[Marxism] Style over substance
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 30 11:51:53 MST 2004
NY Times, March 30, 2004
Give Me a Rebel, but Hold the Politics
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Sam & Seb is a children's clothing store in the Williamsburg section of
Brooklyn that specializes in the sort of garments, tiny Levi's, baby
Dries van Noten tops — that have been created with the assumption that
3-year-olds don't want to look 3. But a while back the store's owner,
Simone Manwarring, began getting requests for an item that was unusual
even by those standards.
"Lots of parents were coming in and saying, `Hey, wouldn't it be great
to have a Che T-shirt?' " Ms. Manwarring said. By Che, the parents
meant, of course, the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary executed by
Bolivians in 1967, whose beret-wearing image once adorned college
dormitories from Berkeley to the Sorbonne. Ms. Manwarring started making
the shirts, with sizes even for a 3-month-old. She now sells about 10 a
The Che industry has been fairly robust over the years, with keepsakes
including posters, cigarette lighters, watches and nail clippers sold in
many parts of the world. But lately it is clothing with the image of the
rebel, from the iconic photo taken in 1960 by Alberto Korda, that seems
ever more coveted as street wear. It has turned up on Moscow artists and
on 11-year-old boys in the New York suburbs. In the last six months,
sales of fitted T-shirts, loose T-shirts, tank tops, hooded sweatshirts,
caps and camp shirts have increased by about 40 percent at
Thechestore.com, said John Trigiani, the company's owner. Mr. Trigiani
began selling Che paraphernalia about five years ago after he returned
home to Toronto from Cuba with a statuette he had bought for $2, and
resold on eBay for $128.
Why the renewed interest in Che, when so many communist governments have
failed? Mr. Trigiani said, "I think there are many reasons for this and
one of them is Mike Tyson."
A few years ago, the prizefighter got a picture of Che etched onto his
rib cage. Other catalysts include two coming movies, one "The Motorcycle
Diaries," based on the journals Che kept during his travels through
South America as a medical student in 1952. That film appeared at the
Sundance Film Festival in January and is due in theaters later this
year. The second film, an epic called "Che" to be directed by Terrence
Malick, is beginning production next year.
Revolutionary ideology seems to have almost nothing to do with the
emerging Che style, which is manifest also in men's sweaters, high-end
bikinis and underwear. "I met a college student who wanted the T-shirts,
and she had absolutely no idea who Che was," Mr. Trigiani said.
The image seems mostly a visually compelling logo to those who are
buying Che-wear today. "Mao Zedong's is another head we're thinking of,"
Ms. Manwarring said. "Both of these have become strong pop cultural
images; I don't think people want these things on their clothes as a
political statement but I think they are drawn to the graphic intensity."
Patrick Symmes, the author of "Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in
Search of the Guevara Legend," said, "I think the more that time goes
by, the chicer and chicer Che gets because the less he stands for
About two years ago, Mr. Symmes said, he discovered a bar in London
called Che. "It's ultradeluxe and a young guy was the owner," Mr. Symmes
said, referring to Hani Farsi, a wealthy Saudi Arabian. "I asked him,
`Why Che?' and he answered, `Oh you know, rebellion and all that.' "
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