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[Offbeat]: Ironic Sweater Market

There's a clothing market with a refreshingly retrograde take on contemporary fashion. To most it's known as the "Anxi Clothing Market".
2010-01-21 13:01:00

"Offbeat" is a SmartShanghai column about stuff to look at or do in Shanghai that's interesting or weird (relatively, of course), that doesn't fit anywhere else. It appears weekly, monthly, or maybe even annually, when we're not busy working on other superfluous column ideas.

As you read and look at the pictures, hit play on this mp3. They've got it cranked and on repeat on a crappy outdoor sound system at the market. Just trying to recreate the atmosphere. Loose yourself in it -- it's a good song.

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There's a clothing market with a refreshingly retrograde take on contemporary fashion. To most it's known as the "Anxi Clothing Market", but to me and mine, it's The Ironic Sweater Market.

With a target demographic of people emphatically and resolutely in their 50s and over, shoppers shall find nothing hip, cool, or contemporary for sale in the hundreds and hundreds of stalls therein. It's one of the few places to shop for clothes in Shanghai utterly unfettered by anyone's conceptions of the "young" and "modern”. Sweaters, blazers, pants suits, blouses, shoes, golf wear, scarves, leather, leather, leather, leather -- it's off, off, off, off runway -- clothes mostly for middle aged men and women with horribly paying jobs.

And that’s why it's fantastic. A heavy air of futility pervades the shopping area and no one hassles you to buy their wares. When you stroll by the stalls, vendors look at you with deep sadness in their eyes, as if to say, "Yeah, it's a purple knit sweater with Michael Jordan and Tweety Bird on it. Got it off a dead guy. It's not awesome. But it's only going to cost you 7rmb."

Nobody at the Ironic Sweater Market tilts towards the trendy and fashionable, and as such, everyone is free and going off in their own crazy directions with their shit. There is an overwhelming diversity of clothes; no one is stocking the same stuff as anyone else. But here's what they don’t have: mesh hats, baggy pants, hooded sweatshirts, urban wear of any kind.

It's also a great place to check out religious shrines built in holy reverence to simple, unmemorable patent leather shoes.

Here's the logistics: the market is off Kaixuan Lu, about seven blocks south of Yan'an. You go in there and its a little market mini mall thing with winter jackets, and pretty much only winter jackets, in all shapes and sizes for men and women, starting at minus 100rmb. Said jackets have a thick layer of dust on them and might be second hand. Or "vintage". Through that mini mall at the back, it opens up into a street, and across from there is the airplane hanger. It goes on for about half a block in two rows. Go down the left row and you shall find some of the most powerfully uncool sweaters you've ever seen in your life.

If you’ve ever looked at your cab driver and thought to yourself, "Goddamn, is that a lion playing golf on this guy's sweater? I gotta get me one of those", this market is for you.

The Ironic Sweater Market -- so far behind the curve, they're ahead.