Fashions of the Footpath

“You’re not leaving the house dressed like that, are you?”

It’s a phrase that I imagine is not widely spoken in homes across Shanghai (and not only because the negative rhetorical is lost on most Chinese people). For it seems, when it comes streetside fashions, anything goes. It’s an attitude that is very Shanghai … the city and its people possess a self-assuredness and social blindspot without parallel.

Lately, it has been raining like crayzy (and I have been working hours that are likewise crayzy), so documenting and showcasing Shanghai quirks has been difficult. These pictures have all originated in GoogleLand, but rest assured I have seen all this and more.

Item One: The Shanghai Pyjama

This one is very famous and extremely Shanghai.  People are most happy to wear their pyjamas in public.  Lots of people … and not just when they are caught short of a dunny roll.  People will walk far from home and undertake a series of errands still wearing last night’s PJs.

There are abundant theories about why this is so prevalent and so specific to Shanghai.  Some say it is like the older Chinese habit of wearing silk clothing as a means of displaying your status as a person of leisure (not some dirty worker).  Or, that it is a washday thing – given most Chinese don’t have loads of clothes, there aren’t many wardrobe options while you are waiting for your clothes to dry.  Or that it is a way of expressing that you are a real local, not some visitor from a less desirable suburb.  Perhaps it is just part of the Bad Fashion Continuum that China is.

In the lead-up to Expo, the government campaigned heavily to discourage public pyjama wearing, claiming it to be an unsophisticated habit that would embarrass the whole country.  Unfair!  As a visitor to this city, I encourage the Shanghainese to continue this very endearing practice.   

Item Two:  The On-off Relationship With One’s Shirt
Here is a common sight … not so much about the clothes, but the way they are worn.  OK, it’s hot, I understand.  OK, most Chinese are pretty trim and can get away with some abs exposure.  But please, decide whether the shirt is on or off.  I can’t determine whether you are in the process of getting dressed or undressed, but either way, it shouldn’t be happening in the street.

With the weather getting hotter and steamier, I am going to have to adjust to seeing this one more often.

Item Three: Unnatural Foot-Based Couplings
Sometimes it seems like fashion here is like one of those flip books for kids, where you can put together different combinations of animals or people, so you get a astronaut’s head on a ballerina’s body, or an animal made up of the head, body and legs of three totally different species.  In particular, the combination of legwear and footwear is often quite absurd.  Men’s favourite: dress shoes with shorts.  And for ladies: a sock or ankle length stocking (a stockette?) with heels.  I am constantly staring at people’s feet, which probably makes me look like some kind of fetishist or something.  But at least my feet don’t look like any of these…

Item Four: The Shanghai Funboot
Oh yeah, ugg boots are huge here.  People wear them to work all the time, even for client presentations.

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3 Responses to Fashions of the Footpath

  1. Angela says:

    That is CRAYZY lol

  2. aline says:

    i’d love to take my pjs for a spin in shanghai, probably paired with my ugg boots.

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