Refresh your style with these 10 fashion staples from around the world

First published: 14-05-2015

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Each culture has its own style identity, and over the past hundred years people have started looking for inspiration globally when it comes to fashion. Certain clothes and accessories are associated with specific parts of the world, making it easy to create an international look for any occasion!

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Let's begin with a classic. The popular style of beret - i.e., flat and round - was worn by shepherds in the Pyrenees: the mountain region around the south of France and north of Spain. The beret was mass-produced there in the 19th century.

Berets have been worn in Europe since the Bronze Age, and are now symbolic of bohemian cultures - a stroll through Montmartre will demonstrate the beret's association with artisans. It also has connotations with the revolution - a connection popularised by Che Guevara, whose beret-clad head is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.

Throw on a beret if you want to achieve that laid-back, laissez-faire kind of chic. For ladies, a pair of oversized sunglasses will complete the look perfectly.

Originating as traditional ornaments from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, bangles are now frequently worn around the world.

The custom of wearing bangles dates back over two millennia and many types have cultural significance. In Sikhism, a kara is a bangle worn to represent never-ending commitment to God, whereas in many South Asian traditions brides will wear glass bangles during the wedding; their honeymoon is said to end once the last bangle has broken.

Nowadays, bangles can be made from less precious materials and are therefore easier to mass-produce. They make really attractive accessories for formal and informal events, often with designs that reflect the region where the tradition began.

Cowboy boots
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Cowboy boots: helping regular people feel like American cattle ranchers since the mid-1800s. Starting as a purely practical item for cowboys, they date back to the 1500s, with designs heavily influenced by the Spanish settlers in the Americas, and mass-production began in the 19th century.

The early styles featured shaped heels and pointed toes, which were later rounded to improve comfort and practicality. They were made to be worn on any terrain, with raised toes to prevent mud or water from seeping in, and a shaped heel to keep cowboys in the saddle, minimising the risk of being dismounted.

With their low Cuban heels and vibrant patterns, they are still hugely popular in the USA, and people around the world wanting to evoke that free, unconventional, and wild lifestyle will undoubtedly pick these to complete the look. They work for a range of occasions, from a trip to the shops to a night at a bar.

Associated with the English upper classes of the late 1800s and early 1900s, tweed is a thoroughly British institution. It gained a lot of popularity as an item to be worn during outdoor pursuits, given the material's durability.

Tweed has recently enjoyed a revival in popularity, and can be seen in many vintage-inspired looks around Europe, especially in Britain. It's great for keeping you warm in chillier weather - a tweed blazer will be ideal during the unpredictable climates of spring and autumn!

While many countries have helped shape watches as we know them, they will forever be associated with Switzerland. Indeed, the 'Geneva Seal' is the mark of top-quality watch-making, emphasising the status of Switzerland when it comes to this particular craft.

Some watchmaking brands that originated in Switzerland are still hugely popular today, including Dreyfuss & Co., Frederique Constant, and Raymond Weil. Swiss watches are symbolic of real quality in timekeeping, and are the very measure of skill.

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Tissot is one of the leading Swiss brands, combining total precision in timekeeping with elegant designs. This men's automatic is a fine example, with a bold yet understated design which allows the remarkable accuracy of the movements speak for themselves.

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For ladies, you can't get much better than Mondaine - literally translating as 'fashionable lady'. As the official brand of the Swiss railways, you can rely on Mondaine to keep you on time, and this elegant quartz watch is a great example of minimal style with a really big impact.

As one of the most instantly recognisable Japanese garments, the kimono has become a really popular fashion item for women around the world. Traditionally worn as a full-length robe for formal ceremonies, nowadays designs have adapted to make shorter garments, and kimonos are very popular in Western countries as lightweight alternatives to cardigans.

Decorated in beautiful patterns with vibrant colours, they make a real statement as part of your outfit, and bring a sense of international glamour to something as simple as jeans and a vest.

Hawaiian shirt
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Holidaying anywhere sunny, you'd struggle not to bump into someone sporting a vibrant and brightly-patterned Hawaiian shirt, often called a 'Tropical' or 'Aloha' shirt.

The traditional shirts from Hawaii have floral or tapa designs, usually in quite neutral colours. However, the designs that have become popular around the world often use much more vivid colour schemes, and the patterns tend to stray from the customary ones.

These are the epitome of casual summer-wear, despite the fact that they are often worn for formal occasions by Hawaiians. As a worldwide fashion trend, they instantly remind us of holiday-goers in warmer climes, and are pretty hard to miss in sunny spots!

While the shirts are more frequently a trend of men's fashion, many ladies' bikinis and summer dresses are made with these bold patterns, so everyone can look like they're headed to a luau.

While many market scarves are labelled as 'pashmina', only those made with the authentic pashmina wool - which is a type of cashmere wool - can really claim this name. As an incredibly lightweight item, pashmina scarves are the item of choice in warm climates around the world, where people want to stay covered without overheating.

First used in Kashmir, India, the pashmina is made using the wool from a certain breed of mountain goat. It is incredibly fine - more so than generic cashmere - and is a high-quality fibre that is hugely popular around the world.

Pashmina scarves are a great solution for covering up, especially on a cool summer evening. In colder weather, the excess of material means they work really well as a layer around your next to keep you protected against the elements!

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Originating in the Scottish Highlands in the 1500s, the kilt is a traditional men's garment that has made a real comeback in recent years. For a long time it was only worn for formal events like weddings or sporting occasions, but it is regaining its status as an everyday item.

While 'true' Scotsmen will wear them with nothing underneath, there is nothing in the traditions of the garment that dictate this, so more modest men needn't worry about the dangers of a kilt! With their box pleats and tartan prints, kilts remain a very stylish option for men, and variants for women have recently become very popular too.

The re-emergence of kilts can be attributed to the patterns themselves, since tartan has never gone out of style. In its various forms, it has found its way onto skirts, dresses, and trousers, keeping the spirit of the kilt alive in modern culture, and paving the way for the more contemporary kilts, which are sometimes made with cotton, leather, or even denim.

Russian hats (Ushanka)
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As a country with a notoriously fierce climate, Russia was the perfect environment for developing one of the cosiest items of headwear around: the ushanka.

Translating as 'ear hat', the traditional ushanka has flaps that cover the ears, whereas more commercial versions just have the fur hat that stops at the ear. Either way, they are a very popular way of keeping warm during the winter months!

Whether you're kitting out your feet in the most yee-haw of boots, or covering up in an elegant kimono, there are so many ways to inject a bit of international style into your look. With just one of these garments, you can transform any outfit into something cosmopolitan and chic.


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