Dressed in Style from Head-to-toe

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Ex­ter­nal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the lay­out and the build­ings of a city of­ten re­flect its over­all style and at­mos­phere, and the way its peo­ple dress shows the city's spirit and char­ac­ter. Bei­jingers pay at­ten­tion to what they wear from tip to toe. What hats should peo­ple wear, and at what age? What should peo­ple wear in dif­fer­ent sea­sons, and what shoes should they wear for cer­tain oc­ca­sions?

A say­ing goes in Bei­jing dur­ing the Re­pub­lic of China (1912–1949) that “A rich man wears a Ma Juyuan hat, a pair of Neil­ian­sheng shoes, an out­fit by Rui­fux­i­ang, and car­ries notes of the four ma­jor banks around his waist.” The say­ing refers to some fa­mous brand names in Dashilar at that time. Th­ese prod­ucts in­di­cated the qual­ity of life of Bei­jing's set­tled res­i­dents.

When buy­ing clothes, aside from qual­ity, Bei­jingers pay at­ten­tion to com­fort and fash­ion de­tails. They al­ways blend the tra­di­tional with the mod­ern, rep­re­sent­ing nat­u­ral cor­dial­ity with unique taste.


As a civil­i­sa­tion with a long his­tory, China en­joys be­ing called “the King­dom of Cloth­ing and Head­gear.” The coun­try's tra­di­tional cos­tumes sig­nify a 5,000-year­long cul­ture, and re­main as gems in Chi­nese cul­ture and art. Of the many types of ever- chang­ing tra­di­tional cloth­ing, head­gear is part of fash­ion, and rep­re­sents dig­nity, sta­tus, ethics and cus­toms.

“Head­gear sym­bol­ises the start of hu­man civil­i­sa­tion.” In both China and West­ern coun­tries, head­gear used to rep­re­sent priv­i­lege and sta­tus be­fore they be­came fash­ion ac­ces­sories of the pub­lic. Dif­fer­ent cul­tures have dif­fer­ent eti­quette for wear­ing hats, es­pe­cially in West­ern cul­tures. Nowa­days, there are sel­dom hi­er­ar­chi­cal dif­fer­ences in hats, but there are pro­fes­sional di­vi­sions, such as lawyer's wigs, nurse's caps, army caps, po­lice caps, doc­toral caps, chef hats, and head­gear of eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, the Yel­low Em­peror (2698–2598 BC) was the first cre­ator of hats, in­di­cat­ing that head­gear en­joys a long his­tory in China. There are even Chi­nese id­ioms con­cern­ing hats such as guan­mi­antanghuang (“dig­ni­fied crown,”

pompous and im­pres­sive-look­ing) and yiguanchuchu (“neatly dressed in smart clothes and a head­dress”). Guan and mian are both words for crowns worn by an­cient em­per­ors or of­fi­cials.

In China's more prim­i­tive times, peo­ple wor­shipped totems. Be­cause rare birds all had crests, peo­ple im­i­tated the an­i­mals and made head­dresses to keep warm or used them for or­na­men­ta­tion. In an­cient times, all head­gear had dis­tinc­tive hi­er­ar­chi­cal in­di­ca­tions for em­per­ors and princes, gen­er­als and sol­diers, civil and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials.

Head­gear in dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods has its own unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of the times. In the 1970s and 1980s, olive green mil­i­tary caps were most pop­u­lar and could be seen ev­ery­where in the streets. Var­i­ous head­gear are also im­por­tant mark­ers for iden­ti­fy­ing dif­fer­ent re­gions and na­tion­al­i­ties.

Mon­go­lians love fox fur caps, the Tu eth­nic peo­ple love brocade hats, the Yao eth­nic peo­ple are fond of tur­bans with pheas­ant tails, and the Uygur in Xin­jiang pre­fer small flow­ered caps. Spe­cial felt caps in re­gions south of the Yangtze River are favourites of farm­ers and fish­er­men due to their abil­ity to en­dure wind and snow in win­ter and re­flect bright sun­light in sum­mer. Rab­bit and tiger-head hats worn by chil­dren in­di­cated the zo­diac sign of the wearer or the zo­diac sign of the year.

In the early 20th cen­tury, tra­di­tional Euro­pean and Amer­i­can cer­e­mo­nial hats were in­tro­duced to China. Such hats were only worn on spe­cial oc­ca­sions such as wed­ding cer­e­monies, but they grad­u­ally be­came com­mon. With the coun­try's grow­ing so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, head­gear no longer be­come a sym­bol of one's iden­tity or class. Ev­ery­one can wear a hat, which can both keep one warm and act as a fash­ion­able or­na­ment.

Head­gear not only in­di­cates class or rank, but also eti­quette and knowl­edge. So­ci­ety to­day still ob­serves hat-wear­ing eti­quette. A proper hat can make the per­son wear­ing it look more at­trac­tive. When wear­ing a hat, the style, colour and ma­te­rial should cor­re­spond to the cloth­ing and sea­son. On so­cial oc­ca­sions, men take off their hats to show re­spect for each other. In ad­di­tion, hats are sup­posed to be taken off on oc­ca­sions such as flag-rais­ing and fu­ner­als.

The Ma Juyuan Hat Shop in Bei­jing is a time-hon­oured and well-known brand. Founded in 1817 by Ma Juyuan, a na­tive of Maqiao, He­bei Prov­ince, the shop has a 200year his­tory. Many peo­ple have been proud of wear­ing Ma Juyuan hats over the past two cen­turies. The shop's hats and caps, made of se­lected ma­te­ri­als with ex­quis­ite work­man­ship, came in a range of va­ri­eties, de­signs and colours and sold at rea­son­able prices.

To­day, the shop still car­ries on its tra­di­tional fea­tures and tech­niques, ad­her­ing to fine ma­te­ri­als and pro­ce­dures. The shop also con­tin­ues to cre­ate new pat­terns and styles, mak­ing over 80 kinds of high-grade fur and leather hats, as well as hats made of dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als for men, women, chil­dren, and var­i­ous eth­nic groups like the Han, Man, Hui, Miao, Yao, Mon­go­lians and Ti­betans.

An­other time-hon­oured hab­er­dash­ery in Bei­jing is Shengx­ifu, a branch opened in 1937 by the Tian­jin Shengx­ifu Hat Store. Founded in 1911, Shengx­ifu has kept a de­tailed record of its per­for­mance over the past 100 years, and is fa­mous for its so­phis­ti­cated ma­te­ri­als, hand­made crafts­man­ship and su­perb qual­ity.

It is pop­u­lar with peo­ple both at home and abroad. Its head­gear comes in var­i­ous styles: Sher­lock Holmes, Bri­tish gen­tle­man, pain­ter's, fish­er­men's, lace bon­nets, and straw hats. A length of fish­ing line is added to the thread when a hat is made, re­tain­ing the hat's shape even when folded or squeezed. Prices are also rea­son­able, which ex­plains its en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

Silk Cloth­ing

Cloth­ing is a sym­bol of hu­man civil­i­sa­tion, be­ing one of the most es­sen­tial ne­ces­si­ties in daily life along with food and shel­ter. Al­most from the day of the ori­gin of cloth­ing, peo­ple's cus­toms, aes­thet­ics, colour pref­er­ences, cul­tural men­tal­i­ties and re­li­gious con­cepts have been em­bed­ded in their choice of cloth­ing.

China has a long his­tory of ser­i­cul­ture, con­sid­ered the first na­tion in the world to pro­duce silk. The Chi­nese be­gan to spin

silk and weave as early as prim­i­tive times. As a sym­bol of an­cient Chi­nese cul­ture, silk cul­ture has par­al­leled the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion, wit­ness­ing the knowl­edge and hard work of ar­ti­sans. Silk cloth­ing has gone be­yond its ba­sic func­tion of keep­ing peo­ple warm, and come to sym­bol­ise peo­ple's wishes for peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.

An­cient Chi­nese in­vented silk and cre­ated a boom­ing silk in­dus­try that con­trib­uted to China's econ­omy, art, cloth­ing and cul­ture. Silk cloth­ing has be­come so fash­ion­able that it is now worn daily by the up­per classes, hav­ing a di­rect in­flu­ence on ap­parel pro­duc­tion. Silk cloth­ing has be­come a sym­bol of one's iden­tity and sta­tus.

The tex­ture and colour of silk is a per­fect match to the art of Chi­nese cloth­ing, which seeks sub­tlety and ele­gance. The loose-fit­ting style and struc­ture of an­cient Chi­nese cloth­ing, com­bined with silk, has in­flu­enced how Chi­nese have thought and dressed for thou­sands of years.

The colours of dyed silk are the clos­est to nat­u­ral colours, a dis­tinct fea­ture other fab­rics fail to match. Silk can be dyed all kinds of biomimetic colours, which en­hances silk cloth­ing's ap­peal. The de­vel­op­ment of em­broi­dery on silk fur­ther en­riches the va­ri­eties of silk cloth­ing avail­able. Em­broi­dery is as an in­de­pen­dent form of art and an ac­ces­sory for cloth­ing, meant to make any ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing more at­trac­tive. Dif­fer­ent pat­terns and colours of em­broi­dery can pro­vide a wide range of choices, adding more splen­dour to silk cloth­ing.

The Rui­fux­i­ang Silk Store (English name Re­fos­ian) is well-known in Bei­jing. It was founded in 1893 by Menghong­sheng, a de­scen­dant of the great philoso­pher Men­cius. Meng was born in Zhangqiu County, Ji­nan Pre­fec­ture in Shan­dong Prov­ince. Re­fos­ian's tra­di­tional spe­ci­ail­ity is mak­ing cus­tom cloth­ing, and the shop pro­vides a “one pack­age” ser­vice that in­cludes choos­ing ma­te­ri­als to mak­ing gar­ments. In ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional skills like in­lay­ing, stitch­ing, piec­ing and sewing, Re­fos­ian also uses hand em­broi­dery and other skills.

In short, with the high­est qual­ity ma­te­ri­als, proper cut­ting, el­e­gant stitch­ing and but­tons, it is no won­der that Re­fos­ian's rep­u­ta­tion has lasted for more than a cen­tury. To­day, Re­fos­ian de­signs its own prod­ucts and ap­points a fac­tory to man­u­fac­ture them. Their prod­ucts, all em­broi­dered with its brand name, are highly praised by buy­ers at home and abroad. The shop's tra­di­tional cos­tume ex­hi­bi­tions com­bine cul­ture with busi­ness.

An­other silk store in Bei­jing, Qianx­i­angyi Silk Store, is one of the fa­mous eight silk stores with xiang (aus­pi­cious) in their store names, all praised by lo­cal res­i­dents. Es­tab­lished in 1840, it is the largest silk store in China and has the largest va­ri­ety. Keep­ing pace with

cus­tomers' chang­ing needs, Qianx­i­angyi Silk Store spe­cialises in silk cloth­ing, fab­rics and hand­i­work.

Qianx­i­angyi's wide range of fab­rics in­cludes nat­u­ral silk, silk damask, satin, gauze, spun silk and crepe. Var­i­ous types of satin and brocade for trousers, gilt-edged silk, satin with a dragon de­sign, ta­pes­try satin and mixed satin are some of the store's most ex­quis­ite prod­ucts, and are well re­ceived by both Chi­nese and for­eign­ers.

As for its silk gar­ments, Qianx­i­angyi sells sun­dries of Chi­nese cloth­ing, ca­sual cloth­ing, home prod­ucts, un­der­wear and other items that make peo­ple look no­ble and el­e­gant. Their silk hand­i­work is even more at­trac­tive, with many em­broi­dered pieces, like A Dream of Red Man­sions, based on clas­si­cal Chi­nese sto­ries. Their em­broi­dered land­scape paint­ings on silk and hand­i­craft purses are pop­u­lar among cus­tomers.


Chi­nese footwear, with a his­tory of more than 6,000 years, is a fas­ci­nat­ing part of “the King­dom of Cloth­ing and Head­gear.” Footwear is closely re­lated to peo­ple's lives; not only do peo­ple liv­ing all over China and dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups wear dif­fer­ent shoes, but footwear has also changed through­out his­tory.

Each per­son has their own style of footwear. Bei­jingers not only want them to feel com­fort­able, but also want recog­ni­tion from oth­ers for their smart choice. Se­lect­ing the right colour and style of shoes to match one's out­fit re­flects a per­son's taste, per­son­al­ity traits and charisma.

Neil­ian­sheng, a time-hon­oured shoe brand in Bei­jing, was founded by Zhao Ting in 1853. In the early days, it was a pioneer in mak­ing lux­ury shoes for aris­to­crats and of­fi­cials. Nei means “court” and lian­sheng in­di­cated that the of­fi­cials wear­ing them would have a suc­cess­ful ca­reer and be pro­moted. Neil­ian­sheng are all hand­made and the store keeps a record of the size and style of its reg­u­lar cus­tomers, so it can pro­vide home de­liv­ery ser­vice if needed.

Nowa­days, the store mainly serves or­di­nary peo­ple but still of­fers cus­tomised ser­vice to those with spe­cial re­quire­ments. Cloth shoes with “thou­sand-layer soles” are a spe­cial­ity of Neil­ian­sheng. Ev­ery square cun (1 cun equals 3.33 cen­time­tres) of a “thou­sand-layer” sole needs to be stitched uni­formly 81-100 times with good-qual­ity twine. Tra­di­tional crafts to­gether with nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als like pure cot­ton, hemp and wool have made the store fa­mous.

Es­tab­lished by an of­fi­cial in 1858 dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Xian­feng (1831–1861), the Buy­ingzhai Shoe Store is lo­cated in Bei­jing's Dashilar com­mer­cial district. In the be­gin­ning, the store mainly made cloth shoes and only served of­fi­cials and aris­to­crats. Buy­ingzhai is fa­mous for its va­ri­ety of shoes, such as del­i­cate hand­made em­broi­dered cloth shoes; pop­u­lar, warm and durable cot­ton-padded shoes; and dou­ble-lined shoes made with solid horse­hide for labour­ers.

Buy­ingzhai started buy­ing leather shoes from Shang­hai and other south­ern cities in the 1930s, mak­ing it one of the ear­li­est Bei­jing stores to sell leather shoes, which later boomed in pop­u­lar­ity. Nowa­days, Buy­ingzhai, the 100-year-old brand, still fea­tures a large va­ri­ety of shoes, vary­ing from im­ported leather shoes cost­ing sev­eral thou­sand yuan to baby's shoes that cost just sev­eral yuan.

An­other fa­mous shoe store in Bei­jing is Tong­shenghe. Founded in 1902, in its early days it made cloth shoes with thou­sand­layer soles and felt caps. The first shop­keeper was named Mo Yinx­uan from Baodi County, He­bei Prov­ince. Lo­cated on a bustling Wang­fu­jing Street, the store name im­plies “work­ing to­gether to make money in a friendly way.” In front of the store is a pop­u­lar cop­per sculp­ture with smil­ing chil­dren try­ing on a pair of adult leather shoes.

In its shop win­dow, leather shoes cus­tom-made for Mao Ze­dong (1893– 1976) and Zhou En­lai (1898–1976) are on dis­play. There is also an ex­hibit of a pair of one-me­tre long shoes called “shoes of the cen­tury” that once caused a stir in Old Bei­jing, made by Tong­shenghe with tra­di­tional craft and three-piece leather.

Thanks to its orig­i­nal de­signs, nu­mer­ous va­ri­eties and a range of sizes, Tong­shenghe is well re­ceived by its cus­tomers. Its hand­made qual­ity leather and cloth shoes are all made of nat­u­ral leather, fur, cot­ton and hemp. Through its unique, su­perb hand­i­crafts with eth­nic char­ac­ter­is­tics, Tong­shenghe's shoes are a plea­sure to wear.

Shengx­ifu Hat Store

Qianx­i­angyi’s silk prod­uct

Rui­fux­i­ang Silk Clothes Shop

Neil­ian­sheng Shoe Store

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