Rooted in tradition and culture, national costumes are worn at festivals and funerals, coming-of-age ceremonies and weddings. They are also worn to entertain tourists. Embodying heritage and local identity, these traditional items of clothing represent an antidote to a globalised world. Some are worn on a daily basis – berets and bowler hats, for example – while others, such as Dutch clogs, are more likely to be bought as holiday souvenirs. Perhaps the most reluctant wearers of national costumes are world leaders attending the biannual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit. Cajoled into dressing up in the host country’s choice of attire for the obligatory “family photo”, their awkward smiles suggest the politicians have agreed to wear the snazzy outfits for a bet. The durumagi overcoats “modelled” at the South Korea summit of 2005 and the brightly coloured ao dai gowns worn a year later in Vietnam are classics of inter-governmental forum fashion. Here are eight national costumes and accessories that Apec leaders are unlikely to be seen in any time soon. In 19th century Andalusia, Spanish farmers’ wives and gypsy women wore long gowns with frills, ruffles and polka dots while doing household chores and working in the fields. They also donned their distinctive dresses when attending cattle fairs, where their figure-hugging “gypsy outfits” drew admiring glances from well-to-do women (and their husbands) and soon the high society ladies began copying the curvy couture. The flamenco dress has undergone a number of changes over the years and today there are two types: the day dress clings tightly to the hips making it difficult to walk, let alone stomp and twirl in, while the dancers’ costume flares out, allowing freedom of movement and accentuating the finger-clicking, wrist-twisting performance. Worn by ancient Greeks and Spanish shepherds, revolutionaries and Rastafarians, the beret is most readily associated with the French, and in particular the stereotypical Onion Johnny character. Discovered in Bronze Age tombs and depicted in early European artwork, the head-hugging hat has been adopted by guerilla leaders and the military forces they fought against. Che Guevara sports a beret in the image that launched a million T-shirts and Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting F emme au Béret et à la Robe Quadrillée sold at auction in 2018 for US$69 million. Artists and hipsters wear them, as do Hollywood celebs and pop stars. Beyoncé’s backup dancers donned berets for a 2016 Super Bowl show and Prince sang about a raspberry one in 1985. Derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “strip of cloth”, the sari originated in the Indus Valley (modern Pakistan and northern India) around 5,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest forms of clothing still worn. Over time, intricate designs and dazzling embroidery were added to the single length of unstitched silk or cotton fabric, which was coloured using vegetable dyes. In colonial times, the sari offended British women and Protestant missionaries, who described its wearers as semi-naked. The garment never lost its appeal, however, in part because of its versatility. According to one textile scholar, there are no fewer than 108 ways of draping a sari. Conical hats and the aforementioned ao dai qualify as Vietnamese national costume but the Southeast Asian country boasts another iconic item of clothing. Hand-crafted from discarded vehicle tyres, Ho Chi Minh sandals are hard-wearing and comfortable, lightweight and practical in humid climates, which made them the flip-flops of choice for Vietnamese soldiers fighting the French and Americans. Fashioning sandals from recycled tyres dates back to the 1930s, however, when Ethiopian rebels wore them while resisting Italian occupation. In a twist of irony, artisan shoemakers in Addis Ababa now sell Fair Trade footwear to Italy. A reference to their durability, the rubber sandals are known as “ten thousand milers” in East Africa and are worn by everyone from schoolchildren and herders to Maasai tribesmen. In the 20s, so the story goes, a shipment of bowler hats was sent to British railway workers based in Bolivia. When it was discovered they were the wrong size, quick-thinking indigenous Aymara and Quechua women snapped up the distinctive rounded headgear at a discount, encouraged by rumours that women who wore them weren’t afflicted by infertility. Their descendants still wear the bowler as a sign of pride and cultural identity. The fustanella is a knee-length white cotton skirt that has its origins in the Balkans or ancient Greece. It was popularised during the Byzantine Empire (AD330-1453) and adopted as a Greek military uniform in Ottoman times. Traditionally, the skirt has 400 pleats, representing four centuries of Turkish occupation and oppression. Other elements of the outfit include a long tasselled cap, elaborate waistcoat, wide-sleeved shirt and tsarouchia , red leather clogs decorated with black pom-poms. For a close-up of the entire ensemble, join tourists who gather to watch the hourly changing of the presidential guard in front of Parliament House, in Athens. Greek soldiers aren’t alone in sporting pleated skirts for battle. Scottish Highlanders have dressed in kilts since the 16th century, although the earliest versions took the form of a full-length garment that could also be worn as a cloak. A shorter woollen style emerged about 200 years later and the tartan kilts denoting family or clan we are familiar with today started appearing in the 19th century and are now most likely to be seen at weddings and graduations, sports matches and Highland games. Perhaps the most celebrated (and historically inaccurate) portrayal of Scotsmen in skirts came in the 1995 Oscar-winning film Braveheart . Dramatic though the battle scenes were, William Wallace and his men are depicted in kilts about 300 years before they were invented. Tourists tend to think of clogs as kitsch keepsakes rather than a practical form of footwear (warm in winter and cool in summer) favoured by Dutch farmers, factory workers and fishermen from the 13th century. From Swedish träskor to Korean namaksin and the open-toed geta worn by Japanese geishas, wooden shoes have long been popular in many parts of the world, but it’s the Netherlands that comes to mind when we think of clogs, even though they are rarely worn nowadays. The Dutch word, klompen , gives the English language the verb “to clomp”, or walk with a heavy tread, while the phrase “clever clogs”, meaning an intelligent but annoying person, probably has its origins in the mills of northern England, where wooden footwear was common.