Mind your body language
They say travel broadens the mind, and yet again a holiday in Italy has proved to be an eye-opener in unexpected ways. It started with the sighting of a car full of people exuding bored cool as only the Italians can. Nothing remarkable about this, except that the car was emblazoned with the word ‘Tupperware’. I would have dismissed this as one of the inexplicable phenomena that crop up from time to time, except that the next day, I spotted a youth with the word ‘Pyrex’ in large letters across his T-shirt, and then another one with Pyrex on his shorts. What was going on? Was Italy in the grip of a sudden mania for kitchenware?
So I did what anyone would do and Googled ‘Pyrex’. The first few entries reassuringly referenced the durable glass cookware introduced by Corning Inc. in 1915. (Yay, 100 years of Pyrex! Why has there been no celebration?) But when I clicked on the suggested ‘Pyrex clothing’, all became clear. For those of you who are old enough to remember Pussy Cat Willum, I can reveal that this Pyrex leisure wear is related to Pyrex Vision (does this mean through bottle glasses?), a brand in some way associated with Kanye West. And it doesn’t come cheap: a pair of white Pyrex shorts on Ebay will set you back $319! Still, I don’t imagine that the Italian youths would be the least bit perturbed that I think they’re walking round name-checking the dullest of kitchenware on their threads.
As a rule, I’m not that wild about writing on clothing. I blame French Connection for debasing the tone of our daily discourse with their FCUK range. (I had it dinned into me as a child that swearing was the mark of a poor vocabulary, and consequently rarely manage any expletive stronger than ‘bum!’ – or should that be ‘posterior’?) And it didn’t help that I had a boss who thought it appropriate to turn up to her relatively senior civil service job in a T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘FCUK like a bunny’ . . . I ask you.
I wasn’t always so picky. During a mild infatuation with motorbikes (mild in that it never went as far as me actually riding one of my own) I had a T-shirt printed with ‘Norton’, in the trademark swirly script. Something went a bit wrong and instead of putting Norton on the front and Norton on the back, they put them both on the front, but I figured Nortons were so good I’d just named them twice.
But beyond the branded clothing, there are other sorts of verbose leisure wear (usually T-shirts), notably the offensive, and the unfathomable. You all know the offensive ones: my personal nadir is ‘Foreplay is for wimps’. As for the unfathomable, they seem to have gone through some underpowered translation app, or even a random slogan generator, which is the only explanation for gems such as ‘ My Strange Fruit Project the Healing of NY Rap Scene’ (from Japan, which is evidently the world leader in bizarre T-shirt legends).
And the Tupperware? Surely Italians either never have any leftovers because their food is too delicious, or if they do they store it in lovely little terracotta vessels handed down from Nonna. It turns out that Tupperware Italy SpA is a thriving concern with its headquarters in Milan – who knew?