The value of clothing for Hispanics - call for clothing

In Spanish culture, what you wear and how you wear it says a lot about you. A low-income family may not be able to afford expensive clothes, but their shirts are ironed and their shoes are polished. Middle-to-high-class Hispanics in Latin American countries would save money to come to America for a shopping spree and buy American brands that ironically, if not made in China, might as well be made in a Latin American country like Guatemala (my home country).

Regardless of their economic status, accessories and jewelry are a must for girls starting from a very young age. Baby girls pierce their ears almost at birth and may allow their hair to grow to be pulled back in a sleek, polished ponytail. Their socks will be ruffled and their outfits will match.

Appearances are very important in Spanish culture. First impressions are highly valued and sometimes difficult to erase if the outcome is negative. You don’t want to start out on the wrong foot. “El que dirán” (what will they say).

Clothing in America has become a way to express yourself. T-shirts that say “Go Green” or “Vote Obama” speak for themselves. Among Hispanics dress not to express, but to impress. It may be because they worry about being judged and not accepted. And since social circles tend to be quite small in Latin countries, it’s important to make the right impression even though “las aparencias engañan” (appearances can be deceiving).

I remember my mother-in-law’s comment (a Harvard Business School graduate), when she visited Guatemala for the first time. She said, “Everyone dresses like they’re always ready to go to an event.”

© 2009 Sophia E. Cake

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