Returning once again to the theme of Moscow fashion, I've been particularly amused lately by the name-brand knockoffs that still appear on the streets. The most commonly seen knockoffs remain pirated athletic wear - adidas, puma, and the like - that can be found comfortably draped on every track-suited thick-necked man in town.
But wait, you say! This is the New Moscow! Isn't it possible that Russians have traded in the knockoffs of the 90s for the real thing now that they're rolling in oil money? No, it's not. Here's why: the real adidas is expensive. I just checked on the adidas website where I see that their cheapest track pants are $50 and the matching track top is $60. Now let's return to Moscow. If some Muscovite has $110 to burn on casual clothes, is he going to buy a track suit that looks just like the $20 Chinese knock-off that everyone else is wearing? No, he's going to spend it on something that's going to make him stand out and get the attention of the devushkas! Another way of putting this is that the people wearing the "adidas" track suits around Moscow don't exactly carry themselves like they dropped a hundred bucks on their outfit.
Oh, and the other sign that the track suit is a knockoff is the fact that the brand name may often be misspelled. So regardless of how he carries himself in his slick nylon suit, if it says "addidas" or (my favorite) "adibas," you know he's just faking it.
Recently it would seem that knockoff producers are setting their sights even higher: one can now find all sorts of Dolce & Gabbana wear all over the place. When I was in Tambov, I saw a young lady wearing a partially see-through top that was made out of rayon or something synthetic (I'll confess I don't know my fibers very well). It was the color of red and brown's unfortunate love child, and was made all the more hideous by what was painted on the front. There, running across the chest from shoulder to waist like a sash were the words "dolce & gabbana" repeated over and over again in gold paint. You heard me, gold paint. Had he been able to see this wretched creation, Signore Dolce would have died instantly from shock, while Signore Gabanna would have simply rocked back and forth in the corner muttering to himself as he softly beat his head against the wall.
Problems with logos extend beyond clothing as well. I once was face-to-face with a black leather briefcase that bore and attractive metal medallion resembling a clock on the side of the bag. The clock's numbers were written in Roman numerals, and I followed them around the circle without issue until I reached the number 9, which had been rendered as VIIII rather than the proper IX. Moscow may be the Third Rome, but she evidently didn't take to Rome's numbering system...
Sometimes if you're lucky knockoff goods will contain a catchy slogan to increase the item's appeal to consumers. In this regard, quality is apparently a highly valued attribute of knockoffs. I once saw a Reebok gym bag on the metro that had the following slogan painted on the side: "Feel the high quality of the materials." Indeed, I did want to feel the high quality of the materials after reading this reassuring slogan, though I feared that if I reached out and caressed the bag belonging to the heavyset man with a sparkly gold smile he might take it the wrong way. I kept my hands to myself.
Since then I've seen other articles extolling the virtues of the materials and workmanship that went into producing them: "sewn from the best cloths," "the quality is the number 1." Such statements make perfect logical sense. In the first place, it is understandable that one might be concerned about the quality of cheap knockoff items. Thus, consumers are reassured that though it's not really a name brand, its quality meets or even exceeds that of the real thing. After all, how can there be two number ones? If the bag I'm holding in my hands says "the quality is the number 1" then that means that mine is the best. I can buy with confidence.
Secondly, such slogans increase efficiency. Rather than having to test every zipper and button, poke around inside and out and waste time pawing through the bag, consumers can simply make an immediate purchase knowing that theirs is "the best."
Finally, displaying such articles in public through daily use demonstrates that the user is a discerning person with class and good taste. For only the best will do!
Sometimes the slogans appearing on garments impart superlative qualities to the wearers as well. I recently saw a young man on the Metro escalator wearing a striped polo-style shirt. On the back painted in large fancy script letters were the following words: "In the pursuit of excellence." I wanted to go up to that young man, slap him on the back, and congratulate him on his noble pursuit. Perhaps if all Russians pursued excellence as he did, this would be a better place. But I didn't approach him, as I thought he might take it the wrong way. Instead, I was satisfied with the thought that I, by following behind him on the escalator, was in the pursuit of the pursuit of excellence. That's almost as good, right?
Of course, sometimes the slogans just don't make any sense. Today on the Metro I saw a man wearing a rather odd shirt. It was made of a white linen-type material that looked like it had been tie-dyed with gray dye. And the bottom of the shirt and the ends of the sleeves were dyed a watery red, as if the guy had been wading in blood up to his waist. Dye or not, I wasn't going to be approaching him no matter how high the quality of the materials!
I saw the back of his shirt first. There, in gothic-style black letters it said, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to." In fact, this is from a quote by Oscar Wilde, the entirety of which reads, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Apparently the producers of the shirt were behind schedule, as they simply could not spare another six months...
By Wilde's standards this was a VERY fashionable (read: ugly) shirt, and I do hope the wearer takes Wilde's advice to heart and disposes of it within the six month window. And maybe he could throw away his sleek black little "murse" (man-purse) while he's at it.
As if that weren't enough, he eventually turned around to reveal the front of his shirt, which simply stated "Very Smart."
Somehow I doubt that...