Does Wearing Traditional Clothing Make You Happy?

By wael | April 15, 2008

British girls in traditional Bangladeshi clothing

April 2008

Does Wearing Traditional Clothing Make You Happy?

by Wael Abdelgawad

Here’s an article from the BBC that says that Bangladeshi girls in the UK who wear traditional clothing are happier than those who wear Western clothing. Personally I think they’ve kind of missed the point. But read it yourself and see what you think:


Via the BBC News Website, Health section, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 08:54 UK:

Teenage girls from some minority communities who stick to their family customs have better mental health, researchers say.

Queen Mary University of London found Bangladeshi girls who chose traditional rather than Western dress had fewer behavioural and emotional problems.

The team said close-knit families and communities could help protect them.

Pressure to integrate fully could be stressful, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems, and the researchers said that identity, often bound up in friendship choices or clothing, played a role.

They questioned a total of 1,000 white British and Bangladeshi 11 to 14-year-olds about their culture, social life and health, including questions designed to reveal any emotional or mental problems.

Bangladeshi pupils who wore traditional clothing were significantly less likely to have mental health problems than those whose style of dress was a mix of traditional and white British styles.

When this was broken down by gender, it appeared that only girls were affected.

No similar effect was found in white British adolescents who chose a mixture of clothes from their own and other cultures.

More support

Professor Kam Bhui, one of the study authors, said that the result was “surprising” – he had expected that girls who were less fully integrated to show signs of greater strain.

“Traditional clothing represents a tighter family unit, and this may offer some protection against some of the pressures that young people face.

“What it suggests is that we need to assist people who are moving from traditional cultures and becoming integrated into Western societies, as they may be more vulnerable to mental health problems.”

Professor James Nazroo, a medical sociologist at the University of Manchester, said that the findings meant that “notions of Britishness” should be dealt with in a sophisticated way.

“There are many ways in which people can be British – these girls who have good mental health, and still have a strong traditional culture, are by implication settled and comfortable with their identities.”

Ok, I guess they finally got it right in the last paragraph. It’s not about the clothing. The point is that the girls who wear the traditional clothing are in general more in touch with their religion, their ancestral culture, and their families. They’re not confused about who they are. They are comfortable with themselves and their own identities.

I’m a man, but I often wear traditional clothing, such as a thobe (jalabiyyah) and a kufi (taqiyyah), in Western cities. I notice that when I do wear it I get a lot of looks, but at the same time I feel a certain sense of pride. I am representing my culture and my religion and I feel good about that.

12 Responses to “Does Wearing Traditional Clothing Make You Happy?”

  1. Somayya Says:
    April 15th, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    I agree with what Wael said at the end, its not the clothing, its the fact that these girls are comfortable with their religion, culture and identities. It’s good to wear your traditional dress, even if it looks odd in a Western country. I would also ask girls who wear scarf and jilbab to stand up and be proud of wearing their Islamic dress, yes we’re gonna get looks and comments but if you keep on wearing it, you’re the strong one.

  2. Omar Hayat Says:
    May 15th, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Good to see such an honest article about Muslims on BBC

  3. China clothing Says:
    March 27th, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Thanks so much 🙂

  4. organic baby clothes Says:
    April 2nd, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Interesting article. I certainly do respect every Muslim girl who dresses as per their religion. it shows a lot of self esteem and faith towards the religion. Nice blog.

  5. Gowns Says:
    April 8th, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Informative article. Well,personally I too feel that dressing according to your religion is your choice and if you happy with doing so no one or nothing should stop you doing so. Anyway, keep up the awesome articles. Cheers

  6. Greg Says:
    April 8th, 2009 at 3:04 am

    This is why i love the BBC, quite possibly the only truly free press in the world!

  7. danielle Says:
    April 13th, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    I don’t think its an issue of being happy per se so much as comfortable. I am not a muslim but when I visit muslim countries I feel much more comfortable dressing conservatively because wearing western clothes draws stares. Teenagers particularly want ot fit in and if wearing traditional clothe is what everyone else is doing then as a teenager not wanting to stand out they are more comfortable- thus ‘happy’ doing the same.

  8. women's scarves Says:
    June 4th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    This is a very lovely article. I think what to wear should be the choice of whoever is wearing it.
    It is always better to wear what you are happy with and feel comfortable in.

  9. Designer Clothing Blog Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Interesting topic indeed. Personally I find the traditional Muslim clothing a symbol. I’m sure most of the women wearing it is happy. And frankly I respect each and every one of them greatly.

  10. Gas Fires Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 10:53 am

    The headscarf is a religious requirement but not a religious symbol…understand the difference? My friends grandma is Catholic but she often wears a headscarf as she has been wearing it since small and her mother wore it, and her mother, etc.

  11. Sugoi Clothing Says:
    July 27th, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I think one should respect other religions, and France should really do the same. Whether it matches with their culture or not, it is not for them to decide, if the other countries can, why can’t France?

  12. Winter Coats for Women Says:
    October 22nd, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    It is a good thing to fit in. But we need more tolerance around the world as a whole for those that wear clothing to abide by religious standards. I don’t think the world may ever completely wake up in our life times, it hasn’t for thousands of years so what makes us especially important? But some day, hopefully.

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