The Value of Clothing to Hispanics – A Clothes Call

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

No matter their economic status, accessories and jewelry are a must for girls starting from a very young age. Little girls get their ears pierced almost at birth and might let their hair grow to pull it back in a sleek and polished pony tail. Their socks will have ruffles and their outfits will match.

Appearances are very important in Hispanic culture. First impressions hold high value and sometimes are very hard to erase if the outcome is negative. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. “El que dirán” (what will they say.)

In America clothes have become a way to express yourself. T-shirts with, “Go Green” or, “Vote for Obama” speak for themselves. Among Hispanics clothes are not to express, but to impress. The reason for this could be that they are worried about being judged and not accepted. And since social circles tend to be very small in Latin countries it is important to give the right impression even though “las aparencias engañan” (appearances can be deceiving.)

I remember the comment of my mother in law (a Harvard Business School grad), when she visited Guatemala for the first time. She said, “Everybody dresses like they are always ready to go to an event.”

© 2009 Sofia E. Keck