During a winter trip to Rome, my husband and I strolled through the boutique district to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). It looked at first as if every 16-year old from Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota had been collectively teleported from their school cafeterias and rematerialized on the Piazza to grab a few rays of the waning afternoon sun.
We picked our way down the steps through clots of youngsters. I soon realized that most of these young people were Italian. At first I wondered, “Why are all these Italian kids dressed like Rural Red Staters?” Upon reflection, it was logical: Hollister Malibu shirts are acquired as easily at the mall in Milan as they are at the mall in Missoula.
A lifetime ago, herds of young American tourists ranged over Europe, sticking out like hands covered with sore thumbs. Everyone knew we were Americans before we opened our perfectly orthodontured mouths. The giveaway: our hideous polyester togs from the House of Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward.
The only American-made clothing which could muster a grudging envy were Levi jeans — my friends and I found they were eminently barterable for cash or other items among Europeans eager to have the James Dean Look.
Modern global brands want to promote and manipulate worldwide fads and fashion trends for profit. That said, something good can still come from young people around the world liking and wanting to wear trendy clothing, listen to the latest music or use cool new tech gadgetry. Recognizing common ground is a good thing — even if it is only to spark the realization in the adolescent brain that cool shirts are not just for cool kids in one certain country. A tortured and obtuse approach indeed, but when has being direct with a teenager ever gotten the point across?
To demonstrate a case in point, after Secretary of State Clinton likened the North Koreans to “teenagers” the other day, the North Koreans snapped back:
“We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to North Korean media. “Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.”
(quoted from The Washington Post website, 07/24/09)
If they were wearing their Hollister Malibu tee-shirts, the exchange may have had a very different outcome:
Clinton: “Well, cha, the United States and North Korea have serious policy issues, but one thing I think we all can agree on is the North Korean Foreign Ministry staff all look absolutely great in their Hollisters.”
North Korean Spokesman: “I’m only saying that, her rhetoric aside, this girl shows serious fashion cred, and accordingly, speaking on behalf of the Dear Leader, I wish to extend an invitation to Madame Clinton to further discuss policy issues at the Dear Leader’s country home and where, if time permits, the Dear Leader would be honored to show her his personal collection of vintage Hollister tee-shirts.”
Clinton: “OMG! You guys rock! Just say when and I’m so there!”
Crisis averted, problem solved.