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Why a passion for fashion amuses and bemuses me

Updated: 2012-02-14 13:20
By Craig McIntosh ( China Daily)

Why a passion for fashion amuses and bemuses me

I'm thinking of starting a charity, one that will address an urgent and, in my opinion, ever-worsening problem in China.

The goal will be to provide Chinese teenagers and 20-somethings with lenses for their glasses.

Each time I see one of these unfortunates walking the streets with just empty frames, my heart breaks a little.

"Look," I say, to whichever person is unlucky enough to be near me at the time.

"That poor child has spent so much money on shiny, overpriced bags, coats and shoes that they don't have enough left for corrective lenses."

It's a strange style.

No more strange than what the rest of the world is doing, granted, but I still wonder why anyone would think it looks "cool" to hang bits of plastic off the front of their face unless they actually need to. Then again, hanging bits of metal from our ears seems odd to me.

The first time I noticed someone wearing empty spectacles in China was when I was interviewing potential new hires in early 2010. (Perhaps my own shortsightedness had prevented me from seeing it before then.)

One smartly dressed hopeful had completed her outfit with what I thought were glasses with sparkling brown and gold frames. The more I looked, however, the more I felt something was odd.

I twisted this way and that in my seat to get a good look from different angles, all the while trying my best to listen to her answer our questions.

Unsurprisingly, she said at the end that she thought the interview had not gone well - I suspect because throughout it I fidgeted like someone who desperately needed the toilet.

I'll never pretend to understand fashion. It's lost on me. I'm still happy getting hand-me-downs from my father, and I'm all-smiles when Marks & Spencer have a sale so I can stock up on sensible trousers and plain T-shirts.

It's probably because I don't understand and appreciate the art of fashion that I find it - and the people who become "slaves" to it - so terribly amusing. (I've been guaranteed on more than one occasion that the feeling is mutual.)

The funniest moments are when the uber-stylish are forced to do something that clashes with their too-cool-for-school exterior.

For instance, why would anyone with the kind of swept, bouffant haircut usually seen on male Chinese pop stars ever sign up for game show that involves donning a leotard and helmet and doing forward rolls on a thin ledge above a pool of water?

I refer to Brave Invincible, which I stumbled upon while browsing the television channels during Spring Festival. It's a typical action-packed entertainment show with the obligatory smug hosts and piano music whenever anyone tells a sad story. ("I'm doing this to make my mother proud," said one woman, shortly before being lowered into a pool and fired at a mass of overhanging rubber rings.)

That half hour was one of the highlights of the holiday, not least for the male contestant whom I can only imagine was there by mistake. Perhaps this coiffured dandy thought he'd applied for Creative Sky, the Chinese version of Project Runway.

His bag must have been packed with so much extra-hold gel, because every time he ended up in the drink, not one hair looked out of place in the next segment.

I should thank him, though. Until I saw him taking part in a running challenge while wearing Ugg boots, I had always struggled to come up with the definition of a "style victim".

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