From Bibs to Berluti

Do keep in mind the monotony of the street scene in China just thirty years ago. This AFP piece reminds us that not only fashion has returned. Shanghai and Beijing were more or less in black in white at the start of Reform and Opening.

There are some interesting tidbits about the fashion then. In 1978, cotton was competing with grain for agricultural land. For me, a frustrating result was perfection of polyester technology. The scarcity of cotton meant, a dress shirt cost half a person’s annual rations. An entire outfit was often worth the entire family’s yearly allowance of ration coupons. Since entire shirts were such an extravagance, men would wear just the collar, a kind of bib that would be visible over a jacket or sweater.

Now Shanghai and Beijing are filled with shopping addicts who have years worth of outfits in their wardrobes. Men can buy RMB 20,000 Berlutis, shoes so lovely that a shirt is barely necessary.

Still, sometimes it seems the majority of men are still in black and white. Fellows appearing on Stylites notwithstanding, men have made less of a shocking jump than women. Though it may not be a uniform, the majority of men particularly in tier two or three cities seem to be dressed quite quite nearly identically.

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