Fashion has once again gone too far, writes Madeleine Chapman.
In the attic of my childhood home, between the canister of All Blacks figurines from the gas station and the suitcase full of Christmas decorations, was a box full of my father’s old clothes. He mostly wore suits for work and t-shirts for DIY, but this box was a treasure trove of comfort clothes. We loved browsing it and trying on dad’s old tracksuits when he was a teenager. They looked cool and vintage but had one big downside: they were all red and said “NEBRASKA” in big letters on the front.
My dad was born, raised, and went to college in the state of Nebraska. Therefore, it made a lot of sense for him to own a bunch of faded sweatshirts with the NEBRASKA logo on the chest. As his children, in Wellington it made a little less sense, but we still loved wearing them, even though Nebraska was not a place anyone in New Zealand had ever thought of, let alone wanted to. represent. It was like carrying a gift from the past.
Whenever I went to school fairs, I looked for similar sweatshirts, knowing that whoever donated the “Hard Rock Cafe: Chicago” top (which I paid 50 cents and wore for ten years) probably went to Chicago and bought the overpriced one. Hard Rock Cafe merchandising. It wasn’t a very cool thing for me to wear at the time, but at least it felt like there was some kind of connection to the actual place.
Now I can’t set foot outside my house without seeing sweatshirts with random American place names, brand new and in colors that aren’t even associated with the places they claim to represent. What’s going on?
Glassons, Hallensteins, Cotton On – fast fashion brands are awash with cheap sweatshirts bearing the names of random US states, towns and cities. They make no sense! I even saw one with “Lincoln, Nebraska” on it. Lincoln is where my dad is from and is literally considered one of the least exciting places in America, maybe the world. The shirt was black and blue – colors that have nothing to do with Lincoln, Nebraska.
Makes me short circuit thinking of a random New Zealander pay money for this shirt and then wear it in public. It’s like going to San Francisco and seeing a local wearing a green and yellow sweatshirt with “Greymouth, New Zealand” in big letters on it. Except it would actually be cooler because of its niche. America is not a niche. America isn’t even cool at this point.
New Zealand has never really had the culture of wearing place names on our chests. Young school leavers might wear hoodies while tinkering around the house, and recent graduates might wear a college hoodie on a winter walk, but usually we don’t wear our pride of places. where we come from.
The Americans, on the other hand, don’t do much else. Flags on their lawns, city products in virtually every store – they are their own biggest fans. When I spent time in Oklahoma a few years ago, I estimated that one in three people I saw in public was wearing something with the word “Oklahoma” on it. They love their cities!
If we’re so desperate to wear place names on sweatshirts, why not ours? I want to see people walking around Auckland with “LEVIN” sweatshirts, “INVERCARGILL” sweatshirts, “KAIKOHE” sweatshirts. In the early 2000s, Huffer released a sweatshirt with “TOKOROA HIGH” on it. It’s a little too specific, although I’m sure it sold well. Random place names in New Zealand are the sweet spot, and I can guarantee most people won’t notice, because that’s the point. They are basic.
If we want to be basic, let’s at least do it locally. Let’s get rid of fake American place name sweatshirts once and for all.
This is part of The Spinoff’s “Listen to Me” series. Read more of our 100% correct reviews here.