Fashion in Thailand

This December, I will be traveling to Thailand with a group of college students. The students are going as part of a course, not for a vacation. The reading I’ve done stresses the importance of dressing neatly. I’m interested in specifics that I can share with my students. Much of what I’ve found is geared towards business people, and while it’s a start, it’s geared a little more formally than we’ll be.

What is considered respectable casual dress?

What is considered cool by Thai 20somethings?

What should we avoid wearing?


No ties. Seriously, it’s just too hot.

Long pants for the guys, modest skirts, dresses or pants are okay for women.
In the past it’s been considered a bit immodest to show the shoulders or stomach of a woman in public. This is a general statement, but if you tour temples you will not be allowed in with shorts, bathing suits, bare shoulders or midriffs. Sort of like going to church here, with a lot less leniency.

Shoes are not that important, as Thais have a sort of reverse foot fetish.

Take off your shoes if inside a home or any room where someone might sit down, but not in shops or other places that have high traffic, unless others are doing that.

When you do sit, try not to cross legs or leave your legs sticking straight out. Sit with your feet beneath and behind you if possible (semi kneeling). “Indian style” is okay, just not crossed at the knees.

Take inexpensive shoes to wear to temples. You can’t wear shoes in a temple and there’s a slight but real chance that nice shoes will be stolen while you’re inside of one.

Loose clothes, light natural fiber clothes will be more comfortable, but are probably not stylish.

I’m not going to go too much into style for a couple reasons. Primarily I’m probably off by a few years, but also unless the students are Thai or Chinese they’ll tend to stick out anyway, so no real reason to adhere to Thai fashion. This also is somewhat true with some of the rest of the above. Some stuff will be forgiven as you’re anyway “farang” and don’t know any better. That said many younger Thais tend towards jeans, usually cuffed up, sometimes to a sort of “capri pants effect”, with a t-shirt, shirt with collar, or blouse.

Most of the stuff in guide books is a little dated or over hyped. It’s probably best to avoid trying to “wai” people and just smile and/or nod if someone wais you, as you won’t know the rules and they can get complicated. As a general rule, you should probably only actually return a wai to someone with whom you would shake hands in day to day life. So for example returning a “wai” to a doorman or server is a little silly, but people will do it. Also the person of inferior position should wai first, which is a bit on social status, family heirarchy and age. If in doubt don’t.

BTW, December is the best time to travel there and peak season. You should have a blast. Maybe bring some gifts for whomever you visit or meet. These should be from the USA (or whatever country you’re coming from) but need not be expensive.

Thanks, ShibbOleth! Are sleeveless blouses okay for women? Modest means at the knee? Below the knee?

Our students know they’re going to stick out to a large degree, but they’re really good about not wanting to give offense or look ridiculous to locals.

Sleeveless blouses would constitute bare shoulders. Probably okay as a general rule, but not for temples. Skirts as I recall are generally above the knee, but maybe just. Mini skirts would be viewed as either trashy or at best sort of adolescent “acting up”.

Note that you will see Thai people wearing some of these things I’ve mentioned (although seeing grown men in shorts is almost unheard of, I think longer shorts are part of the schoolboy uniform), they’re generally worn by some of the less well thought of members of Thai society. Assuming that’s not who the students will be hanging out with you probably want to aim a little higher.

BTW, what parts of Thailand will you be visiting? Will you be going to the beach?

We’ll be primarily in Chiang Mai, with a couple of days in Bangkok.

Cool, I´m planning to be there in December too.
However I´m planning to move to BKK indefinetly. :cool:

My girlfriend has only words of praise for Chiang Mai, but keep in mind that it can be a bit more cold than you´d expect for Thailand in that season. At night temperature can be as low as 12/14 Cº, so keep that in mind for your wardrobe choices.