The “Camp” Factor In Chinese Fashion
On the metro in China, I noticed for the umpteenth time a key cultural difference between Chinese fashion and Western fashion.
I call it the “camp” factor.
Most Chinese people wear clothes that in Western society are considered camp, and will never be stacked on retail shelves.
For example, in China, Guangzhou, I saw a girl with a good style of jeans on, with some cuts in the jeans. It looked Western. Then I saw a little stitched patch that said in English, “Free”. I thought, “That is very camp.”
In China, English words stitched onto perfectly good clothes are considered fashionable. But I would not compliment a girl’s jeans because they say “Free”. It only shows that this girl’s level of English is very basic to walk into a retail shop, and choose an item of clothing because the English word makes her feel, “I am a free person. I am going to pick these jeans because it says ‘free’.”
Those same clothes in Western society look camp.
In China you also have males walking around with black shirts that say “fuck” or “fucking fuck” or “shit this” and all kinds of swear words that aren’t spelt correctly, but only serve to indicate how “thug” they are.
This in Western society would all be labeled “camp” fashion.
Observing Mainland Chinese Fashion
Particularly when observing females in Chinese society, I notice they wear all kinds of cheap clothing, which conversely looks sexy.
One girl had blue pants that flare out on the legs and really hug her ass. Another girl wore cheap diamante earrings.
She was very beautiful.
But, then when you see camp, tokenistic English words on their clothes, it is just something you would never get in Western society. You will not be able to go to any shop in The West and buy clothes with one English word on it.
Chinese Fashion Abroad
Any Chinese person who comes to The West, if you see them wearing camp clothes with English words, that means they are fresh off the boat.
It takes a few shopping cycles for them to wear out their old clothes, then plan to buy new clothes, only to realize they can’t find any of those camp clothes in Australia.
They then have to adapt to whatever fashion Australia has, because camp clothes are also not sold on Taobao.
You can only buy those kinds of camp clothes from cheap sweat shops in China.
Brandless Fashion In China
I came to know through Chinese confidants, that in China, there is no fashion. Anybody wears whatever they want. There is no set style.
When I am walking around China, I can see that.
Everyone dresses differently. There is a general style, and a general consensus on style.
They will wear the shortest short skirts possible, and wear short shorts and show off their legs. But everything else in terms of brand name is not visible.
The reason there is limitless fashion choices in China is because Chinese retailers buy cheap clothes that some no-name business designed but can’t sell in any other country, so they dump it on China.
Then Chinese sweat shops will buy it, and begin to sell it locally.
When they sell out that product, you will not be able to purchase that product anywhere else, because it is cheap, it is camp, it does not really have any value, and only poor, illiterate people will buy it.
In that respect, the quality of Chinese people who travel overseas still wearing those jeans with the English word “Free” poorly stitched on came from this environment.
The author of Diary Of A Mad Chaos from 1996 to 2018, The Lost Years book, Wubao In China (猎艳奇缘) book series, and Foreigner (华人) an exploration of race relations in Australia. Fluent in Chinese Mandarin, Macedonian, and English, the author currently resides in China, Guangzhou where he continues to make comparative analysis of the cultural differences between Eastern and Western societies.