flip-flops at the opera?

I’m happy that one can go to the orchestra or opera in Hong Kong wearing jeans and a hoodie and not be looked down upon. And I’m glad there are more mixed audiences for these events in Asia. (Whereas it’s really the old “blue-rinse” crowd in the West, or so everyone complains).

Maybe because Western classical music doesn’t have so much of a history here, Hong Kong’s classical music events don’t have the same pretentious, rich-crowd feel as they do overseas.

At the Renee Fleming concert on Saturday, half the audience was in jeans — with heels and a nice top at the top of the scale, with Converse All-Stars and school bags at the other end. I particularly liked the girl with the knee-high magenta suede boots.

But shorts? I pardon the Hong Kong Chinese boy in shorts and sneakers, carrying a sports bag, as he was probably 7 and had been dragged there by his parents. Who knew what they were thinking? “Oh, there will be two hours of Strauss orchestral works and lieder tonight. Let’s pick up the kids from badminton practice and go….”

But how about the foreigner in the t-shirt, shorts and rubber flip-flops? An adult foreigner. Did he get lost on his way from the Rugby 7s?

Found here.

More later … on my way to UCSC.


  1. Interesting, I think our culture has just become way more casual across the board. As a church musician I see people dressing the same way for services, shorts and flipflops, and no one bats an eye. Also public schools have kids (and teachers!) showing up in outfits that would be considered inappropriate 30 years ago.

    I try to dress up for “dressy” occasions, although in everyday life I live in sweats! I think it gives an event a certain amount of respect to the event if you dress up, appearance does matter, contrary to what many (including my younger self) believe. If you dress in grimy sloppy attire, people make a judgement about you, but if you’re gardening it is different than if you are at the opera.

    I agree that if people would rather not go to the opera/church/whatever if they can’t wear cutoffs, then they should wear cutoffs and go! But it is fascinating to see what people value by the care they take in preparing for different events (or not).

  2. I just wanted to comment that this is not only an eastern phenomenon. When I went to the symphony a few weeks ago with a friend, there were many people wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Admittedly, Spokane is not a “high class” town, so perhaps it is to be expected that people will go as they go, be it a nice skirt and blouse, at the higher-end or jeans and a t-shirt at the lower.

    What was more interesting was several years ago going to the nut-cracker, for the same show I saw people dressed to the nines in formal gowns and tuxes, and people dressed in a pair of clean jeans and a nice shirt.

    On one hand, I like the fact that people can go to the symphony, opera, or ballet dressed in more casual clothing. It makes it more accessible an less intimidating, I think, for those who don’t move in that perceived circle. (And yes, in my view there is a perceived “class” or social difference between those who go and those who don’t, at least now-a-days.) Perhaps taking it back to a time when live theatre and live music where the form of entertainment and the nobility would come dressed to the nines to see and be seen, and the worker-classes would come as they were to stand on the ground level and watch. It shows that music (and other arts) can bring together people who may have very different views about the world, and who come from different places.

    However, I also can see how dressing up for a concert or other performance gives shows a level of respect for the performance and for the performers. But there is also perhaps the feeling that if you dress up too much, could it not be that then you become a spectacle and that spectacle detracts from the performance on stage? I think clothing should be comfortable, clean, presentable, and non-detracting from the performance, be that detraction too much bare skin, or glitter and gaudy jewelry.

  3. Patricia Mitchell

    Well, as a church goer, I see a lot of variety in dress too. I think the one that took the cake was a rock t-shirt that was something … I wish I could remember now … demonic sounding. I thought it was in poor taste, but I’m sure that the person with the boy (looked to be a grandmother) was merely happy to have him there!

    But as we mature I think we realize that there is a reason to dress for certain things, if only to not be a distraction to others. And yes, people do make judgements based on how we dress. Some people, I know, dress inappropriately in order to show that those judgements are wrong, but even taht attitude speaks volumes!

    I’ve seen women on stage wearing black that looks like clothing I wouldn’t even wear any longer. Others wear clothing that looks like … well … like the wearers earn their livings working at night. Just not in bright places and not on our sort of stage.

  4. Patricia Mitchell

    I’ve noticed that college towns are a bit different … and I’m assuming that Spokane might be that way. It’s also true that the west coast is more casual. And of course the higher you go in the hall, the less well dressed people are much of the time!

    In all honesty, I don’t care too much how people dress, if they don’t smell horrible! (I wish the older women realized how awful their strong perfumes are for some of us, and I wish some of the younger crowd knew that showers and deoderant can be our friends.)

    At the same time, when someone doesn’t dress well at all, I assume they just aren’t as respectful of the performers. I’m guessing that in reality that’s not the case for many … it just FEELS that way.

    I wonder how the audience would feel if all of us on stage came out looking drugged out, with cheap t-shirts and sandals or bare feet.

    Oh wait. They’d probably just figure they were at a different sort of concert! 😉

    Anyway, it’s great to hear what you have to say, Gwen! Do you toot on an oboe at all any more? I’m guessing not …? Singing at all? I do check your blog sometimes, but I’m guessing you are too busy to write much. (Unlike this old lady who would rather blog than make reeds or do yard work!)

  5. Yes, it may just be the places that I’ve actually been too, that were more lax in their dress codes, and I completely agree with you about perfumes, many of them give me horrible headaches, or make me want to sneeze the entire time, which makes for a very uncomfortable concert.

    Actually, having the orchestra come out in jeans, t-shirts and flip-flops might be a good way to make a concert-atire point to the audience. It would be rather interesting to see the reaction.

    Unfortunately, I’m not playing the oboe anymore. It just doesn’t work well as a “hobby” instrument, at least in college. Maybe I’ll be able to play it again sometime in the future. I do miss it, but I still get my oboe doses now and then as one of my room-mates is an oboist. Plus I’ve moved onto singing, which at the level I am at is less time consuming that the oboe. It’s not the same but it is still quite a bit of fun, and I find that I can apply bits of musical knowledge and technique that I learned from playing the oboe to voice. 🙂

    I should try and update my blog again, invaribly when I have something to say, I’m too busy to post, and when I’m not too busy, I feel that I have nothing to write about. Still, despite my business, I do like checking out your blog. It makes me happy to read about what is going on in your oboe world. (I’ve even passed it on to some other students, as something fun and informational to read about music in the real world.)