The Reasonable Malaysian Wears Shorts

A cogent argument against the lock stock and barrel adoption of Western dress codes in an equatorial country like Malaysia by exploring its many impracticalities and how the preoccupation with image takes precedence over the consideration of those impracticalities and the lack of function of such dress codes in many instances.

Do we really find the three piece suit dapper or is it because the media has been droning so? Would you ask for your red wine to be served at room temperature here simply because the European oenologists say “serve at room temperature”?

LB says, start your day right – dress with reason and perhaps, just perhaps, the rest of your actions in the day will follow suit.

The reasonable man from the eyes of law would be The man on the “Clapham Omnibus,” but what about the reasonable man of Malaysia? Is it the man who is working in an office or the man who is selling char kuay teow or rojak on the streets? Malaysia consists of people from all walks of life. However, people tend to choose to overlook this and socialise only with people from their own niche. This tends to not relate to the real world that we are living in and is just eluding ourselves from the fact that we actually do not want to move out of our comfort zone.

The groups that are living in their own bubble will not be able to tune in to the frequency of others, which leads to all sorts of misconceptions. For example, when I was attending a talk on “My Constitution Campaign” hosted by the great constitutional activists, everything seemed well until I realised that I was the only person that was wearing shorts and slippers to the event. Everybody was dressed formally. This made me realise that something could be looked at from a different point of view. The attendees would think that I am dressed inappropriately, however what do you think the “reasonable Malaysian” would wear?

The joys of life in shorts - Bermuda policeman (Source:

The joys of life in shorts - Bermuda policeman (Source:

In this case, talks for the public should be for the public. The public does not only consist of people working in formal wear but also the fish monger and the mechanic at the car workshop. These people would not be able to understand why would those people dress oddly in a long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a jacket in the crazy Malaysian heat in the afternoon to go for a talk?

That way of dressing originated from England. I need to stress that England is a country with four seasons and its winters one of the coldest in Europe. The highest recorded temperature would only reach up to 36 degrees Celsius which is considered heat wave. Even on hot summer days that seem to match the sultry Malaysian heat, the humidity there is never as oppressive.

In the past, short pants were an appropriate form of dress code. Even the police uniform consists of short pants. What happened to comfort over fashion? It seems that people are consumed by Western culture and tend to forget to stop and think to do the appropriate thing. Many workers or students do complain about wearing formal attire and its irrelevance in some occasion. If Obama or Oprah had worn T- shirt and bermuda shorts to a seminar for the public in Malaysia, it would have set the standards for everyone in Malaysia.

However, the usual impression is that when one dons a suit, it conveys a respectable image of a certain stature and that it alludes to good taste. This is all true and it should be respected and be part of who we are as and when it suits our environment. Each and every person has a story to tell and there should not be constrains in what should be worn but what the people will receive and learn from the talks and seminars.

As long as a person goes back home with a changed mindset, it would be all worthwhile compared to a well dressed suited young man sleeping throughout the talk. So the next time there is a talk or an event, remember, what would a reasonable Malaysian wear?

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Posted on 28 April 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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