I loved fashion as a young girl growing up in Barbados. But as I got older, it was hard to ignore that we had a unique fashion vocabulary of our own.
If you aren’t from the island and ever went shopping in Barbados, you probably noticed there’s a different stylespeak here, too.
Just for fun, I’m listing seven Bajan fashion misnomers that are as common as they are fascinating.
1. Slippers aren’t actually slippers.
In most parts of the world, a slipper, by definition, is a moccasin, slide or an evening shoe that’s easy to put on or take off. But in Barbados, as a child, when you hear, “Go and put on your slippers,” it’s a command to put on your flip flops or sandals, casual-wear staples across the island.
2. An “armhole” anything is actually sleeveless.
Bajans consistently ignore the fact that most tops or dresses have armholes. You know, those little openings that you slip your arms into, to wear an article of clothing. When Bajans refer to something as being armhole (for example: armhole dress, armhole top), they really just mean it’s sleeveless.
3. A jumper is not a jumper.
A jumper means different things to Brits and Americans but in Barbados, neither definition applies. Here, “jumper” is widely used to refer to a jumpsuit–and, at times, a romper. How’s that for confusing?
4. “Jeans” means it’s made of denim or jean fabric.
“Jeans,” by definition, are trousers made of denim and “jean” refers to the fabric. But in Barbados, “jeans” is used an adjective, in place of “jean” or “denim”. For example, one can own a “jeans dress,” “jeans shirt” or “jeans bag,” which pretty much just means it’s made of denim or jean fabric.
5. “Softwear” have absolutely nothing to do with your computer.
Although the word sounds and almost looks like it could be computer-related, it is not. When a Bajan tells you to wear “softwear” what he or she really means is for you to wear sneakers.
6. A “midriff” is an adjective, not a noun.
I thought this term was pretty much obsolete so it stopped me in my tracks when I heard it recently. “Midriff top” is some Bajans’ way of describing a top that doesn’t cover your middle. This might be a bandeau, bralet, crop top or any similar style but once it exposes your midriff, it’s midriff.
7. Braids are actually extensions.
In Barbados, when someone is described as “wearing braids,” it mostly means they are wearing braided extensions. However, when it’s your own hair, worn in a braided style, the terms used by Bajans to describe your can range from plaits to cornrows.
As funny and weird as some of these might be, I love them. They are part of what makes Barbados, Barbados–especially for fashion lovers!
What are some fun fashion misnomers in your hometown? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear!