Why is it so hard for older men and young women to dress well for the office? It’s either ill-fitting, discoloured clothes or they are too tight. Yet they earn a good salary. How do I tell my team to improve on this without injuring their self-esteem?
If you live in Kenya, chances are that you will have heard of a man called Charles Njonjo. If you have not, then you might have heard of a friend of his called (retired) President Moi. They are both in their nineties, and even their worst enemies are agreed that these gentlemen (in the literal sense) have dressed well all their adult lives.
I am sure if you looked around you; there will be a number of men who will put your fears to rest!
As for women, go to the law courts. There you will find a number of members of the Bench and the Bar, mostly well dressed for the nature of work that they do.
As a practising doctor, I can confirm that most women doctors of my generation are conscious of the way they dress and have caused no concerns of the type that you now raise about those around you.
I do not know where you work. If, for example, you work as a bar tender at the Coast where temperatures are high, ill-fitting coloured clothes might be the way to go.
Well-fitting clothes might be the correct attire for a nursery school teacher who spends all day chasing around five-year olds who tend to fall in the mud all the time.
As you can see, your question is really not so much about how people dress in general but more about who dresses how, under what circumstances.
What might be a good suit for dinner may be unacceptable for safari.
Not only does one dress for different occasions, but also as the same person grows older, different styles of dressing become appropriate.
As a teenager in the sixties, we dressed in what were called hipsters. These were trousers that were tied to the body at the hips. A very wide belt enhanced the attire.
Most were also bell-bottomed, meaning they were narrow and tight fitting in the thighs and up to the knees, then flared out towards the ankles.
We also wore what were called platforms. These were elevated shoes (up to four inches) but unlike our girls, the shoes sat on a literal platform intended to make the short young men taller. This was the style and fashion.
If one of my age mates was to dress in this way today, it would be strange. So, same person, 50 years later, and the changes are obvious for all to see.
All said and done, however, what I have described is true of the majority. There are a few men in their seventies who still prefer to go around the city dressed like their grandchildren.
Other than talk about how odd they look, there is not much one can do beyond speculating about their lost chances in adolescence.
Some say that some of these men lost their youth either to strict parenting, extreme rural poverty or upbringing in some ultra-conservative church schools. Others claim personality disorders. However, without formal examination, it is difficult to tell.
Coming back to women, Orie Rogo Manduli cuts a distinct figure in the way she wears her headgear. Some think it is beautiful, others say it is overdone. I have no doubt she finds it comfortable.
Across the borders, people from Northern Nigeria wear flowing robes which must cause them untold challenges in the event that nature makes a toilet call with urgency. For them, it is the way to go.
The Kaunda suit found favour some years ago in many parts of Zambia and Tanzania. For those who like this fashion, Charles Njonjo’s three-piece suit is simply a bad idea.
And then, there are the women from the Muslim faith who, by tradition, cover whole body, often in black. They seem happy this way in spite of high temperatures.
For them, the practice of Islam and their culture have made a prescription different from the French women who fight for their rights to expose their breasts on the beach.
As I look at your question again, I wonder what kind of person you might be, your country of origin, faith, age, or even profession. In a sense, I would hope that you will have more on your mind in the course of time than how other adults choose to wear.