There’s a couple of aspects of fashion that I’ve become really interested in lately. The first is how people dress for a journey that at some point includes a drastic change in temperature. Dress so you’re overheated now but you’re just right when you get there? Or comfortable now but uneasy later? Look like a knob and wear shorts to the airport when it’s 6 degrees outside so you’re a step ahead of everyone when you get to Barcelona? Or dress appropriately for your home climate and accept that your body will create a big rough yellow stain under the armpit of your nice white shirt when you’re on an oven of a Spanish Airport Shuttle?
It’s all really interesting! In a way.
We’re going from a cold-to-hot climate today. British tend to dress in shorts and flip-flops for this type of journey. I used to think that this was just because they wanted to be prepared for the transition to warmth. But then one day I saw a man who changed everything for me. He made me realise that British people dress for summer on the way back too, so I knew my theory wasn’t right.
I didn’t catch the man’s name but he was easily the most British person I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen it all. When I saw him, he was stepping off of the ferry at Dover. The heavens had opened just enough to create the feeling that God herself was caringly, maternally washing the land and those lucky enough to live in it. And the wind was cold as dicks. The man was draped in the traditional informal ensemble of shorts and a vest that he has long believed to be appropriate restaurant attire. He also had those flip-flops with the little Brazilian flag on them because he collects flags and that counts. His face was dazzlingly red even though he was only in the South of France for two days. He had a crate of Fosters under each arm.
I know now that British people don’t want to just be prepared, they just want the sun on their bodies for the entire duration of their holiday. Even down to that sun that creeps in through the plane windows on the flight home.
We’re on a flight from Novosibirsk to Bangkok and I’ve learnt that there’s one trait Russians possess which is the same as British: They get minimal sun and the prospect of getting it is very important to them.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a flight with 230 Russians before, but there’s a subtle cultural idiosyncrasy that takes place about five hours into the flight: They all change into their holiday clothes. Christ, it must be difficult for a giant Russian bloke to change out of three coats in those tiny airplane toilets, you’re probably thinking. Don’t worry, they thought ahead and don’t bother with all that. They just calmly get out of their seats and start changing in the aisle. And I don’t mean, they take off their shirt and change into the new one whilst staying in their trousers. They just go straight down to their pants.
British people don’t do that, partly because they don’t even like to get down to their pants even if they’re in changing rooms. But also because they don’t like to inconvenience others. That’s why there are approximately 35 shoulder dislocations on the tube every day. Everyone’s standing there wearing five layers and on the verge of heatstroke and, they will dislocate their shoulder to make sure they don’t inconvenience a fellow passenger when taking off their coat.
Anyway, we’ve just arrived in Thailand. This is where the second aspect of fashion that I’ve recently become interested in comes in. Thailand is a lovely place which is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonised and it’s the home of Red Bull (the drink). It’s also the place where they think Hitler is such a good laugh that they plaster his likeness all over everything, especially clothing. For people raised on European History, it’s a strange thing to see:
The weird thing is, I’ve seen a few non-Thai people buying these t-shirts. It made me wonder, where exactly in the world can you wear a “comedy” Hitler shirt besides Thailand? If you wear one around 99.9% of the humans on Earth, they’ll be like, take that shit off, that’s not on – because they don’t like Hitler. If you wear it around that 0.1% who do like Hitler, then they’ll be offended because your shirt: Hitler showing his bare arse on the beach, is making fun of him.
If you’ve managed to procure a t-shirt that offends the world’s population, you can’t even wear it to bed. There’s always a chance that there will be a fire and then you’ve got to jump out of the window and the firefighters might get offended by your shirt and accidentally loosen their grip on the life net.
Where people who buy this stuff can wear it isn’t the most pressing issue, though. Where did it all start?
According to the Lowy Institute, the trend began in Yangon, Burma in the 80’s punk scene. Popular bands found that “playing it tough” (wearing Nazi t-shirts) really landed with the young people and they haven’t looked back since. Burma shares a border with Thailand so it quickly spread. Except Thai people decided that it wasn’t punk to them, it was a laugh:
A Hitler-themed restaurant opened up in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand a few years ago called, wait for it: “Hitler”. They served fried chicken and had the exact same logo as KFC, except they replaced Colonel Sanders face with – and you’ll never get this – Hitler’s.
There’s also a popular laxative that uses his face as a logo, and Chulalongkorn University – the third best University in Thailand – commissioned a mural that contained Batman, Superman, Captain America, and Hitler standing around together.
In 2013, the Minister of Education decided that enough was enough and he stated that the school curriculum would be changed to include information about the Holocaust. In 2014, the Thai government released a propaganda video made to teach children the 12 core values of living in Thailand. During the video (about nine seconds in), you can make out a smiling child painting a picture of Hitler and a swastika. The child adjacent sees the work and applauds.
So, the Minister of Education didn’t mean they were going to change it immediately. Or maybe they already changed it and they’re yet to get round to that part of the Holocaust that involves Hitler. Or maybe when he said “the school curriculum would be changed to include information about the Holocaust” he just meant: “We’re going to teach them how to draw Hitler”.
I understand that Thai people not realising their thing for Hitler is more to do with ignorance rather than admiration. At the moment, their affinity to Hitler is largely just a point of ridicule. But this is the ninth most visited country in the world and relies heavily on tourism, which has been steadily growing at a rate of nearly 20% a year. They can’t afford to have this ignorance.