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November 14, 2003

Old Clothes, Old Memories

I'll be heading to Boise next week. Expect light blogging. It's going to snow, so since I'm packing today the spousal unit found some warm clothes for me. (She owns the garage, not me.) One thing she brought was a jacket I haven't worn in years.

Some of you may not remember, but I remember that somewhere around 1989-90 the fashion among young black males was the big puffy nylon jacket. Complete with straight leg jeans, sneakers with fat laces and a beanie, you had what was popularly interpreted as a thug's uniform. It was in that fashion context that I bought the pig puffy black Nike jacket my wife just fished out of storage. One of my first nods to going incognegro.

I still recall that it cost about 90 bucks and I bought it from the Korean Swapmeet on King Boulevard in LA, just west of Crenshaw. It was my first trip to the Korean Swapmeet whose official name was the Crenshaw Swapmeet. But since most of the vendors were Korean, and many of them were exactly what the stereotypes suggest, it was called the Korean Swapmeet.

What now gets sold in your typical Foot Locker store with regards to sweatssuits, basketball shirts, baggy pants, numbered jerseys and cheap sunglasses wasn't always availabled in the mainstream. Now mall stores specializing in this very kind of gear for the boyz and girlz of the hood are making all kinds of dollars. Back in the day, it was Korean shopkeepers who had all these kind of downscale threads in their swapmeet stalls. I recall walking into the Swapmeet and seeing all that, trunk jewelry (especially those dolphin earrings), fake Luis Vuitton everything and the first truck boom speakers bursting from the vendors little stores.

The Korean merchants were hawking with their accents trying to approximate the ever changing local dialect. Only the young kids got the lingo right, but they had bored teenager working for my loser parents written all over their faces. Only the kids selling the stereo equipment looked happy. The hawking and haggling got downright disrespectful of course. I have vague memories of people trying to return merchandise in a heated debate, and another screaming for her daughters who were somewhere else in the store. In the bustling bazaar atmosphere the tension was palpable and loud. The traffic was steady.

I put on the jacket a few minutes ago and it all seems like so long ago. I threw on a beanie to complete the look. It doesn't work for me and it seems so ridiculous that people could be hated on just for wearing the 'wrong' clothes. But it was real and there was a lot of pain and anger around in those parts in those days. The Korean Swapmeet was burned to the ground.

Posted by mbowen at November 14, 2003 02:36 PM

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