Back in the day when I used to wear clothes specially made for me, I had several interesting experiences in England that could only be attributed to cultural misunderstanding. Even the overcoats I wore were made by the same designer. On one occasion I arrived in a place that seemed to have only female staff. It was at the time of year that it made sense to take off one’s coat on arrival at a place, in order to have a layer of warmth to wear outdoors. One woman was alarmed to see me take off my coat.
A short while after we first met, we were able to laugh about the impression she had in her mind when she saw me doing a relatively innocuous and normal thing. She said “I thought you were about to disrobe”, thus summoning up images of a male stripper sent to surprise her and the other women. Obviously, nothing could have been further away from the truth of my intentions at that point in time.
In another incident, I wore a tail coat made of a fabric known to Africans as George. With gold and silver thread work in it, I still wear it sometimes. Some friends asked me to play the organ at their wedding in a very old village Church. I have told the story several times before about the organ needing to have air pumped into it. I sat at the organ, waiting for the woman who was responsible for this task to arrive.
Once there was some air in the organ, I started playing, to get used to the instrument. One of the Church attendees told me later that she had the fright of her life when I played, because she assumed that I was a clothes dummy in a suit of armour, seated at the organ that had suddenly come to life.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that men dress differently across cultures. It was interesting to read in the media recently that some feathers were rustled because a well known intercultural couple were planning to have a gender neutral nursery for their yet to be born baby. Why do some of us make mountains out of molehills?