I was born in Africa where the climate is hot what made us to have only – or mainly – two types of clothes. One type is white or a light color and the other is black or any other type of dark color or just mixed colors. White color is used mainly by people who work or stay in clean places and other colors are dedicated for mainly heavy duty jobs – because dark colors could hide stains on clothes. When I was young I really loved to wear white or blue clothes. In school, it was normal that all students had white shirts. During holidays like Christmas or New Year it was normal for me to be dressed in white clothes and shoes. Holidays was the time to rest and eat and not working at all.
When I arrived in Europe, I learned that you change clothes and also time according to the season and weather. At first I was shocked that we must change time adding one hour back or front. Then I learned that Europe have four seasons: autumn, winter, spring and summer. And during every season people change fashions adjusting to it.
Before, I had never paid much attention to this, the same as I had never paid attention on the color of people's hair. I had never known what blonde even means. But as the time went on, I started to know what it really means. It was funny when people asked me 'Why you people like blonde very much?' My answer was a question given as a response: 'What blonde means?' With time, I also started to adopt to weather changes and time changes.
During a New Year's Eve here in Warsaw, I was dressed in white clothes and white shoes as usual. At that time nobody cared much since all of us were students and the party was in a students' dormitory where many people were foreign students. But once, on a normal day, I was again in white clothes and shoes and my neighbour asked me: 'Do you put white in winter?'. And I said: 'Yes, because I’m black'. When I came back home I started to search more information about this issue. I found really nice information.
In Europe, since many people have white complexion, they wear white clothes during summer so that they could show how much their skin have changed and white clothes repel the sunlight and heat. During winter, they wear black and the reason behind is that black clothes can absorb the heat which is very much needed in wintertime. But since the civilisation of human being went up so high nowadays, this is not much respected. People can be seen in white or light colored clothes just because materials used to produce them are so well prepared so they can withstand the climate for winter.
Black clothes also can be seen on sad days like during a mourning. But as the case above, there are people who can be seen in black clothes only even in summer. There are people who believe that this is the color which brings them luck. Since they don’t have much contact with sun rays, it is not a problem for them. Black thing in Europe can be taken as bad lucky. There are people who could stop their journey just because they had met a black cat or a black dog. But this is just a myth and it is only up to people.
When you are in Africa, things are turned upside down. White things can be seen as something very dangerous. I remember one day, when I was young, in our village, my friend knocked at my door and when I opened the door, I saw a big hand-made bird standing in front of my door. It was done the way Chinese people dance with their hand-made dragons. This bird was white so that it shocked me more.
White color clothes can be also dressed during mourning or sad days. Many people who believe in superstitions they can be seen in white clothes. Since to keep white clothes clean in Africa is really tough, white clothes can also sign of showing how smart and clean somebody is.
The problem starts when a white person lives in Africa or a black person lives in Europe. Sometimes you must do other things differently to the tradition of the place you come from. This is why sometimes I dress white clothes during winter. A friend of mine come one day saying very proudly that in whole Warsaw I was the only person in white clothes on that day and he laughed.
The truth is, even if I stand on the snow, I still can be seen – contrary to a white complexion person who can’t be seen so easily. When it comes to have black clothes to absorb the heat, ugh, I don’t think so. First of all, during winter I wear a few layers of clothes so I allow to open only the area around my face to absorb the heat as much as my face can take but the rest of the body is very well hidden.
Europeans too who live in Africa, they can be seen covered in white clothes during mourning even though inside they have black clothes as their culture demand. But sometimes in Africa too, people can be seen keeping European tradition by having black suits when they mourn their beloved one.
I hope one day if any of you notices me in Warsaw in white clothes, won’t be surprised. On the other hand, I won’t be surprised to see other type of clothes in other places. But we should not forget to keep our traditions for this good reason that our grandfathers found meaning in doing so. Clothes could also tell what type of mood somebody is and they could be a sign if this person needs help or is very happy. Time will tell how the clothes change as the globalisation keep going on and the world is becoming a global village.
Text by: Stephano Sambali