June 20, 2013

an un-pc fashion.

i try to be a pc person, i don’t like to offend on purpose, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.  sometimes i too say things and then i want to put a foot or two in my mouth afterwards.
the fashion industry is definitely not known for being pc either, but unlike me they really don’t care and only when sales numbers are in danger, will they issue a public apology and suck on a louboutin. remember that i was part of this industry? that’s my only excuse i have for this story…
i have written about how my obsession with hole-y tank tops started. and yes, for the sake of the story i will continue to call them tank tops and not vests (south african for tank top), because otherwise the americans will get confused and as the story happened in nyc i think it’s fair to humour them. my obsession however is not exclusively with old, rugged, dirty tanks with holes. no, i love them all and i have in my days paid shocking amounts for perfect versions. people will only shake their head slightly when you tell them you paid a month rent for a pot of la mer or said louboutins, but tell them you spend it on some tank tops and they will use terms like loony for you. in my defence these tank tops have lasted me way longer than a month’s rent and quite a few have made their way to cape town. however lately i have noted that it might be time to replace a few. you know when end up wearing something with more holes than fabric? we are there. 
now you need to understand if you are like me, finding the perfect tank top is by far not an easy task and money is not even an issue here. there is a fine line between perfect looking and perfect looking when worn. a line, if crossed, condemns a tank top unworn in my closet for eternity.
by far the hardest to get right is a wife-beater. you say lbd, i say a white wife-beater is a quintessential item in any girl’s wardrobe.
there. ups. i said it again.

you are now staring at me/your screen, trying to come to terms with my very un-pc phrase, right? i figured. but bear with me and believe me when i say i have not used the phrase ever since…

… years back when i was working as a fashion assistant and to go buy some tank tops for an upcoming shoot. different kind of tank tops, some of them wife-beaters. now i should quickly explain that the fashion industry very un-pc-ly refers to a ribbed tank top as a wife-beater. as to where the term stems from, i found this in the urban dictionary:

“wife beater - a very tight, white tank top that is ribbed in texture. this style of shirt is usually found on overweight white guys hailing from the trailer courts. unmistakeable markings of bbq sauce or chew spit on the front and smelling of old style beer and excessive perspiration. the wearer can be found at any type of festival which involves his toothless relatives working the carnival rides.”

and while we are happy to think the men in our lives still have all their teeth, nobody can argue that domestic abuse is a serious topic and one can than debate whether it is ever appropriate to use the term so lightly and to describe a tank top nontheless. however still trying to grasp the intricacies of the english language and the fashion industry, i didn’t further question the rights or wrongs of the term at the time, i was just happy to know what was on my shopping list. off i went to macy’s and into the women’s underwear section. there i found a sales lady whom i asked nicely whether she had a black wife-beater. she very grumpily replied no and wandered away. i came back to the office empty-handed and complained to my co-worker erin how rude the sales lady had been. it only clicked when she gave me a look and said: you actually asked a black woman whether she had a black wife-beater?

yes, it might be important to mention for the story that the sales lady was black, not that i made the connection at the time of purchase.
now i did and i quickly stuffed two feet into my mouth, not that it made it any better for the sales lady in hindsight. sigh. i am unfortunately good at things like this.
dear macy’s sales lady, i am so sorry if i offended you! (i am saying if here because there is still the off-chance that she was not offended but just a grump in general.) i have never used the phrase ever since except for the purpose of this story and i will not ever after finishing it.

and in case you do wonder, i found the best wife-beaters ribbed tank tops in all sorts of colours at pnp clothing. no month’s rent needed and no offense given as i managed to find them all on my own.


  1. Sadly I have no tact either and cross the line more often than not :/

    1. At least now we know that we are not alone...


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