I’ll add today to The Weekly’s fashion blogging primarily handled by Noel Hemphill, because India has some of the craziest t-shirts in the world.
Every morning when I ride the train to school, men who get off at the Hi-Tech City station (near offices for Oracle, Google and more) dress in boring collared shirts, pleated pants and dark leather shoes. The people who are still on the train after that are, paraphrasing CSN, letting their freak shirts fly.
You can summarize these shirts into three categories: clothing brands, motorcycles and “I just killed a man and put on whatever ever I could find that wasn’t splattered with blood.” It’s the last category that particularly fascinates me. All of these t-shirts have some kind of English text on them, some of them being jarringly American (take the small child whose shirt read, “Still the land of the free, home of the brave”). My personal favorite so far, also jarringly American, was covered with the text, “Chubby, Single, Ready for a Pringle.” Playboy is a remarkably popular brand, especially among young children, while “Angry Birds” characters grace many adult men’s chests. English has been widely spoken among Indians since colonial rule, but do these Hyderabadis know what their shirts say? Are Playboy’s connotations known to the five-year old wearing the bunny, or to his mother?
According to one Indian fashionista, no.
“Most people who wear the shirts don’t understand the message,” Premkishore Prusty, a student here at University of Hyderabad who coordinates a fashion show every autumn, said.
Even if they don’t understand the words, the impact of wearing English is still a statement.
“They want to look like they just got back from New York,” Prusty added.
The class dimension is certainly present. “95 percent of graphic tees are very cheap,” Prusty told me.
I doubt the street vendors have any licensing deals with Rovio Entertainment .
If anyone on the KOXY staff has plans to come to India, they might want to watch their wardrobe. When I asked Prem about the possibility that the Angry Birders were wearing the shirts ironically, he didn’t seem to understand the concept.
“Why would you wear something on your shirt if you didn’t like it?”
I suppose these shirts that fascinate me are less about what the words mean and more about what the words look like they mean. Still, I’m sure the the guy I saw wearing a Cleveland Indians baseball shirt had to have a smirk on his face when he dressed in the morning.
I feel weird taking pictures of random people on the subway, so these are examples of my friends and family friends.
Ben Poor is a junior American Studies major studying abroad in Hyderabad, India during the Spring 2014 Semester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WklyBPoor.