Can Foreigners Wear Thobe?

A thobe, together with the accompanying headgear called the shamag is the traditional attire of the Saudi men. But, is it exclusively for them? Can foreigners be allowed to purchase and wear the thobe too?

There really is no law that prohibits outsiders from wearing the thobe.  Though before now, it used to be a very rare sight. The Saudi nationals really appreciate seeing their traditional thobe on foreigners. The thobe decently covers you up plus, you can be assured that you are not breaking the law regarding dress codes.

Can Muslim faithful wear the thobe in a foreign land?

Judging by what the book says, it admonishes Muslims in a foreign land to dress in acceptable ways and not wear anything that might look strange to the natives of the land so as to ward off unnecessary backbiting and perceived show of superiority.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that it is very much okay for Muslims in western countries to put on Jeans and a T-shirt just like the rest of the westerners. As long as the outfit is decent and fully covers the awrah, it is very much okay to put them on.

However, if we want to further dissect this message, we can arrive at the conclusion that it is safe and okay to wear the thobe wherever you find yourself.

This is because the Holy book admonishes against pieces of cloth that are strange and unrecognizable by the inhabitants of your host country but, in actual fact, the thobes are very much popular now even to the point of being considered a trendy fashion item. A lot of non-Muslims are now jumping on the trend and copping one or more for themselves.

Why do Arab men love wearing thobes? 

Mere looking at the thobe, one can be able to deduce just how comfortable they are. The fact that you can just throw them on and go about the rest of your day comfortably and at the same time, looking very stylish makes it the preferred choice of wear. 

This comfortable quality is the same thing that has endeared a lot of foreigners to the garment. They put it on once and it just becomes a regular for them.

They are highly breathable, suitable to wear in hot weather can be worn in different ways, and are available in an array of unique and extremely stylish designs that you can choose from.

Asides from being comfortable, the Arab men see it as their cultural heritage and would continue to wear them to identify with their roots.

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Purchasing a thobe in Saudi Arabia

There are no complications involved in the process of getting a thobe in Saudi Arabia. Remember that it is not prohibited and so, it is pretty much the same process you follow when purchasing other regular clothes.

You can either walk into the stores and have one of the racks or get yourself measured by a tailor that will have it sewn for you.

Before you purchase, first of all, ascertain the type of thobe you want as they come in an array of styles and designs. There are those with short or long sleeves and others with more formal sleeves. The purpose of your purchase would determine the one to get eventually.

Also, ensure you check out the sizes and be sure that you are getting the right length before making payments. The length is always stated on the label with sizes ranging from small to medium, large, extra-large, and so on.

You can also check out accessories like the hat popularly called the ‘tagheer’ and the widely known head covering (shamag).  Before buying, be sure that they fit just perfectly. 

However, if you decide to sew instead, do well to patronize a good tailor. You will be asked to choose the fabric you want to have the thobe sewn in and also state the style that you would like. 

Once measurement and every other detail about the yet to be sewn thobe have been taken down, you would be asked to make a down payment and then given a time frame that it would take for the job to be completed.

Is the thobe the only outfit Saudi men wear?

There are really no restrictions to what a Saudi man can wear as long as the outfit is responsible enough. The Saudis have a very conservative dress code.

Outfits that reveal sensitive parts of the body are prohibited. Shorts that go way up the knee and sleeveless shirts that expose the arms and chest are not allowed there.

Once that simple and straightforward rule can be obeyed, you will have no problems wearing whatever you like. 

For the Saudi men that fall into the working class, even if they do not want to wear the thobe, they can put on formal, semi-formal clothes as they are regarded as acceptable dress codes in most offices.

But, it is imperative to note that if you are called upon to attend government functions like political events, interviews, or just going to any public office at all, you are to appear in the traditional white thobe paired with all the accompanying accessories.

Can the thobe be classified as a religious garment?

It is really easy for people to pass off the thobe as some sort of religious outfit seeing how the bulk of Arab men put them on as they go to the mosque for prayers.

But, surprisingly, it is not.  It is simply a garment worn by the Arabs since the days of old. This is why the ancient outfit is known as the traditional wear for men in that area. So, we can say that it is more cultural than religious.

What can be worn under a thobe?

You definitely did not think that nothing is worn underneath a thobe, did you? Of course, the men don’t go throwing on the thobe and jetting out just like that with no underwear on, Arab men are very particular about indecent flashes or exposures and would surely not go out that way knowing full well that they can accidentally be on the erring side.

Before putting on the thobe, the Arab men put on a cotton shirt and what is known as sunnah pants. This counts as underwear for them whenever they wear the thobe.

Wearing the thobe the complete way

The thobe is never complete without the egal. The egal is the headgear accessory that comes along with the thobe.  This headgear is usually fastened and held together with a rope called the iqal. The purpose of the rope is to keep it from falling off when worn on very windy days.

You might need to exercise a great deal of patience when wearing the headgear. It becomes even worse if you are just trying your hands on it for the first time. All in all, it is possible to achieve mastery and get it right after a series of practices.


How to get the ideal thobe

An ideal thobe is a well-fitting and high-quality one and there are a number of factors that go a long way in determining this. They include:

The right fabric

The right blend for an excellent thobe fabric is 80% polyester to 20% cotton. This combination makes it possible for you to experience an adequate flow of heat and air. Apart from that, thobes made in this ratio are very iron friendly and can be easily straightened out when it is wrinkled.


A perfect thobe should be thick enough so as not to be transparent. See-through thobes are not encouraged as modesty is the watchword when dressing in these Arabic countries.


The ideal thobe must have a perfect length. What is the perfect length you might ask? Well, it is one that reaches down to your ankles.

If you are not getting a thobe off the stores and sewing instead, ensure you have yourself measured from your shoulders all the way down to your ankles to get the perfect length.


Nothing like having were to slip your hands into both sides just to keep them warm or have somewhere to keep small personal belongings. a chest pocket too isn’t a bad idea.

Proper embellishments

The right application of embellishment goes a long way in making your thobe stand out.  Finding the right balance is key to getting the ideal thobe.

Can Foreigners Wear Thobe – Conclusion

Thobes are worn by the bulk of Arab men who are ever so willing to show off and identify with their roots. It is donned by men from different Arab countries like the UAE, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on. 

By wearing the thobe, they are tightly holding on to their rich cultural heritage and this explains that feeling of joy and the sense of pride they feel proud whenever they see a foreigner wearing it too.  A foreigner wearing the thobe is totally acceptable and is seen as a mark of respect.

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