What to Wear in South Africa

by | Sep 12, 2017

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Last updated on November 19th, 2023

In South Africa the dress code is generally casual (denims, t-shirts, skirts etc.) when you are not working as the weather is mostly hot. When at work the dress code is more formal eg. knee length skirt, blouse and on cool days a matching jacket. Except for the upperclass restaurants, your casual wear will be just fine in most restaurants. If you intend on going to a club, you should dress hip as the youth are pretty fashion concious. Men are required to wear a shirt (can be casual) with a collar to clubs and for some silly reason many clubs don’t allow ‘takkies’ (running shoes). When on the beach, most women wear one or two piece bathing suits. You can ditch the top if you don’t mind the initial mexican wave by the men. Dressing too revealing in any situation though is generally frowned upon as the majority of South Africans are pretty conservative. A last thought – many people believe SA to be a dangerous place to visit, this is only true if you try and ‘do your own thing’. As with any country/city it has it’s hot spots that you can stumble into if you don’t know the area. Always travel with a recognised tour guide, they know where to take you and where not to.

Nolan (an interested male), Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa is a little like countries in Europe – very fashionable. When I visit, I wear Jeans, but always with fashionable boots/shoes or sandals and tailored shirts, or whatever blouses are currently in fashion. Most of the young girls wear jeans, and depending on the season, the older ladies (40s & 50s) wear capris or jeans, but generally, never sneakers. Summer and spring, mostly sandals are worn. Also, for safety, know where you are going. I was born in South Africa, so that is not much of an issue for me. It’s a beautiful country, especially the beaches, and the hotels, food and shopping are excellent! And the exchange rate (US dollars) makes it really worth visiting right now.

Debi, Sitka, Alaska, USA

Do not over dress. Avoid wearing jewelry, expensive watches etc. Be very wary where you go. Most women who live in South Africa do not wear expensive clothing in public, but the majority wear skirts. I seldom saw a woman of any race wearing pants or jeans. I never saw a woman ‘of color’ wearing pants. Wearing skirts are part of a cultural tradition for Black women. I will return to South Africa, but everyone must be very careful when travelling in that part of the world.

Ellen, Fort Worth, USA

Contrary to expectations many parts of South Africa get very cold and sometimes reach freezing point during the winter months, from the end of May to the end of July. Those who attended the 2010 World Cup will have had a rude awakening. We don’t have a particularly strict dress code, jeans are perfectly acceptable casual wear and the most comfortable clothing item to bring with you. Shorts are very appropriate for the summer months between the end of October and mid March.

Generally speaking we have more or less the same shops as everywhere else, as well as some of our own, so anything goes really. For the office keep it formal, a jacket is advisable as we tend to overdo the airconditioning, especially when it is quite hot outside. Unlike in Europe the office buildings tend to be kept at quite a chilly temperature throughout winter as well, so your scarf and all layers of clothing will generally stay on throughout the day.

That said, it’s a lovely, easy going, country to visit, lots of fresh air and outdoor activities. DO NOT wear safari clothing, no self- respecting South African does, so we spot you quite easily if you walk around in khaki coloured and cliched safari clothing. We wear jeans and shorts with sneakers and other comfortable walking shoes when we go to the game reserves. Keep your cameras in your bag and your belongings within sight, we unfortunately have a lot of poor local and foreign people that might be tempted to convert them into a family meal for the next 2 weeks by selling them, should you leave them lying around carelessly (as in many cities around the world).

Thuli, Gauteng, South Africa

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1 Comment

  1. Annette Haskell

    Thanks this was very informative


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