Strictest dress codes – 5 countries with fashion police

dress code countries

Earlier this week, the “Burqa Ban” went into effect in France. Since passing into law, several burqa draped women have already been arrested, and the symbolic law is causing an uproar among the Muslim population of France and beyond. However, France is not the only country with authoritative garment laws. Many countries possess laws that limit what citizens and visitors are allowed to wear.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, these five countries have some of the strictest dress code laws in the world. The list includes countries from three continents, though France is the lone western world inclusion. It is odd that a country known for its fashion houses and pioneering designers is also home to such an autocratic fashion law. I would expect this sort of posturing from the American South, but clothing oppression along the Champs-Élysées seems a bit misplaced.France – Ban on burqas and niqabs
In April 2011, France’s law against burqas and niqabs went into effect. Essentially, the law is a ban on the traditional female Muslim dress and allows a police officer to verbally request removal of the veil before escorting any violator to a police station for ID verification and removal. Gadling blogger Meg Nesterov covered all of the details in a post earlier this week. The fine is 150 Euros for a first time offender and 30,000 Euros for a male that forces a woman to wear a burqa or niqab. I believe the excessiveness of the 30,000 Euro fine reveals the true intent of the law, but to fight the perception of oppression across cultures with oppression is a bizarre strategy.

Saudi Arabia – Ban on bare skin and cross-dressing
The old Kingdom of Saud has always been a leader in fashion constriction. Saudi Arabia is home to some of the strictest social laws on the planet, many applying exclusively to women. This separation of legal restrictions by sex seems austere by western standards, and though every country governs from a different cultural perspective, Saudi Arabia seems excessively sexist – placing 129 out of 134 countries in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Report. Aside from requiring a male guardian, a Saudi Woman must also wear a niqab and abaya in public as to not expose bare skin. Men also have restrictions – they are not allowed to cross-dress.

dress code countriesBhutan – Required gho and kira in public
Considered one of the happiest countries on the planet, Bhutan calculates its output in GNH – Gross National Happiness. While it is rare to read a word on Bhutan without being reintroduced to this policy on happiness, there are also other, less known measures in place to maintain Bhutanese culture. For example, all Bhutanese citizens must adhere to a strict dress code. In public, men must wear a gho – a knee length robe, and women must wear a kimono known as a kira. The dress code is older than the current kingdom and is known as Driglam Namzha.

North Korea – No pants for ladies and hair cuts for man
The hermit kingdom is one of the least visited countries on the planet. The lack of outside influences has bolstered the frozen in time North Korean culture. North Korea has a dead president, a money-pit ghostscraper, and laws governing a man’s maximum hair length. In North Korea, men are supposed to trim their hair every 15 days, and older men are given leniency so that their hair can grow long enough to cover bald spots. While most men are allotted a maximum hair length of two inches, fifty year old men and older can grow their hair an additional 3/4 inch. Women are not permitted to wear pants, and if an infraction occurs, the pant wearing offender faces a stint at one of the North’s horrendous labor camps.

Sudan – No make-up for men and lashes for pant-wearing women
In Sudan, women are punished for wearing pants with lashes and a hefty fine. Sudanese public decency laws are extremely strict and bear the beliefs of the predominantly Arab north. The tumultuous country is home to violent religious differences. With almost 600 ethnicities and a serious wedge between the Muslim north and Christian south, Sudan has been a poster child for racial intolerance for decades. While women are prohibited from wearing trousers, men too have laws governing their behavior. Last December, seven men were arrested and charged with public indecency for wearing makeup at a fashion show.

flickr images via Ranoush & Jadis 1958

Candid look inside North Korea


In this video, Steve Gong goes into a North Korea hair salon and gets his hair cut “Pyongyang style.” Like the city it is named for, Pyongyang style is a largely unchanged fashion. This metropolis on the banks of the Taedong river appears much as it did when the U.S.S.R. was its principal ally many years ago. The ghost of communist Russia hovers over Pyongyang like a specter, and in this light, North Korea is the little brother that never grew up. The stunted growth of communist ambition creates a haunting aesthetic. Massive plazas, ornate subway stations, and dear leaders born out of mountains all speak to the idiosyncrasy of North Korea and its stubbornly unique ideology.

The video provides a long glimpse inside the hermit kingdom. Unlike the Vice Guide to North Korea (my personal favorite North Korean Doc), Steve Gong provides candid HD shots void of commentary. It is like being a voyeur in the most reclusive nation on the planet. If you watch closely, you will even catch a glimpse of the hideous Ryugyong Hotel.

North Korea resumes construction on world’s most hideous hotel

North Korea

North Korea is the hermit kingdom; a strange land of mass games and dear leaders trapped in a 1950′s communist time warp. While they may not have modern supermarkets or PlayStation 3, North Korea does have one of the tallest hotels in the world, and it looms high above Pyongyang like a tribute to the ill advised whims of dear leader Kim Jong Il.

According to USA Today, The pyramidal Ryugyong Hotel began construction in the late nineteen-eighties and was spearheaded by Orascom – an Egyptian architectural firm. Construction of the abominable structure was halted after the fall of the Soviet Union. Without Soviet subsidies, North Korea could not afford the expensive project. Today, the 105 story building is again under construction and may cost as much as two billion U.S. dollars to complete, or 5% to 10% of estimated North Korean G.D.P. Relative to American G.D.P. terms, it would be like the United States sinking over a trillion dollars into a hotel project.North Korea The windowless and hollow structure stood vacant for decades, just towering above the city. It is a metaphorical monument to a country plagued by its own agitprop claims of supremacy and the central lunacy that drives this madness further. The North Koreans even spent years denying the structure’s existence, removing it from photographs and excluding it from maps of Pyongyang. Too much shame, it seems, in the very obvious failure.

When completed, the Ryugyong Hotel will have 3000 rooms and roughly 3.9 million square feet. The original plan entailed three wings rising at 75 degree angles capped by several revolving restaurants and an observation deck at the hotel’s pinnacle. For a country that just opened its first burger spot last year, it is very ambitious stuff.

Many architects in the international community are questioning the suitability of the project. Bruno Giberti, a professor at California Polytechnic State University’s department of architecture, called it “the worst building in the world.” The European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea deemed the structure irreparable almost fifteen years ago, citing curving elevator shafts. From a humanitarian standpoint, a nation filled with malnourished children could probably make better use of the estimated $2 billion project.

With elevator shafts more crooked than Kim Jong Il’s epic golf game and decades of structural decay, the “ghostscraper” faces a long road to accepting its first guests. North Korea plans to open the hotel to coincide with the posthumous 100 year birthday of Eternal President Kim Il Sung in late 2012.

flickr images via John Pavelka

Video of the Day – Inside North Korea

North Korea is undoubtedly the most difficult country in the world to gain access to, especially if you’re a journalist aiming to produce a video about the reclusive nation. For months, the travel bad boys over at VBS.tv corresponded with North Korea’s representatives to arrange a guided tour of the infamous Mass Games.

After being selected as one of the only groups to cover the event, VBS Founder Shane Smith and director Eddy Moretti were taken on a journey that gets more bizzarre by the minute. From the streets of Pyongyang, to the International Friendship Museum, to deserted banquet halls – it’s worth watching the entire series to get a rare look at a country that rarely exposes itself to the world.

Do you have clips from an epic investigation of your own? Found a video online that inspires you to travel? Share it with us in the comment section below and it could be our next Video of the Day!

North Korean theme parks: communism meets amusement park fun


I would imagine that there are few Gadling readers that have ever wanted to visit North Korea. The communist country that recently took hostile actions towards its neighbor isn’t on any top vacation lists that I know of. And, I would imagine even fewer would want to visit North Korea for its amusement parks. But, if you’re a huge theme park fan like the globe trotting Stefan Zwanger, then a trip to the strange, isolationist country is right down your alley.

Roller Coaster at a Theme Park in North KoreaWearing his signature red hat adorned with a tangle of roller coaster track, Zwanger, also known as the Theme Park Guy, ventured into North Korea. He described his trip as a “time machine journey many decades back.” His trip report includes dozens of great images from Pyongyang’s three parks including an image of a roller coaster with the red star of the Communist Party on it. Zwanger also encountered a Zamperla flying roller coaster at the newest park, Kaeson. Kaeson has the distinction of staying lit at night when much of the rest of the country goes dark.

Asia has some excellent theme parks, but I was surprised to see that North Korea actually has three currently in operation. I guess even an oppressive government like North Korea’s must be open to amusements of some kind. The other two parks were Mangyongdae and Taesongsan. Most of the rides at these older parks look pretty neglected and the parks themselves look deserted, bleak, and devoid of a lot of color.

As I analyze the country’s theme parks I don’t mean to belittle or overlook the plight of its people. Theme parks are obviously way down on the list of quality of life improvements needed by the North Korean people. As a long-time theme park blogger, this is just what I do. I make observations about theme parks. See Zwanger’s North Korean theme park trip report.

[Photo credits: Flickr user giladr and Theme Park Guy]