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Vietnamese Men Wearing Ao Dai To Work Spark Debate On Practicality & Reviving Tradition

Vietnamese men wear ao dai to work

Ao dai is a national costume that is worn by Vietnamese women on special occasions, but unknown to many, it also used to be the default outfit for Vietnamese men on both casual and formal occasions back in the 1800s and early 1900s. 

Nowadays, we don’t see a lot of men wearing ao dai, except in their wedding days or certain state meetings. To revive this cultural heritage, male officials in a state agency in Hue have started to wear ao dai to work.  

This new trend has sparked mixed reactions from netizens concerned about its practicality, as well as inspiring many Vietnamese men across the country to follow suit. 

Hue officials wear ao dai to work

Image credit: Ministry of Home Affairs

In the past few days, photos capturing Vietnamese men and women clad in ao dai have been shared like wildfire on the Internet and drawn tremendous attention from netizens. 

While there’s nothing new about wearing ao dai, what makes these photos go viral is that these men and women, who are staff members at the Hue Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism, were wearing ao dai as office wear.  

Image credit:  Hue’s Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism

According to Hue’s Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism, this unique choice of office wear is meant to promote and preserve Vietnam’s iconic ao dai fashion and its cultural legacy. For centuries, wearing the ao dai was part and parcel of the Vietnamese way of life for both men and women after all. 

Image credit: Lịch sử Việt Nam – Vietnamese History

There’s no better way to revive this wholesome cultural trend by wearing ao dai in day-to-day life again, so it’s apt that this trend is starting in Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital. 

Image credit:  Hue’s Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism

Starting from September, all men and women working at Hue’s Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism are required to wear ao dai to work on the first day of each month

Image credit:  Hue’s Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism

Aside from wearing ao dai with calf-length panels, they also wear fabric headbands to complete the classic look. 

The pioneering office wear has drawn mixed reactions

These photos have been circulated on many social media platforms and have garnered mixed reactions from netizens.

Image credit: Diễn đàn Lịch sử Việt Nam LSVN

Facebook user Tuấn Nguyễn commented on a post shared by a cultural interest Facebook page Diễn đàn Lịch sử Việt Nam LSVN, “On sunny days, the wearer will feel super hot because ao dai is too tight. Meanwhile, its thin texture will make the dresser catch a cold on windy days. Putting a jacket over an ao dai to block out the cold will result in a fashion disaster. Don’t forget the old school dress code whereby high school students had to wear ao dai to school for decades, until educators realized its inconvenience.”

Image credit: Diễn đàn Lịch sử Việt Nam LSVN

Facebook user Nguyễn Hoàng An gave an insightful comment, “I work in the agricultural industry. Since my office doesn’t have air conditioning, wearing T-shirts is already enough to make us all sweaty. Ao dai should be reserved for cultural activities, festivals, or state meetings.”

On the other hand, many netizens praised the idea of wearing ao dai to work.

Image credit: Diễn đàn Lịch sử Việt Nam LSVN

Facebook user Phan Lý Huỳnh commented, “Many Japanese people are still wearing kimono in their everyday lives, and the kimono is not as convenient for walking in compared to the ao dai. Therefore, we should also try to promote ao dai in such a way that does not affect our work.” 

Image credit: Diễn đàn Lịch sử Việt Nam LSVN

“I don’t see any problem with this. It’s worn only once per month. It looks beautiful and helps to promote our culture. More importantly, it shows that ao dai is also a traditional outfit for Vietnamese men, not just women.” Facebook user Hoàng Hải Yến added.

Image credit: Diễn đàn Lịch sử Việt Nam LSVN

Sharing a picture of the character Neo from The Matrix in his signature black cape and outfit that resemble a men’s ao dai, netizen Nguyen The Hoan encouraged everyone to be more open-minded and think about the ao dai as an innovation in men’s fashion. He added, “ The outfit worn by Neo in Matrix is stunning. ”

Vietnamese men across the country are putting on their ao dai

Men in Hai Phong wearing their ao dai outfits
Image adapted from: Phan Huy‎

Despite a mixed response to the ao dai dress code in the Hue state agency, many Vietnamese men across the country have expressed their support by sharing photo albums portraying themselves in ao dai.  

Saigon men in ao dai
Image credit: Minh Đời‎

From Hanoi to Hai Phong to Saigon, many Vietnamese men have walked the streets in
ao dai to celebrate the outfit.

Hanoi men in ao dai
Image credit: Lê Xuân Khoa‎

To prove that ao dai doesn’t hamper movement, a man in Hoi An was captured riding a bicycle while wearing his ao dai.

A Hoi An man in his ao dai riding a bicycle
Image credit: Hoàng Tử‎

Vietnamese men wearing ao dai to work

Even though ao dai is no longer a fixture in most Vietnamese men’s everyday wardrobes, it is still part of our traditions and needs to be kept alive. Ao dai can be worn for ordinary days, not just special occasions which happen only a few times a year. 

When it comes to fashion, while it’s important to move with the times to stay relevant, preserving ao dai – an age-old legacy – is equally crucial. The more we wear ao dai in our daily life, the more can we preserve our heritage and celebrate our cultural identity.

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Cover image adapted from: Lê Xuân Khoa‎

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Josee Ng

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