November 14, 2007

I want to ride my bicycle

Megan McArdle asks, Why is it that in Vietnam girls wear the traditional ao dai as part of their school uniform, and boys just wear a shirt and pants and a tie? "Surely," she wonders, "the men would look equally fetching in whatever the Vietnamese elite males wore 200 years ago?"

In response, I submit the above photo from the Apec summit in Hanoi. Obviously, your average Vietnamese man would make this look work much better than George W. or Putin do. Still, I think it's fair to surmise that the ao dai just looks better on women than it does on men:

Incidentally, one of the things I really came to appreciate when I lived in Vietnam and saw schoolgirls riding their bikes around town in their pristine white ao dai is how egalitarian a costume the ao dai is. You get all the flattering and graceful benefits of wearing a dress without any of the annoying physical restrictions, because the silk shift has a split down the side and you're wearing silk trousers underneath. The public schools in New Zealand, where I grew up, all require students to wear uniforms, and I remember riding my bike to school in a skirt on windy days and being very grumpy about the impracticality of the whole thing.

Photo of cyclists from Flickr user thaths used under a Creative Commons license.