Dressing casual without getting stared at

There’s a certain look that says Hawaii, the splashy-colored, billowy shirts imprinted with large dolphins, palm trees and hula girls. Or, Miami, with the pastel colors and Panama hats. All indicative of a local fashion.


Here at Lakeside, gringo men have their version: a suave combination of short pants, t-shirts with a favorite beer logo, flip flops and straw cowboy hats. Now, each of these items of male garb are fine when worn casually with the right gear in the right place. The problem is that a lot of men down here wear all of them together as an outfit. In public! Looking like a man who has sold all his wardrobe for weed.

Wearing that outfit is almost a legitimate biometric for ID purposes. Admissible evidence in any Mexican store or government agency. It shouts GRINGO!  So if you hear, “No, señor, no need to show immigration card,” you know you’ve nailed the gringo dress code.

You will rarely see an elder Mexican in such gear, unless he’s pawing about the surf to repair his boat. Or, he’s cleaning fish.

Western hats do not go with short pants. Imagine Hopalong Cassidy in black shorts! In fact, in Mexico, nothing goes with short pants, except a pirate’s hat made of newspaper. Flip-flops? These are worn to get yourself out of the shower without slipping and falling on your face. They are meant to take you to your shoes.  And the cheap straw western hat? If at all, it goes with jeans, the kind that go down to your heel and boots. Otherwise, it’s a fashion muddle, not unlike wearing a hard hat with leotards.

If you must wear shorts, there’s a seldom-seen fashion statement that says you can wear well-fitted short pants with sandals. It’s a Caribbean thing. Even Bermudian. And it works.  But for head wear, consider a tam or a smart thin-banded fedora or even a Tilley hat. And for the sake of your own personal pride, do not wear socks with the sandals. Sandals are a warm weather footwear. They do not require socks. Men in both sandals and socks give the curious impression they are unsure what latitude they are at.

Now, shirt-wear. This one is really a difficult one to violate, since just about any shirt in a warm climate is okay. But ... an attention-drawing, bright checkered shirt too tight and popping open at the navel? This can be unsightly. It seems to be saying, “Hey, I can still wear clothes I bought 30 years ago. Clever, eh? I’m saving up for a sexy pair of Crocs!”  The navel pop-out look may be whimsically cool if you are modeling for stomach reduction surgery.

Often, clothes tell us where you came from: rural, city, suburban, the hood. I know I’m pretty transparent. I wear my baseball cap backwards, often with a wife-beater t-shirt. With scuffed up running shoes, it all works.  Although it may be why buses don’t stop for me.