Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Conforming to a T

Little pig, little pig, let me come in to buy a T-shirt

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

The universal uniform is a T-shirt and jeans. Add baseball cap and sneakers, everyone’s wearing the same, from Hollywood to the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.

T-shirts, officially, became big business in Taipei the previous weekend when pop celebrity Alan Luo (羅志祥), known as “Little Pig,” opened a boutique in Ximending, partnered by the owners of a franchise dedicated to the cult of Bathing Ape street wear.

For two days before the opening of the small-but-perfectly-formed store on Kaifeng Street there was a small group of Luo fans camped outside, sitting on newspapers and eating instant noodles from the nearby 7-Eleven. By the time it opened on Saturday around 1pm, over 600 young fashion victims were queuing in the rain to get in.

Many of them turned up for the simple reason they wanted to see their pop idol. Little Pig was a celebrity salesman for the day and after the media filmed him doing the obligatory prayers for good business he served customers until around 10pm.

Apple Daily reported him as having staked NT$3 million in the store and the first day brought estimated sales of NT$7 million. Fans were buying up to NT$30,000 worth of T-shirts at a time. After waiting for two days, it kind of made sense.

Stage (“Hyaline of World”) T-shirts are not qualitatively better than the competition, though some of the ideas are precocious, such as a Mick Jagger lips logo with “Rolling Stage” on the back. The logo hai (亥) in another design alludes to the year of the pig in the lunar calendar, a sly reference to Little Pig.

Taiwanese designers sponsored by the celebrity produce the shirts and jeans, with polka dot or Burberry-patterned pockets. No one claims Little Pig is the creator but his name works like magic.

Student Lai Chih-kuan (賴致寬) was one of the fans queuing up to buy T-shirts. He said he owned two and was wearing one of them, with a simple indigo-colored design of a classic Elvis-style microphone.

Lai said he didn’t think the T-shirts were cheap (NT$1,200 plus) and did not rate the designs that highly, or think they would attract girls. “But I like collecting them anyway because I’m a fan.”

T-shirts were originally underwear and rarely seen out. But after World War I, when European soldiers wore them, the Americans caught on. In the 1950s T-shirts became popular on the silver screen after Marlon Brando and James Dean modeled them in, respectively, A Streetcar Named Desire and A Rebel Without A Cause.

Women too, have taken up the T. While an accentuated sense of fashion is going to complicate the overall image slightly, it is still jeans and a T, whether it’s worn tight to show off breasts, cut to show the navel or bigger like the beat boys.

It’s not exactly hip-hop though, as the large oversize jeans-look swamps the Asian figure. The ubiquitous garment carries messages, denotes humor, shocks, pleases, suggests, teases and publicizes. They brand the wearer.

The ironic thing is, for an item of clothing that is marketed as displaying individuality they are worn so universally everyone looks the same. We conform to a T.

For a look at the hysteria generated by Luo and a peek at the uniformity of fashion see the opening of Stage in Ximending, on YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9OGTCY-7pQ and www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb75q3Z3YPc&mode=related&search=.

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