Avoid making a fashion faux pas in Brazil

Published1/19/2008 5:25 PM

I never witnessed so much commotion over what a guy was wearing than I did in the lobby of my Rio de Janeiro hotel. If not all that appealing, the garb donned by the man standing about 50 feet away seemed innocent enough to me.

His clothing of choice was a yellow short-sleeved shirt dressed up by a lighter yellow tie. He didn't wear a jacket, showing off his very gawky and very pale arms. His face was sallow, probably made worse by the hue he chose to wear.


Still, the women I was with were going on about how awful he looked. It made me wonder if this visitor to Brazil had committed a felony. I started to feel sorry for him.

"Maybe you're being a bit harsh," I said to one of the ladies.

"Maybe that guy should learn how to dress," she shot back.

"I don't think he looks that bad," was my comeback.

"Hey, this is Brazil," another of our group chimed in. "Here, you definitely are what you wear."

Sadly for my fellow fashion-challenged visitor, the point was a good one. Dressing in a suitable way in this South American hot spot is as important -- if not more so -- than what you say or how you say it.

Following are some rules of wear in the land of the samba:

• Pay attention to your entire appearance, not just what you put on. The details -- such as well-manicured hands for both men and women -- are always noticed, whether that be in a social setting or in a business arena.

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• Visiting Brazil on business gives you a good chance to put on that tailored suit you had made especially for you in Hong Kong. Fit is important to this fashionable community that often keeps track of any infractions to the contrary.

• If you visit a colleague at his or her office, don't be surprised if you notice casually dressed people working there. Also don't be surprised if you are not taken seriously when or if your look is as casual as theirs. To be sure, outsiders coming in to talk turkey with their Brazilian counterparts should be dressed in true business attire for the desired effect.

• For special occasions, wear something nice, but not too flashy. That goes for make-up as well. In Brazil, women out on the town tend toward the natural look with perhaps a flash of red lipstick to bring it up a notch.

• Finally, to avoid looking totally ridiculous no matter what the designer label says, do not put on a combination of yellow and green. These are the colors of the Brazilian flag and are best kept for flying on a pole and not for dressing up your body.

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