Model: My father
Photographer: My mother
Context: This was a photo of my dad when he was about 17, 18 years old. My mom told me this represents the fashion of the 80s in China among the young generation. My father was considered one of the fashion-forward teenagers in the town because he has the most trending items from head to toe: Afro hair, vest, military trouser, and sneakers made from Huili, a famous sneaker brand in China even till today. Today, this brand’s sneaker is still required as a standard school uniform for primary and middle school students all over China due to its affordability and comfort.
2. The 80s has always been the age of subculture, especially Punk I believe. So it’s fascinating to witness the influence of subculture from the west to the east, especially under the political background in China at that time. China was an impoverished country at that time due to decades of invasion from other countries, and later ten years of wars within China between the two political parties. China was closed up for a long time, not until the reform and reopening up policy came up in 1978. As you can see in the background, in the 80s, there is no shopping mall, tall buildings, or anything fancy in an average town in mainland China like my father’s hometown. So I was amazed by two factors. The first one is young people’s urge for fashion. It seems like no matter what circumstance, self-expression and personality are always significant components for teenagers’ lives even though they have no clue what is fashion. It’s an instinct. And the second factor is the spreading of western influence in the east; in less than ten years of opening up, the punk fashion was even able to affect the trend in a poor village in China’s center. I can’t imagine how people get the message across honestly. In the 80s, there were very few media for information considered not primary, such as fashion to be spread.
3. Since China has changed too much in these years, and due to my parents’ hard work, I grew up in one of the most developed cities in China, so I just can’t imagine how my parents adjusted to the massive shift between before and today. As a result, even I know life back then was not comfortable as today, but I always have this strange fantasy about it. I’ve always imagined if I was living during that period, it must be an adventure that everybody was wearing the appropriate clothes a year before. The next year, some women tried to wear heels to do farm work even though they can’t even walk with it, and then the hair, then the pants, then everything even though their material life didn’t match the items they possessed.
Model: My father and his friend
Photographer: My mother
Context: This photo was taken in my hometown’s living room when my father’s friend came. His friend was wearing a leather jacket. And my dad was wearing a shirt under a grey sweater with a Honda logo, plus a tie. And the picture in the background is a photograph of the night market view in Hong Kong.
2.There in only a five-year gap between the first photo and this one, but the differences between the two are enormous, which indicates the social changes behind it. Even just with the background, you can clearly sense the improvement of the standard of living. To summarize, the 90s of China is Hong Kong. Everybody has a Hong Kong dream because it’s the symbol of wealth, class, taste, or everything one could dream of. As a result, you can see the style clearly changed to a solid British fashion, almost school uniform. This is because the 90s was the best time of Hong Kong, a land of everything. At that time, Hong Kong was still colonized by the UK until 1997, which explains why Hong Kong was so developed and flourish compared to mainland China. As a result, people in mainland China consider this look as an elite look. One interesting fact about this photo, the Honda sweater was fake. Even though all my dad wanted was an authentic shirt, he couldn’t afford it.
3. I think even till today, this more formal kind of look is more well accepted in China. People not only in China but worldwide still consider the British style to be proper and sophisticated, which makes one look well mannered. This photo’s significance or this style to me is that I believe this look sparked my dad’s passion and dream towards a better class when he was in his 20s. And this becomes why he brought my mom to Shenzhen– today, one of the most developed cities in China, a city in mainland China but right next to Hong Kong. Without the 90s Hong Kong dream, without the outfits, the message behind it, I will not be where I am and who I am today.