tie. I promise I’m not making this up! The businessmen looked at each other and tried not to burst out laughing.

    They relised quickly that the mans translations skills unfortunately were as odd as his clothing, and after phone calls to frinds of friends I was called to come and help out. In the end we did manage to solve the huge problems, and the companies are now getting alog fine. They have successfully been doing business for over 15 years. The owner of the swedish company does not ususally care about how people dress, but he still brings up this incident…

  53. Bartek says:

    That guy’s outfit wasn’t even imaginable. Actually it seems one would have to try very hard to dress that badly.

  54. Dawid says:

    Thankfully the insanity is nearly over – SOCKS WITH SANDALS IS NO LONGER A FASHION CRIME:


    The problem is, we’ve had to wait until “the West” decides it’s OK. Sad but typical.

    Of course thick white socks with black flip-flops or something like that is a horrible sight. But there has been quite a lot of opposition to wearing socks with sandals. People who wear them are ridiculed, usually behind the back, or are given disapproving looks. This is clear in the article linked, whose author seems to be genuinely surprised, and, moreover, seems to be certain that his/her readers are as well. Many people “break the code”, so to speak, but equally many despise that as well, sometimes so fiercely that they become oblivious to other circumstances.

    A couple of weeks ago at a shopping mall I witnessed an encounter between a mother and her somehow mentally handicapped son in the care of his aunt or other female relative (I wasn’t able to find out exactly). He was wearing brown sandals with black socks. Upon seeing that, the mother barely greeted him and instead almost immediately began urging him to take the socks off, saying “Nie będziesz mi tu wsi robił!” and “Co to za przypał skarpetki nosić!” He protested at first, saying that he was more comfortable this way, but in the end he gave in and took them off, revealing dirty feet. His mother, visibly relieved, put the socks into her handbag and off they all went.

    This to me symbolises the mindless opposition to this alleged “fashion crime”. A lot of people ignore the issue of comfort (abrasions or not, feet in sandals must be bare!) and what I would call sightliness (ugly or not, feet in sandals must be bare!), just to appear fashionable, modern and urban. I myself usually wear thin functional socks matching my sandals, but still got disapproving looks from people who haven’t got a clue, but just blindly follow some simplistic fashion tip. Thankfully now some sanity might be restored. Socks with sandals is nothing wrong in itself – all depends on what socks to what sandals.

  55. Leon says:

    I found this blog and your post on it, as well as all the comments, and found it very fascinating because I will be visiting Poland from the USA for my first time next week. Now I am wondering what I shall wear? Well, I would never wear white socks with sandals, thanfully. But we Americans do not tend to dress up quite so much. I will forego the shorts (yes, shorts!) I normally wear to work and wear somewhat dressy slacks (maybe blue jeans a day or two) and button up shirts (but I may slip in a polo shirt once in a while). But for shoes, being a tourist, walking everywhere, and now owning any good boots, i will wear black tennis shoes. I hope no one notices.

    As to the backpack, I heartily agree. A packpack and business suit, though perhaps efficient and convenient, does not look right. For me, I will carry my “man purse,” basically a small bag that can carry over my shoulder. Will I look silly? You tell me. But it will have what I need.

    I enjoyed this article and this blog and will read it some more. Thanks!

  56. Bartek says:

    Thanks Leon!

    Regarding the outfit – try to find out what the dress code of your company is. No matter where you’ll be working, I wouldn’t advise you to wear shorts, but if your colleaugues dress casually, jeans troursers and a polo shirt make a good choice.

  57. Sylwia says:

    I know many Poles who look just fine, but I’ve met only one concerned with all the rules you wrote down. Sadly, no matter how much he cared to dress properly he always looked the jerk he was.

  58. […] to audience. I do not know whether that habit can be easily eradicated, but it surely should be. Dress code flops can be forgiven, but it is much harder to connive at lack of respect, so overtly shown be keeping […]

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