Tuesday, April 13

Does crime affect South African style?

South Africa is making headlines around the globe for all the wrong reasons at the moment. British tabloids shout ‘Racial Bloodbath in SA!’ My knee jerk reaction is to defend our country and insist that it’s not the lawless disaster it appears in print. However, the reality is we do live in a land of extremes.

While one woman slings on a pair of Prada heels in Sandton City, a single mother is battling to feed and protect her children in a gang-riddled township just a few kilometers away. The divide between rich and poor is massive and despite our best efforts to overcome our dodgy past, cultures continue to clash in our cities and government. As political tension tightens, my mind turns to…clothes!  It’s a question I’ve been meaning to explore for some time, ‘Does crime affect the way we dress in South Africa?’

For me, the answer is without a doubt, yes.

Those of us who fall into what you could loosely term ‘middle-class suburban South Africa’ were taught from a young age to be vigilant and aware of our surroundings. Our mental safety check-list is automatic – arm the house, lock the house, lock the gate, get into car, hide handbag under seat, lock doors, keep windows up, stop car, lock car, don’t dawdle in parking lot, disarm office alarm and so on. While we enjoy many first-world trimmings - movies, McDonalds and malls - we live with a third-world sensibility that stretches to our dress sense. I personally don’t want to draw excessive attention to myself for fear of being followed, mugged or something far worse. That means nothing too blingy, revealing or avant-garde. Not that I long to wear Gaga-style getups but I’d like to know that I could venture out in six-inch platforms, knee-highs socks and a vintage frock (read: normal London outfit) if I so pleased without someone sniggering, ‘she’s asking for it.’

It’s not like us South Africans are a hopeless bunch of fashion misfits – we’re just more concerned with getting by in a sensitive society than with this season’s hem length. Although frankly, I think we could do with more sartorial distraction from time to time. As Alex said, sometimes you just need to eat a macaroon and get on with things.

But what do you think? When you're getting dressed in the morning, do our hairy crime stats ever consciously or subconsciously factor into your outfit choices? I’d really appreciate your thoughts and views on this topic.

If you live overseas and are visiting SA for the World Cup, please don’t be freaked out! There are parts of our country which could be mistaken for Wisteria Lane. You just need to have your wits about you when you head out your hotel. Tomorrow I'm going to make some suggestions on what to pack and expect from your South African experience! Speak to you then. x

15 comments:

Cate said...

This is a really interesting entry. I live in the UK in a city where it is pretty much expected for girls go out in revealing clothes, particularly if they're going out clubbing, and even though I don't really buy into this, I can't imagine having to worry about safety when I'm picking a normal outfit. You've made me think!

See Me Everywhere said...

Wow I love that you can be so honest :) I'm from SA too, but I've lived in NZ for almost a decade now and sure enough, people's perception of SA is all based on the media. And it sure is frustrating sometimes! Especially when your young and naive and don't really know politics, it was hard to understand where people came from. But you know what, 10 years on, I still love my country :) And will ALWAYS be shouting for the Boks!

It brings me much pleasure to see a fellow South African here on blogspot :) I will be regular visitor!

Harlow Darling said...

That's kind of sad in a way...I think I would be depressed if I couldn't wear exactly what I wanted to wear because of people getting the wrong idea...

It's so interesting to read about South Africa though, you're the first South African blogger I've found! I must admit though, it does sound a tad scary the way you have to take so many precautions...

Nisey said...

Interesting take on what I simply consider to be poor dress sense on our part?
When i lived in london i had a friend who thought that SA's (living in london) were the most poorly dressed nation of the lot, clearly our lack of fashion sense followed us across the ocean!
Maybe our conservatism does stem from the fear and caution we always carry with us?

Lauren said...

Thank you all for your interesting feedback.

Cate, glad to have stirred a thought with you. Thanks so much!

See me Everywhere - it's so nice to 'meet' a Saffer in NZ! Agreed, the media really do sensationalize stuff but what's normal everyday news for us would be relatively shocking abroad I guess. It's nice to hear you still have such positive feelings about SA. Thanks for visiting. x

Harrow, yeah, it is sad. I'm glad you're enjoying reading about SA. I'll be sure to also post about the positive things that are unique to our country as well:) It is a bit scary but most of us don't know any other way so we just take precautions and do our best to lead happiest, safest lives possible. x

Nisey, hi! I'm so glad you touched on that. I think our conservatism stems from a number things - we do have some conservative by nature cultures here, our fashion industry isn't huge and we're very rarely exposed to international styles except a bit of what's big in LA in gossip mags! But yeah, I think crime filers into our choices as well. Thanks for your comment!

HoneyChild said...

I totally agree. Particularly as women, the message that we need to be ultra aware of our surroundings,walk like we mean business and not look vulnerable, hold onto our handbags, turn our rings around and cover up anything revealing is so ingrained. Imagine what it would feel like not to have that worry in the back of your mind.

Belinda said...

Hey La, I must admit, I've never considered crime a factor in what I choose to wear. If I want to get the cleavage out, I really don't think twice about it (although frankly, the girls have a mind of their own and like to make their presence known no matter what I want!).
I think it has a lot more to do with our NG Kerk/WASP influenced backgrounds that makes some of the people of this country perhaps not as extrovert as others. I've never been one for bling though, so maybe I just don't see it.
I also think there are so many positive things about this country that we could focus on, including some great designers, rather than always holding ourselves up to the standards of other places. South Africans walk to the beat of their own drums a lot of the time and I think that's something to be proud of. Maybe that doesn't make us very fashionable, but I still think it's pretty cool :)

Lauren said...

Hello Bellerina!

That's really cool that crime has never been a factor for you. Yes, we do have some great designers and I've had a post about one in the wings which I want to publish soon. Yeah, saffers do march to the beat of their own drum - I was actually saying to someone the other day, that is SA is really one of it's kind. So many cultures in one place! Thanks for your comment hun. x

Barby Gallego said...

Hey! I live in Argentina, so all this things you're saying doesn't surprise me at all... We must take LOTS of precautions too!!

I don´t think we have a wrong idea of what SA is... In my particular case, I'm living in C√≥rdoba (which is a big city), but i come from a pretty small town that everyone thinks is like a big field, full of cows and gauchos! haha so I know how it feels when you talk to somebody that has a wrong perception of a place... I've been asked things as "And do you have a TV?", "How can you live without Internet?"... Hey, I live in a small town, we are not primitives!!! We don't have to light fire with rocks!!!

so I think I mixed the topics a little :P (little info + wrong perception) but I felt really identified with your words...

Lauren said...

HAHAHA BARBY! Oh, I can so relate back. Haha! 'Light fire with rocks' - you slay me. May I ask what a Gaucho is?

Really appreciate you commenting, thanks!

Anonymous said...

This was a really interesting entry to read. And for me, it gave me som heads up. A friend and myself are going back-packing around the world next year, and SA is one of our stops, good to know we should take som precautions - but we should probably do this in many other countries as well.

Barby Gallego said...

Hello again!!
A GAUCHO is like a cowboy but from the South American pampas (pampa is an extensive grassy plain; if you google La Pampa, you'll see what I mean :D ). Also, if you search for Gaucho you'll find lots of pics that'll give you an idea of how they look!!!
Hope this clears you a little the idea (match a gaucho living in la pampa and you'll understand me! haha)
Oh, and congrats for the blog!!

FashionJazz said...

Wow I luved ur post hun! To be honest I dont even think about stuff like this while getting dressed and choosing my outfits. I will be honest in saying I have had a very sheltered and safe up bringing and I continue to do so where I live now. I do think about these things and I always try to give back, but I never thought about crime and the way we dress in SA. xxx

Lauren said...

Haha Barby, thanks so much for letting me know! And thanks for visiting Glossary. I'm keen to here more about your home. x

Lauren said...

Fashion Jazz, that's wonderful that it hasn't been an issue for you. I guess it affects some more than others depending on where you live and work. Appreciate your comment hun. x