No-one wants to stand out like a sore thumb in Rio de Janeiro, especially as tourists tend to attract opportunistic thieves like bees to a honey pot. And while it’s virtually impossible to totally blend in with the locals (from the way they talk to the way they walk, Cariocas have a style that’s all their own…), there are plenty of style steps you can take to avoid openly advertising your tourist status.
Firstly, fashion in Rio is very much determined by the weather. Hot for much of the year, and blisteringly so during the Brazilian summer (December to early March), the city’s residents tend to wear as little as possible, regardless of age, size, or gender.
The fact that this enables the outrageously flirtatious population to openly flaunt every contour of their body is perhaps no coincidence, and clothes tend to be figure hugging as well as skimpy.
Brazilian swimwear is famously tiny, and although the dental floss bikini is perhaps best left to the locals, it is still a case of the smaller the better. For both sexes. While surfers go for the board shorts, the majority of Brazilian males have no qualms about flaunting their wares in skimpy speedos – again, this look may be best avoided by tourists not in possession of a tanned and toned torso.
Like so much of life in Rio, the city’s female fashion is also very much affected by social class. While the upper-class girls of the Zona Sul (the wealthy south zone) tend to favour designer labels and an ultra-groomed appearance, those with a smaller disposable income (the vast majority of Rio’s residents) tend to favour a ‘Less is More’ approach, with teeny tiny shorts, skimpy skin-tight tops and flipflops being fashion essentials year in, year out.
Rio is largely a casually-dressed city, and while some more formal estalishments will have a no shorts and flip flops rule, smart jeans and trainers will usually be enough to get you through the door in all but the most exclusive of bars and restaurants.
What all the Girls are Wearing in Rio:
Retalhos Cariocas flip flops – a funky new take on the ubiquitous Havaianas flip flops, these colourful, strappy sandals are fun and fashionable, as well as being relatively affordably around R$30-40 a pair. The all-girl team behind Retalhos Cariocas use Havianas as a base for their handmade, funky designs, and as well as making made-to-measure clothes, run projects encouraging girls and women from the local favelas to take up fashion design and dressmaking. Fun, funky affordable fashion with a conscience, it’s all good, and you can have a peek here
Large sunglasses. Any style or colour,as long as they’re large. Fake designer labels and imitations of famous name styles are common.
Teeny Bikini. For those who can afford it, labels like BumBum in Ipanema are the place to bag this year’s skimpy bikini, but for the rest of the locals, the city’s markets and chain clothes stores are awash with bikini options. Note that cup sizes are very often tiny in comparison with the busts they are making little attempt to conceal.
Sexy One-Piece. For the first time in a long time, one pieces are notably present on the beaches of Rio this year. Think sexy, with cut outs to show tanned and toned stomachs, rather than big granny swimwear.
Sarong/Skirt. The Kanga is a vital part of any Rio wardrobe, and can be cleverly fashioned to work as a skirt or dress as well as a beach towel. Note, taking an actual beach towel to the beach is a sure fire way to announce your tourist status, as well as your lack of fashion know-how. Don’t be afraid of Brazil-flag designs, the fiercely patriotic locals are happy to wear their hearts on their sleeves. And chests. And butts.
Painted nails. Beauty parlours can be found on every corner in Rio, and females from every social class flock to have their nails shaped and elaborately painted. Forget the pricey beauty parlours of Ipanema and Leblon – in Centro it is possible to get hands and nails done for as little as R$15.
Fashion for guys is much less complex – think Bermudas, Havianas flip flops (buy them here, they are inexpensive…), casual t-shirts (avoid designer labels if you don’t want to attract unwanted attention) and vests. Jeans and smart trainers are necessary when it gets cooler, and to enter some night spots, but otherwise that’s about as complex as it gets. Basically, whether you’re 15 or 55, channel your inner surf dude and you won’t go far wrong.