With the Bahamas located 45 miles from the east coast of Florida, the weather on the islands mimics that of the mainland state. Popular dress naturally reflects the climate. The proximity to the U.S. also influences island style, which reveals lingering influence from the country's days as a British possession.
Police and court staff wear uniforms and robes influenced by the British colonial period. On-duty members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force can usually be recognized by their white jackets and white pith helmets. Doctors wear the usual whites and nurses, dental assistants and veterinarian staff all wear scrubs just as their mainland counterparts do.
Business is conducted in the Bahamas much as it is in any westernized location. The islands have hotels with business centers and conference rooms, and corporate entities maintain offices. For business meetings, funerals and church services, expect clothing as you would see in Europe and the mainland U.S. – suits for the gentlemen and formal attire for the ladies. Light-weight variations on the theme can be suitable, but a “Miami Vice” take – with open-necked shirts and daytime cocktail dresses – would not be acceptable for first or formal meetings.
The Bahamas attract affluent and successful people, who either make their homes on the islands or visit to enjoy a respite from the often strict confines imposed upon them elsewhere by their rank or position. While locals wear flip-flops, cut-off jeans shorts and T-shirts with all manner of logos, visitors at the swankier hotels or out to dine in casual restaurants more typically don brand-name tennis shoes, polo shirts and cargo pants. Even at the most costly and aloof restaurants, management expects casual wear if the subject of dress code does not come up in the process of booking a table. Tourism largely drives the islands' economy, and hospitality staff are always happy to offer guidance on cultural expectations.
Once again, fashions subscribe to western mores. A tiny Speedo-type swimming brief on a man might become the focus of some hilarity, while California-style surf baggies are de rigueur. Ladies wear what they can get away with, in terms of both physical attributes and personal thresholds. Tiny Brazilian-style bikinis are the norm on all the islands’ beaches, but more demure two-pieces and one-pieces are also commonplace. Most establishments – hotels, bars and eateries – expect that some kind of cover-up, such as a sarong, be worn when entering the premises. But many beach-side bars banish such restrictions.
The Bahamian culture is colorful and beach-oriented. Except for formal occasions, people wear bright and usually clashing combinations of hues and textures. Wonderfully extreme Hawaiian shirts are worn over reserved, calf-length gabardine pants; staid plaid button-down shirts make a statement twinned with vibrant fruit-colored nylon shorts; and fabulous, strident accessories – barrettes with huge tropical flowers, headscarves with tangerine and emerald accents – earn compliments from native islanders.