G-Star Raw

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Passing briefly through a place significantly different than your usual surroundings offers a unique chance to pick up on cultural trends. Brief contact with a culture in action is much like a cross section view of a whale–the unusual perspective offers details you might miss in the sweep of the whole. In the dim and dreary delirium that makes up most of my international flying, these unexpected sights and sounds seem to me to make up the leitmotif of the experience. The motifs of course being sleeplessness, greasy forehead, and frustration at being coralled. Being told where to go by chrome poles and extensible nylon bands makes me feel less than human.

In December of 2005, for example, the leitmotif in Europe was boots. Absolutely everywhere I went, the boots were simply everywhere you looked. In those days, if one were not wearing boots, one could hardly call oneself a lady. The airlines had actually developed a “boot scanner” to allow women to pass through security without removing their variously tight and bulky footwear. I have not seen it in use since then. Perhaps we are past the pinnacle of the boot in Europe.

I only bring this up because my most recent trip from East Africa to the US and back was the first time one of these leitmotifs spanned two continents. The fad in question this time is the phrase “G-Star Raw”, particularly printed on a piece of clothing.

The hip hop thug pastiche is well entrenched in all but the most remote places in Africa. As such, I was not surprised at all when I started seeing shirts and hats emblazoned with “G-Star Raw”. None of these messages suggested whether the wearer were claiming that they themselves were a raw g-star, or whether g-stars were simply inherently raw. What is for certain is that white, bold Gothic lettering is the preferred means to transmit such a message.

I suppose it was the moment that I saw a Dutch toddler wearing a jumper proudly emblazoned with this phrase that I knew something touching the universal heart of mankind was happening. In my worldview, fashion trends are not generally shared between Sudanese men and the smallest children of Holland. With my awareness newly awakened to the globe-spanning presence of “G-Star Raw” I began to see it everywhere. Did I actually see a woman’s purse with this message, or did I imagine it? I cannot reliably say one way or the other.

What does this mean? Has the finger I always keep on the pulse of world fashion lost it’s place? Every appearance of the mysterious phrase crashed like a battering ram on the now seeming-fragile surface of my sense of commonhood of man. What is it that Europe and Africa know about G-Star Raw that I do not?

– Toby 07.19.08

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3 Responses to “G-Star Raw”

  1. maureen Says:

    Well, clearly, what you don’t know is that “G-Star brand is a style of all times. Futuristic and cautious. Far-reaching and experimental. Alternative and traditional. G-Star is about making eccentric combinations, and maintaining authenticity. Never one to follow the crowd. Just the product.” (from, of course, their really hip website).

    Their only problem is that every hip clothing website says pretty much exactly that. But evidently their piece about “far-reaching” is actually true. too bad they didn’t include “From the impoverished of Sudan to the rich little white girls of Holland.” They should consider it.

  2. maureen Says:

    And another thing! What’s the deal with airport-greasy forehead? Because here’s the thing–I wash my face often while traveling. Just as often as I do in a normal day of being at home. Yet, I still get this condition. Its frustrating.

  3. toby Says:

    Somebody told me that the greasy face syndrome is caused by the extremely dry air on the plane.

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