Here’s a list of clothes and shoes you shouldn’t wear in China.
You’re in the planning and packing stage for your trip to China.
But you’re stuck on a few items of clothing and you’re wondering, “Is it appropriate or not?”
Well, you’re in luck because China isn’t very conservative when it comes to clothing. Just dress like you normally would.
But there are still a few things you should try to avoid wearing, whether for comfort, practicality or cultural reasons.
So, here’s what not to wear in China!
1. Revealing clothes
This is the biggest fashion faux pas in China.
Although wearing revealing clothing isn’t illegal in China, the guys will leer at you. And that just makes for an unpleasant trip.
Low-cut shirts that show your cleavage (girls), or shorts so tight they show your junk (guys), should be avoided.
Tank tops and sleeveless shirts are fine though, except in mosques or in the Muslim areas in the far west of the country.
Not-so-fun fact: Recently, a Chinese university advised female students not to wear low-cut dresses or expose their midriff and backs in order to avoid temptation, presumably from men at the school.
It sparked a backlash among students and netizens as the dress code focused on women.
2. Delicate clothes
Leave your delicates at home.
If you’re going to get your clothes washed in China, just be mindful that Chinese washing machines tend to be hard on clothes.
They could stretch, shrink or otherwise get ruined.
And, unless you’re traveling in absolute luxury, your delicate clothes might get wrecked simply in your day-to-day travels.
Chinese streets are usually pretty dirty.
So, if you wear flip-flops, expect your feet to become filthy by the end of the day. They’re also not very comfy for walking long periods on concrete, or climbing the Great Wall!
I recommend shoes that completely cover your feet, no matter the season.
4. White shoes
Similar to number 3, if you wear brand-new white shoes in China, I can guarantee they won’t be white when you return home.
Even sports shoes with white rubber around the bottom are going to get dirty.
I always wear dark shoes in China, or ones that can be easily cleaned.
This one only applies for the regions in China that get humid in summer, which is pretty much most of southern China.
Thick jeans aren’t a good idea in super-sticky climates. And, when you wash and hang up your wet jeans, they’ll still be wet three days later!
The water in the air makes drying denim difficult. So, take pants made of fabrics that will dry fast in humid climates.
Jeans are great for the Chinese winter though, and up north.
6. Green hat
This one is a bit random but still worth sharing.
The Chinese are very superstitious. For example, if someone wears a green hat, it means that their partner is cheating on them.
The tradition started in the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) and there’s a little story about it here.
On my first trip to China, I wore a green beanie not knowing about this superstition, and people openly giggled at me.
Last but not least, is the famous and skimpy bathing suit.
If you are female and you plan on going swimming in China, pack a one-piece rather than a bikini. This is definitely a safer option as it’s what the locals wear, and you won’t stand out as much.
Similarly, local men tend to wear swim shorts rather than Speedo briefs, but you’ll still see some older guys showing off their junk.
Truth be told, if you’re swimming in a busy or public area, some Chinese guys are probably going to check you out regardless, especially if you’re female with a larger bust.
If you want a smooth and stress-free time in China, there are 20 other things you shouldn’t do there. Read more about what not to do in China.
Are any kinds of clothes banned in China?
No, there aren’t any clothes or accessories that are outright banned or illegal.
But there are other things banned in China if you want to dig a bit deeper.
So what should I wear in China?
I’ve written an entire article on what to wear in China and it includes photos.
I recommend you read it, but if you don’t have time, here are the main points:
- Wear the clothes you normally wear
- There’s no need to dress up – China is a relaxed place
- Casual and loose-fitting clothes are easiest when traveling
- Wear layers which you can take on and off as temperatures change.
Psst! A quick travel tip
Don’t forget the internet is censored in China.
So, when using hotel Wi-Fi you won’t have access to your favorite sites and apps like Instagram, Facebook, Google and Gmail, unless you get a VPN before you leave your country.
Find out the best VPN for China.
Key takeaway on what not to wear in China
I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about what not to wear in China.
The main takeaway is don’t wear clothing that will attract unwelcome attention like a revealing shirt or swimsuit. You can show skin, just don’t go overboard and show your privates.
If you’re heading to China soon, I strongly recommend you take a look at the China packing guide I put together.
It covers everything you need for a successful trip!
Keep learning about China
Take a read of these other super helpful articles:
Main image credit: Ria on Pixabay.
FAQ about what not to wear in China
What clothing is not allowed in China?
There are no specific items that are banned, but use your common sense and wear clothes that respect cultural sensitivities and are comfortable.
Does China have a dress code?
No it doesn’t. Dress like you normally would, though try to avoid wearing very revealing clothes.
What colors should you not wear in China?
You can wear any color you like. But according to Chinese superstition, wearing a green hat might mean your partner is cheating on you!
Can I wear red in China?
Absolutely. In fact, some people believe you can avoid bad luck just by wearing red. It’s a popular color to wear during Chinese New Year too.
Can I wear shorts in China?
Yes, you can. You don’t need to cover up your legs.