My sister works in fashion. She is a merchandiser for a high street store in the UK and has previously worked in boutique wedding stores. As you can guess she took all of the fashion awareness in my family and I’m way behind the trends. That being said I feel I still dress better than some TEFL teachers in Thailand.
Throughout my time here in Thailand I’ve seen some crimes against fashion which seemingly go unpunished. I can only imagine that Thai staff don’t want a foreign teacher to lose face if they have to ask if the teacher looked in the mirror before leaving home..
Thailand is a hot country and of course it isn’t fun to be outside in the heat in a suit. Some teachers don’t even have AC in their classrooms and I do feel for them. However, nobody is saying teachers should be suited and booted like city slickers. There are a few instances where I’ve had to laugh or just shake my head at what I’ve seen.
Probably the biggest fashion faux pas I see is a complaint against the men. Often teachers will wear half decent trousers and shirts and finish it off with a pair of tatty black sports shoes. They didn’t fancy buying dress shoes and felt a pair of old Adidas trainers would finish their look well. Most of the time these shoes have seen better days and the constant slipping on and off has left horrible, visible creases on the back of the shoes.
Sure walking around in sports shoes is comfortable but it is pretty easy to see that it just doesn’t fit the teacher look.
The university student / mormon missionary look
Crisp short sleeved white shirt, dark trousers and plain black shoes. Add a tie and you look exactly like a Thai university student or a Mormon missionary.
In my view there’s nothing wrong with Thai university students or Mormon missionaries but it will certainly raise a few laughs from students and probably a change in the teacher's wardrobe.
The Tesco twins
I’ll admit I was guilty of this. At my first job the other new male teacher and I didn’t have work clothes so had to go shopping. Unbeknownst to both of us we had gone to the local supermarket and picked up the same set of five work shirts and trousers to wear. We even had pretty similar shoes. The students loved pointing out to us that we had the same outfits.
It’s happened before in other offices I’ve worked in when there’s been a big sale at the mall and teachers have picked up the same shirts. Although these aren’t fashion crimes they do cause laughs in the staff room. When you’re on similar salaries you often buy from the same stores. Currently it seems most of my office buy clothes from AIIZ or G2000.
Trendy but laughed at
I once attended a meeting a few years back where a teacher was wearing a pair of trousers which were about 3 inches too short. I get there is a fashion for those kind of trousers which show a couple of inches of ankle but I thought they looked stupid for a teacher. I asked him if they were his little brother’s trousers and he wasn’t amused. The same teacher also had a habit of wearing bow ties to work. It got a laugh from his students but he thought they were laughing with him not at him. I checked and they were definitely laughing at him.
Too much on display
At one of my first jobs here in Thailand a parent complained that a female teacher had too much on show. This led to red-faced bosses not wanting to tell her this directly but to send a reminder of the dress code to all teachers. After a week of everyone falling in line with the dress code teachers went back to wearing what they were before. Management never brought up the issue again…
What dress code?
I look at Thai teachers and see them in perfectly pressed uniforms and they look super smart. Perhaps these uniforms aren’t overly fashionable but it’s hard to argue that staff look good. It seems that TEFL teachers don’t have to live up to the same high standards or maybe just don’t want to.
My work shoes are a bit scuffed up and could do with cleaning. My bag is about four years old and falling apart in places. I wear odd socks most days. Anyone who knows me would never get fashion advice from me but I still feel I don’t look too bad as a TEFL teacher. As a group I think we’ve got a long way to go in the fashion stakes!
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