Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack
Podcast Number 77 – What Australians Wear
Australia does not have a national dress or national costume. But it is probably true to say that there is still a distinctive style of clothing worn by the average Australian. The style has been influenced mostly by the climate and by the lifestyle we adopt. In this podcast, I would like to tell you a little about what Australians wear.
Most people would agree that Australians don’t like to focus much on formality. We are not strong on ‘pomp and ceremony’. We prefer to do things in a more casual way. We are often quite happy with a degree of informality, where you are able to take people as you find them. This means not putting too much emphasis on how they are dressed when you make judgments about them. You could say this comes from the fact that the first European settlement in Australia was a convict colony. Because of this, I think Australians have always had a little less respect for authority than say the nations of Europe, including Great Britain, which is where the vast majority of our first migrants came from. This is not to say that we are never serious or formal, but, on balance, I would say that we are certainly more casual in our approach to life.
This attitude flows through to the way we dress. We like to dress ‘casual’. If it’s a hot day in summer, we will happily wear shorts, a T-shirt, thongs and a cap. On a hot day in summer, this style of dress will be considered okay for going to a restaurant, going to the cinema, going to a barbeque, going to see your parents or grandparents, going into the city shopping, going to a cricket match, going just about anywhere outdoors and also to most places indoors. I should add that, in summer, most Australians would also put sunscreen on the exposed parts of their body – their face, arms, legs and feet. While we love to dress down in the heat, we also like to prevent sunburn. If the weather is cold, then jeans and casual shoes (or runners) become the basic attire, again with a T-shirt or polo neck shirt, plus perhaps a jumper or a pullover. Keep in mind that I am talking about both men and women here. It is fairly rare to see women and girls in skirts when they are dressing casually. It is almost always jeans or casual slacks of some kind. So in winter, the dress is basically the same as in summer but with extra layers, but only to keep out the cold, not because we want to look more ‘formal’. This type of dress would be described as ‘casual’. If you get an invitation to a party and it suggests you should come dressed ‘casual’, then feel free to come dressed like this.
However there are times when you might need to dress just a little more formally than ‘casual’. This is known as ‘neat casual’. For ‘neat casual’, you need to be wearing shoes of some kind whatever the weather, although any casual shoes will usually suffice, as long as they are not shabby or dirty. In fact, the more colour there is, the better it is. But they do need to be clean. Once you have the shoes sorted, then going ‘neat casual’ usually means something that looks just a little bit more stylish, neat or colourful. Something that looks good. I know that is hard to quantify, but I think most people know when they are trying to look ‘good’ rather than just ‘casual’. For both men and women, it will often mean that the shirt, blouse or top will have a collar, and often long sleeves. Most people know which of their shirts, blouses or tops are suitable for ‘neat casual’. Jeans are okay for ‘neat casual’.
Towards the top end of the dress up scale, and rarely used for most people, is formal dress. For men, this means a suit and tie with leather shoes.For women, it means a dress and formal shoes with maybe some jewelry as well, such as a necklace. One time recently when I dressed formally was for my father’s funeral, although many of the people who attended the funeral came dressed as ‘neat casual’ and even a few ‘casual’. There’s no problem there. I was grateful that they came and didn’t care what they wore. But I think it would have been inappropriate for me not to wear a suit and tie. It was my way of showing respect for my father. Another time recently, two of our close friends got married late in life. I wore my suit with a tie, although again there were people there who were dressed ‘neat casual’ and there seemed to be absolutely no problem with that.
Our lifestyles and where we live also have an influence on what we wear. If you live near a beach or love water activities such as surfing or swimming, then you might often dress casually in clothes which are inspired by the beach or by surfing. This style is called surfwear. These clothes have designs which remind you of the beach and the water. The three most famous Australian surfwear brands are Rip Curl, Billabong and Quicksilver.
Likewise, if you live in a regional area, or you like outback style leisure activities such as horse riding, there are styles of clothes based around these. One famous Australian brand is RM Williams which makes boots, trousers and shirts, as well as women’s clothing such, all with an outback feel and look to them.
Another is Akubra hats (see podcast 75 http://slowenglish.info/?p=2028) which makes great hats with an outback look.
Lastly, there is business dress. Depending on what your job is, this can be either casual, neat casual or formal, or somewhere in between. When I was working, I always wore a suit and tie, but that was related more to the type of job that I had, which was a project manager at Australia Post. Of course, if you are a labourer or a truck driver or a child care worker, then often there will be a clear expectation that you can dress pretty much as you please, as long as your employer is okay with that.
In summary, in Australia, what you are wearing is not as important as it might be in some other cultures. In my case, I am just glad that I am retired. I can dress how I like and nobody cares – unless of course I am riding my motorcycle. Then I wear all my protective gear, all the time.
If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. Or, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my Slow English podcast. I will write back to you, in English of course. If you would like to take a short quiz to see if you have understood this podcast, you will also find it on my website. Goodbye until next time.
Podcast 77 Quiz - Did you understand the podcast?
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Question 1 of 10
True or False? – Rob says that Australia has a national costume influenced by climate and our lifestyle.Correct
Question 2 of 10
True or False? – Rob thinks that Australians don’t put much emphasis on how people dress.Correct
Question 3 of 10
True or False? – Rob thinks that Australians’ casual approach to life may come from their convict history.Correct
Question 4 of 10
True or False? – Shoes are a part of the casual dress for Australians in the summer.Correct
Question 5 of 10
True or False? – When wearing casual dress in summer, Australians will often add sunscreen to protect from sunburn.Correct
Question 6 of 10
True or False? – Rob says that it is rare to see women and girls wearing skirts when wearing casual attire.Correct
Question 7 of 10
True or False? – Rob says that clean, neat shoes are needed when dressing ‘neat casual’.Correct
Question 8 of 10
True or False? – Rob says it is sometimes difficult to explain the difference between ‘casual’ and ‘neat casual’.Correct
Question 9 of 10
True or False? – When Rob was working at Australia Post, he wore formal attire.Correct
Question 10 of 10
True or False? – Rob says that some people who enjoy water sports often like to dress in clothes designed by RM Williams.Correct
adopt = to take up something as your own
approach = the way you do something
attire = clothing
authority = the people who are in charge, the bosses, the leaders
collar = that part of the shirt which goes around the neck
colony = an area that is controlled by a foreign country (in this case, Great Britain)
convict = a prisoner in a jail, or someone who has been a prisoner in a jail
costume = a style worn by people from a particular country
distinctive = when there are features which show that it is different
dress = a particular style of clothing
dress down = to dress more casually
employer = the person who gives you a job
expectation = when one person wants you to do something a certain way
exposed = out in the sun
focus = pay attention to
formality = when things are done according to strict rules
funeral = a gathering at which a dead person’s body is buried or burnt
grateful = thankful
inappropriate = not acceptable, not the right thing to do
influenced = when one thing is affected or changed by something else
informality = no rules apply (the opposite of formality)
inspired = to be the cause of
judgements = when you decide about something (e.g. good or bad)
majority = more than 50%
migrants = people who go to live in another country, never to return
necklace = jewelry which goes around a woman’s neck
on balance = when you consider the good and bad points together (or fore and against)
outback = those parts of Australia which are a long, long way from the cities
polo neck shirt = a type of T-shirt which has a collar
pomp and ceremony = when things are done according to strict rules, formal
protective = when something keeps you safe
quantify = measure
regional = away from the big cities
related = when one thing is connected to something else
respect = when you admire something or someone
scale = a measure which goes from low to high
shabby = falling to bits, need to be replaced
slacks = pants which are like jeans, but are made of different cloth
sleeves = that part of the shirt which covers the arms
suffice = be enough
suit = a type of clothing worn by men, includes a coat and pants of the same colour
sunburn = when the skin is burned by the sun
thongs = a type of shoe which is fully open, with only a sole and a strap
tie = a piece of men’s clothing that goes around the neck