Sunday, 31 January 2010

Do you know what you are wearing?

Escaping the cold of the UK for a little warmth (relatively speaking) in off-season Spain, we came across several examples of a rather puzzling Spanish phenomenon which you don’t normally see in busy resorts: clothing with bizarrely inappropriate English phrases on them.

In a rather cosmopolitan bar, the owner had a T-shirt proudly suggesting, “Kill the yuppie bastards”; in a busy shopping street, a rather conservative-looking middle-aged man proudly sports a pullover emblazoned, “Doggy Style”; and, most bizarrely of all, a handsome father, young son in hand, who walked towards us on the beach wearing a sweat-shirt boldly proclaiming, “I take it up the bum”.

Now, said father may or may not indulge in this particular practice, but it strikes me as bizarre that it wouldn’t cross his mind to check the meaning of the words proclaimed across his torso to the world. Perplexed, we asked a Spanish friend to explain what we had observed, and he confirmed what we suspected: that English of any kind on clothing is regarded by some as fashionable; that they trust the manufacturers not to play games at their expense; and that they don't have a clue what the words on the garment actually mean.

Which prompts us to consider the motives of those who design such products? Do they really intend to humiliate their customers, or do they regard it as some sort of huge sartorial joke? Is it the revenge of a slighted designer upon a monolingual wholesaler, or a bored youth in the Far East wondering what he can get away with? Whatever the answer, some of the said customers are going to get a nasty shock one day but, until then, are hopefully walking around in contented, ignorant bliss.

Which reminds me: some years back, I brought my other half a gift from Japan in the form of a light cotton day-kimono, or yakuta. It is emblazoned with Japanese characters, the meaning of which, of course, I am ignorant. Perhaps I should check them out…

1 comment:

Barry Coidan said...

I saw a T shirt in French years back it read "My dress sense is shit!"