If you are a Muslim and wear a headscarf, you cannot work for Abercrombie and Fitch

Published: March 2, 2015

Until we feel as strongly about how they are treated in Pakistan, as we do about how fellow Muslims are treated in non-Muslim countries abroad, we will be considered to be quite hypocritical.

When I think of Abercrombie and Fitch, the first thing that comes to my mind is the endless list of ridiculously good looking models from the catalogue; shirtless with washboard abs at the entrance, as well as those assisting inside.

Mike Jeffries, the former CEO of the company, had succeeded in creating a world that was cool and exclusive; something everyone in their teens wanted to be a part of.

As Jeffries said,

“In every school, there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.”

Jeffries took great pains to explain that his brand was not for everyone,

“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong.”

In his opinion, the key to drawing his ideal customer base was hiring physically attractive staff members.

“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores,” he once said. “Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people and we want to market to cool, good-looking people.”

It was obvious that physical appearance was of utmost importance to Jeffries.

It’s been alleged that when he would visit stores, he was more concerned with how the models looked and the stage setting, rather than focusing on more pressing concerns such as stock take and till discrepancies. This same philosophy, which was once so integral to the brand’s success, is also the key to its apparent modern day decline.

The brand has failed to evolve with changing times and perceptions, and has been punished for it by its customers moving on to more socially and economically relevant alternatives.

Kids these days are more comfortable in their own skin. Exclusionary practices and the appearance of someone looking down at them is a huge turn off. With no shortage of other similar brands in the market, being rigid and stagnant in one’s approach in today’s world is akin to jumping in front of a running train of progress.

Apart from people’s more informed perceptions, their fundamental understanding of everyday rights afforded to them by the constitution and federal law is more prevalent than ever.

So when Samantha Elauf, a Muslim applicant, was allegedly turned down for a role at the store for wearing a hijab, despite impressing the assistant manager who interviewed her, she knew she was well within her rights to take them to court.

“I am not only standing up for myself, but for all people who wish to adhere to their faith while at work,” said Elauf. “Observance of my faith should not prevent me from getting a job.”

The case has reached all the way to the Supreme Court, and reportedly, the majority of the Supreme Court justices appear to be siding with her. As Justice Ginsburg said, companies are compelled to allow exceptions to accommodate religious beliefs, even if it goes against their company policies.

“They don’t have to accommodate a baseball cap. They do have to accommodate a yarmulke,” Ginsburg said.

The “mythical preppy” dress code enforced by Abercombie and Fitch was also derided even by the more conservative justices. The company itself is arguing that Elauf never asked for religious exception, and that her Muslim faith was only guessed by the management. Some of the justices appeared more apprehensive of ruling in favour of Elauf because it might set a precedent forcing employers to stereotype or guess potential employees’ religious affiliations, which might be difficult and awkward during the hiring process.

The way around it, as was suggested, was that employers ask the potential employee if they were comfortable with the workplace policies in place, and leave it to them to point out any potential need for religious accommodation.

Abercombie and Fitch’s case was not helped by the admission by the “honest” interviewer, Heather Cook, who admitted that the only reason Elauf was turned down was because they had suspected that she was Muslim and would need to wear the head scarf.

Most companies do not tell job applicants why they had been turned down.

As Justice Sotomayor said,

“The only reason you have a suit here is because she was honest.”

The Supreme Court will give its ruling on the case some time near June. It is heartening to see that the religious rights of minorities are being defended so vociferously, something I can only dream to see happen in Pakistan as well one day.

We all get upset when we hear of stories like Judge Juliana Eliana Marengo, in Canada, berating a single mother in court for not being suitably dressed for court, just because she was wearing a hijab, but we turn a blind eye to the plight of the suffering minorities due to religious and social discrimination in our own country.

Until we feel as strongly about how they are treated in Pakistan, as we do about how fellow Muslims are treated in non-Muslim countries abroad, we will be considered to be quite hypocritical.

Mani Khawaja

Mani Khawaja

A journalist and musician with an MBA from the University of Sunderland. He tweets @manikhawaja88 (twitter.com/manikhawaja88)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • ab1990

    I dont understand why muslims immigrate to non muslim countries and then demand special attention. Be grateful that those countries atleast allowed you to stay. Muslim countries in the gulf dont even allow muslims from other countries to get citizenship.

    The biggest hypocrites of the world.Recommend

  • thruthseeker

    “Until we feel as strongly about how they are treated in Pakistan, as we do about how fellow Muslims are treated in non-Muslim countries abroad, we will be considered to be quite hypocritical”. Its not important how others see you, its important you see yourself for what you really are.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    The company practices and policies expect the store staff to be dressed in a certain way. If someone cannot dress in the required manner, it is obvious that the candidate will not be hired. I think that is fine. I don’t see it as discrimination.Recommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    America is a country made up of immigrants. Perhaps it might be difficult for you to understand, but it is every citizen’s constitutional right to demand that their rights not be infringed upon in any way. Since the supreme court of the country is agreeing with the plaintiff, who are you to think otherwise?Recommend

  • Pin2

    If you are a Muslim and wear a headscarf, you cannot work for Abercombie and Fitch

    How about this

    If you are a non-muslim, you cannot become President / Prime Minister of Pakistan. Try filing a law suit against that in Pakistan. Baat karte hain!!!!!Recommend

  • Sami

    Pakistan is the only country in the world where Saying Asslam Alliqum could land you in jail.

    Our people have a problem with one western company but we hypocrites will never talk about our own constitution. Our Constitution of Pakistan is an epitome of Discrimination. Atleast Western nations do not discriminate on the basis of constitution but how come we are pointing fingers at them when as a Pakistani we abide and swore by the Constitution that allow discrimination?Recommend

  • Chin2

    So a Hijabi wants to work in a high end Fashion store but does not want to comply with their dress code requirements.

    What next, apply to become a Victoria Secrets model, eyeing the huge money they make, & then use religious obligation as an excuse to not wear lingerie’s?

    Why would you even apply for a job if you are not comfortable with the job requirements?Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Some people want special treatment and they start whining if they are treated like everyone else.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    “Since the supreme court of the country is agreeing with the plaintiff”
    No such thing has happened. Wait for the verdict. By the way, playing the religion card is looked frowned upon in American society. This case further further prejudices the american public against muslims who are already seen as disloyal and seeking special privileges.Recommend

  • Ben

    Actually supreme court should not involve itself into this matter. If a PRIVATE enterprise believe that headscarf is bad for their business, they should have FREEDOM to reject it. If the lady has freedom to apply for this job than the company has the freedom to reject the application. This is what America is.Recommend

  • mimi sue

    Similar incident had happened in England when muslim girl had complained of religious suppression when she denied to serve pork to customer.
    So far I know she was fired . You need a job, again you set your own rules. Have some shame. In this case the company was right. Company knew a muslim women would wear a towel or a tent to hide herself. So she was rejected . Their company,their laws.Just see how these ladies can attract business.Recommend

  • Gulwant Singh Bedi

    Sure, sure. Not a problem. a hindu women shows up in a skirt
    blouse and a bindi on her forehead, or pants blouse and a bindi
    on her forehead will not be hired. OR A SARI….Rest assured.Recommend

  • Chitralwala

    He is a very frustrated hindu. Who hate Paks, Muslims, and Islam
    in that order.Recommend

  • Adpran

    I live in Indonesia, the country with largest number of Muslims. One day I went to Jakarta and visited a five stars hotel. I was welcomed by a very kind Indian doorman. He is Sikh. I knew it from his turban. Yes, he wore turban, not hat like other doorman in that hotel.

    Just wonder, what’s difference between Muslim woman who wear headscarf and Sikh man who wear turban?.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice blog……..from a legal point of view it looks like Heather Cook messed it up for Abercombie & Fitch.Recommend

  • fze

    Not every muslim wear hijab. Even in Pakistan most of the women don’t wear hijab. Wearing Hijab has suddenly become popular recently and the funny thing is that it does not make you sanctimonious. Sanctity comes from heart and pure intentions, for that you don’t require hijab.Recommend

  • observer

    Still, people who, by choice, migrate to countries with a different culture do have a responsibility to try to conform to the ethos and customs of these nations. If one wants to so strongly hold on to one’s old culture and customs, why not remain in their home countries instead of trying to take advantage of the host countries’ laws and forcing them to accommodate your strange and alien culture and philosophies?

    Don’t forget, if the immigrants try to change the host cultures, the host countries could ultimately ban giving immigration to those who are not compatible with their society.Recommend

  • rationalist

    A company should have the right to set requirements on the employee’s appearance and behavior to suit their legitimate business needs. For example, should Abercrombie allow a buddhist woman to come to work with a shaved head and orange robe with no shoes to work in the women’s fashion department?

    As long as employers set their hiring rules clearly and communicate that to the applicants at the time of the job offer, the employee can’t reasonably demand special treatment. Recommend

  • Sid

    Oh man stop this nonsense. Abercrombie & Fitch would not even hire Sikh wearing Turban or Jew in Rabbi dress. They have this policy uniformly applied to anybody and everybody. They have specific dress code where Hijabs, turbans, skull cap and may be even mustaches may have no space. It is after all a fashion company and it is their choice if they want to hire with person of only certain fashion which goes along with their company’s image. This action has nothing to do with being an Islamophoebic company.
    But just because they don’t hire someone wearing a Hijab and the whole muslim world cries foul. Doesn’t Islamic countries imply dress code on women ? Why this double standard and expect everybody to bend as per your wishes ?Recommend

  • Sid

    Yes, true. But no other religion demands special accommodation. In fact they try to assimilate in the culture of the country they migrate to while keeping their faith and tradition intact. however it is only Muslims who find it difficult to adjust to common code. That is why you see in many countries muslims demanding Shariah to be applied to their practices on certain things like marriage.
    In fact if A&F does not want to hire someone with certain dress code it is their choice. Equal rights has been seriously abused in recent years rather than understanding the very spirit why it was created.Recommend

  • vasan

    “Until we feel as strongly about how they are treated in Pakistan, as we
    do about how fellow Muslims are treated in non-Muslim countries abroad,
    we will be considered to be quite hypocritical”
    Please add “Muslim majority countries” to Pakistan.

    This article is a total waste because the last para is very trueRecommend

  • wb

    Why don’t you understand such a simple thing.

    It’s the Taqqiya. Muslims migrate to other countries on the bridges of peace and tolerance and freedom.

    But slowly they corrode the system and then demand a separate country.

    This is evident in pretty much every country.

    Look at Pakistan and look at India also.Recommend

  • wb

    Why don’t you understand such a simple thing.

    It’s the Taqqiya. Muslims migrate to other countries on the bridges of peace and tolerance and freedom.

    But slowly they corrode the system and then demand a separate country.

    This is evident in pretty much every country.

    Look at Pakistan and look at India also.Recommend

  • wb

    True. That’s why America must change its stance towards Muslims.
    Europe has woken up. Europe is making a lot of changes to its laws to prevent MuslimsRecommend

  • wb

    True. That’s why America must change its stance towards Muslims.
    Europe has woken up. Europe is making a lot of changes to its laws to prevent MuslimsRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I am a muslim. I am all in for making the whole world muslim and would love to see Islam conquering the hearts of the entire planet, but even I cannot side with you on this one. Why oh why can’t people realize that we cannot and should not force anyone to do anything. Although I applaud the decision of the Supreme court for upholding the law of the land, i can not help but cringe at what message has been delivered.
    Why can’t muslims realize that there is a big difference between rights and privileges. I for one think that it is a persons right to be educated therefore I am hugely biased against the ban of headscarves in french universities.
    However being given an opportunity to work and earn is a privilege and the employer should reserve the right to employ whosoever falls within a certain criteria. Let me give you an example, consider a woman going into a bikini shop and asking for a job as a bikini model, she passes the test with flying colours and the next day shows up wearing a burqa. now what is the shopkeeper supposed to do? post a sign next to her saying “Gentlemen the bikini under this burqa is so awesome, you don’t have to see it to believe it”.
    The case is similar here, if this particular outlet or brand does not employ anyone who wears a headscarf then they should be allowed to do so. (However if they do employ people wearing other kinds of headwear and ban only muslim headgear they should be taken to court).
    Lastly, I just cannot get over this kind of mindset which is creating and widening the gap between muslims and western nationals. Why do muslims in the west think that they are entitled to everything “their way”? How about changing a little? No one is asking you to change your faith, you can practice is as you did here, or perhaps even better(speaking from an Ahmadi point of view, we are not allowed to practice Islam in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other “bastions of faith”). You want to wear a headscarf, good for you, I applaud you, wear one, but why do you want to force these guys to hire you? just find another job. there are hundreds of thousands of opportunities of employment if you are diligent enough.
    Side note. Why don’t these muslims let bygones be bygones? She was seventeen at the time, so I am presuming that she wanted to work only part time, like after her university/college or during holidays. This case is 8 years old, it is not like rape which psychologically scarred her, let it go. grow a thick skin.Recommend

  • Ann

    My exact thoughts! Thank you for saying that loud and clear.Recommend

  • Infidel

    will Pakistani companies allow women to wear skirts?Recommend

  • SamSal

    What is all the fuss about?
    If you are a non-muslim girl,and wish to wear pants/skirts/”western dress”, you are frowned upon and cannot work in any Pakistani company. So what are you crying about?Recommend

  • Meshuga

    Are there any Abercrombie & Fitch stores in Pakistan? If not, why is this issue even relevant? I’ve noticed there is too much stuff being written by expatriate Pakistanis about happenings in the US and elsewhere (outside Pakistan) where the intent seems to be to create fake outrage. Maybe to prove there is widespread Islamophobia; or create invalid false equivalences. Why aren’t people from other countries complaining? Why not focus on real outrageous incidents happening right here in Pakistan? As Mark Twain (?) said, East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. Deal with it!Recommend

  • Meshuga

    Let me give a personal experience of such demands made only by Muslims (not all Muslims) . At a university I am very familiar with – in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest Arab population outside the Middle East – after 9/11 all of sudden there were demands for special bathroom and shower facilities (within the women’s bathroom area) for Muslim students. Demand for time to pray outside the classroom also arose and for “halal” meals in the cafeteria. (These people’s ancestors came to the US in the 1930s and 1940s to work at Ford Motor Company factories with no such demands for decades.)Recommend

  • Meshuga

    Maybe the time is coming soon when all this nonsense will have to stop as natives become restless with their nation’s generous policies on immigration. Right wing parties are getting stronger by the day in the West. A long shot just a few years ago, Marine LePen is now within striking distance of the top office in that country, according to a recent BBC report.Recommend

  • Meshuga

    I don’t think so.Recommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    Perhaps there is a difficulty in comprehending the english language, but the supreme court justices have already gone on the record to state that the Abercombie and Fitch should have made religious accommodations and that it was illegal not to hire her solely for wearing her hijab. The legal matter that is being discussed is that Abercombie and Fitch are saying she never told them she wanted them to give her religious accommodation.Recommend

  • Meshuga

    And they don’t hire old and ugly people either, whatever the religion. Now that this US Supreme Court has ruled that “companies” are people too, they can also discriminate like people. The current conservative leaning Supreme Court is not your left-leaning Supreme Court.Recommend

  • Meshuga

    Gender for one. Different countries for another. :-)Recommend

  • Meshuga

    This reminds me of a spoof of an Islamic fashion show on an American comedy show (maybe it was Bill Maher’s). All the models were covered in “fashionable” black burqas. “And here is Salma, wearing the latest Al Shabab’s designer gown for Fall 2008.”Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    IOf Saudis can impose Hijab on foreigners.Why cant the others require immigrants to conform to their values?Recommend

  • Sid

    Are you comparing a job of a doorman of a hotel to someone looking for job in one of the top fashion brands ? There within my question is an answer to your best attempt to justify that muslim country allowed a man to wear is turban. Try harder.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    A Hindu woman who insists on wearing a sari and a bindi will not be hired by them. And they would be right in their decision of not hiring the lady.Recommend

  • Sane

    There are many Pakistani companies where christian women wear skirts.Recommend

  • Chitralwala

    Somi, you are waxing eloquent. Let’s talk about your
    hate for Muhajjirs….or if you prefer Afghans. And
    your derogatory comments about them. That is big time
    discrimination,… practiced by you.Recommend

  • Dawd

    ‘Still, people who, by choice, migrate to countries with a different culture do have a responsibility to try to conform to the ethos and customs of these nations.’ I wonder if that statement applies to white Americans (who made the natives second class citizens), or those who live in South Africa (or India).Recommend

  • Dawd

    That’s not true, I happen to live near an orthodox jewish community, who by any means are more insular than muslims. And any stats attempting to quantify assimilation in the UK find Sikhs and Hindus almost at par with (Asian) Muslims.

    The demand for personal family law by Islam isn’t as far out as you think. In South Africa, and India each community has their own family law, in the UK Jewish law is accepted. But the basic idea is why impose a understanding of marriage and divorce on a community which has a different understanding (and definition) of marriage and divorce. [Islam sees marriage as a contract between individuals, Christianity as a sacrament]Recommend

  • Dawd

    I was under the impression that in Pakistan they bend over backwards to cater to gora sahibs, but maybe that’s only if they are private contractors working for the CIARecommend

  • Dawd

    But a sanctimonious heart leads to good actions. Actually there is a direct link between our actions and our heart. Good actions lead to a pure heart, which makes good actions easier and vice versa. Which is why a lot of our actions (like prayer) have a very physical component to them.
    The general rule is if a good action accompanies a pure intention then the person benefits from it. Whereas the person who claims to have a ‘pure heart’ but finds himself inclined towards evil and lethargic when it comes to good deeds must question his premiseRecommend

  • Dawd

    Please elaborate on the difference. Both are expected to be turned out, both are dealing with the public, both are encouraging people to use their business.Recommend

  • Dawd

    Actually that story in the UK was taken out of context by a tabloid you can look it up. The company had a policy that allowed muslim (and Jewish) staff not to serve pork. Some tabloid journalist made an issue of this and eventually the company reversed its policyRecommend

  • Nandita.

    BUt you will rarely come across hindus who have such weird demands. Recommend

  • Parvez

    I feel there are two things at play here…..one, the attitude of A & F towards the sales lady and I think they are justified in their stand. The second one is the legal position where discrimination on religious grounds is a clear no-no and Heather Cooks interview seems to have brought that to the fore……and that would trump the first point.Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    Nice retort ….I infact doubt that Mr. Bedi is not a true character but a pseudonym for another communalist.Recommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    Really? Top Fashion brand? It is just a retail outlet.Recommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    a) she is not a foreigner, she is an american citizen.
    b) There are different rules of law. Either change your constitution, or uphold the law.Recommend

  • Gulwant Singh Bedi

    So anyone who does not agree, or has a different viewpoint
    is branded non Indian? How dare an Indian dispute another Indian?. We are suppose to stick together? Even in flawed racist views?.Nope.not subscribing to Sadhvi Prachi, Maharaj
    or Mohan Bhagwat philosophies Not member of Bajrang dal
    either. Do recommend you join Vishwa Hindu ParishadRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    yeah you are right. The hiring assistance caused them to sink by saying that she didn’t hire her cuz she was a Muslim. Recommend

  • Sami

    So pointing someone’s racist behavior is Discrimination?. This is the face palm moment for me. I have pointed their racist attitude and it is not a discrimination but a voice against intolerant behavior.
    Also I have a problem with anyone who will live in my country but will abuse my countrymen at the same time. I have a problem with Afghans since all of my Afghan friends are racist to the core. If you make fun of the people and especially if you have a problem with the color of the skin of someone then i will not tolerate it.
    Also kindly do not mix Muhajir term with the Afghans. They are two different terms. You cannot term the people who have left their home from India to Pakistan and the people from Afghanistan in one definition of Muhajir. One community is abusing Pakistan but the later loves Pakistan.
    Tolerance does not mean that i will let anyone to live in my house unabated.

    So if you want to discredit my above comment given i am against the Racist Attitude of Afghans then i do not care. I have no respect for anyone who is racist to any other person. The day i will meet an Afghan who will not make fun of the skin color of the natives of Pakistan then i will change my opinion. I hope i will meet a Single Afghan in my life who will give respect to everyone and that day i will stop making generalizations regarding to them.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Maybe its hard to comprehend the difference between the words “decision” and “discussion” for some people. “Decision” has not been made yet and thats what counts.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    Maybe you have difficulty understanding that America is a melting pot and not a mosaic. I hope you can comprehend the difference between those two words.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    “And any stats attempting to quantify assimilation in the UK find Sikhs and Hindus almost at par with (Asian) Muslims.”
    Can you show a link to stats which proves that statement?Recommend

  • sadiq

    Max. Strange logic, you have a right to education, but getting a job is privilege. All of us get educated, but when we apply for a job, we are told, Do not bother to apply, if we wear head scarf, Jewish cap, slacks instead of dress, Also if we are Orientals, or blacks or Latinos. Also we have a height requirement, too tall or short need not apply. We have gone this route, and thank God Almighty, we have laws, called ” Against discrimination “We do not need to reinvent the wheel. This is not about Islam, Scarf, or Muslims. Get real, this is about discrimination at work place. If you are not well informed, there is a department in US Gov’t, you can call and get free education in Discrimination in the Work Place.
    Do not try to make it a Muslim or head scarf issue, which it is not.
    What if the doctors decide to treat patients selectively, and decide not to treat morons.
    SadiqRecommend

  • Yo2Da2

    What is a “good action” and a “good heart”? And how are they linked? I hope you have scientific, rather than a religious evidence for this.Recommend

  • Sid

    even so, its not a job you compare with doorman.Recommend

  • Muslim Maximus Decimus Meridiu

    I am a muslim….

    A muslim believes in the finality of the Prophet(PBUH)…do you?Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Your logic is completely flawed. Rights and privileges is what I said in the first line. Medical treatment is a right.
    Secondly I clearly and in no ambiguous words said that if they discriminate against one religion they should be taken to court but if an establishment says that no headgear of any kind is allowed they should be allowed to do so. Both of your points are flawed.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Oh my God I have a fan. Someone went to the trouble of creating an account just to be like me. I am so happy. Thank you ever so much.Recommend

  • Chitralwala

    This is “wb” you know him. He is foremost and forefront.Recommend

  • Captain Obvious III

    Please re read the point about religious accommodation not being in doubt in any way shape or form, the thing being “discussed” is whether she needed to ask for it or should A&F have guessed. God, it is not difficult to comprehend.Recommend

  • Hamidah Fawad

    SamSal Most companies in Pakistan do not have any such rules about dresscodes for women, especially non-muslim women. They can wear skirts or pants or dresses if they want to which they definitely and defiantly do.Recommend

  • SamSal

    I am talking about local companies, not the MNCs operating in Pakistan.Recommend

  • SamSal

    Plus my comment was edited by ET. A very important point was removed, guessing it’s against their policy.Recommend

  • Dawd

    I wrote my reply to the comment based on the assumption that the person was a muslim, i.e. someone who through his deliberation came to the conclusion that he agrees with the key tenants of Islam. Hence when he used the word ‘pure intention’ I assumed he was using the term in a religious context. My response wasn’t targeted at an atheist, and therefore hasn’t accepted the premise of religion much less its laws.
    Similarly I wasn’t using the term ‘heart’ in its literal sense; so a scientific response isn’t valid hereRecommend

  • Sherlock

    I actually think you are right. Clearly it is someone who knows Maximus and considering wb pretends to be an expert on Islam to incite division I think that it is highly likely that it is him.

    Recommend

  • Abdul Malik

    LOL you never lose a chance to cry victimhood and treat your minorities savagely at the same time.Recommend

  • indian

    the khalistani subscribers don’t have right to talk about religious extremism.Recommend

  • Hamidah Fawad

    This is for local companies as well. However, sometimes women themselves may not want to dress in western attire as they may not want to be stared at. It’s a cultural issue. Let me give you an example. I went to Singapopre in 2013 for a week long training session and i mostly wore western outfits there. However, one day i decided to wear shalwar kameez to work. I got a few compliments from my global colleagues but when I was out on the streets walking, people turned around to look at me as there was hardly anyone else wearing this outfit except a couple of elderly Indian women in old fashioned style shalwar kameez. And I felt awkward. I was being stared at. I didn’t like the feeling. So I decided to stick to my western attire for the rest of my trip. So no there were no rules against shalwar kameez, I was not told by anyone not to wear it but I just felt that I stood out if I did which I didn’t like. And I guess I am not brave enough to go against the Singaporean cultural norms.
    Therefore, looking at the culture, if a lady decides to wear western outfits to work and gets stared at, she either has to be brave enough to ignore the stares or conform to the unofficial dresscode just to blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb like I had to in Singapore.
    I hope you are now able to understand the difference between cultural norms and being allowed or not allowed to wear somethingRecommend