What do you get when you cross a large red star with a hammer and sickle? The international emblems of totalitarian communism. And, less than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, these communist symbols are beginning to take on a nostalgic meaning -- and not just for the supporters of the Russian communist party.
According to Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe, the glamorization of communism is becoming widespread. "On West 4th Street in Manhattan, the popular KGB Bar is known for its literary readings and Soviet propaganda posters. In Los Angeles, the La La Ling boutique sells baby clothing emblazoned with the face of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro's notorious henchman. At the House of Mao, a popular eatery in Singapore, waiters in Chinese army uniforms serve Long March Chicken, and a giant picture of Mao Zedong dominates one wall."
And right before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch of Reuters reported that designers in Hong Kong had taken to Communist-infused fashion with gusto. "G.O.D. -- which stands for Goods of Desire -- is a kind of high-end, boutique version of popular Swedish home furnishings store Ikea, but with clothes, some of which use designs and slogans from the frantic, at times violent, Cultural Revolution."
And Shanghai Tang, owned by Swiss luxury goods group Richemont, was one of the first to sell a reworking of the proletarian, four-pocket Mao jacket once favored by late leader Mao Zedong. "We've tried to extract those images of the Communist era and re-translate them into a more pop art colorful approach," executive chairman Raphael le Masne de Chermont told Reuters.
Even Russian-born designers are paying homage to communism. According to Moscow News, a wave of "Soviet-style fashion" continues to emerge: Red stars in the collections of Olga Soldatova; "USSR" inscriptions on shirts from Denis Simachev; Fashionable odes to Yury Gagarin by Nina Neretina and Donis Pupis; even a collection of leather jackets and one-piece suits from Ilya Shiyan inspired by Soviet-era heroes (steeplejacks, subway builders, and test pilots).
But sporting these easily-identified communist symbols comes with a price. To many, they are symbols of a regime which murdered tens of millions and oppressed hundreds of millions more. Two years ago, Access Hollywood's New York correspondent, Tim Vincent, sported a hammer and sickle t-shirt as he introduced a story on television. Within hours, the media was taking shots at his poor choice of attire -- and his reputation.
Last year, Cameron Diaz sported an olive green messenger bag emblazoned with a red star and the words 'Serve the People' printed in Chinese on the flap. Her fashion faux pas touched a nerve among Peruvians who were still recovering from the Maoist Shining Path insurgency of the 1980s and early 1990s that left nearly 70,000 dead. Suffice it to say, her public apology fell on deaf ears. So, if you decide to jump on the communist chic bandwagon, don't say I didn't warn you.
Soviet Necklace by Kid Viskous
Communist Wrap Skirt at babygirlboutique.com
Communist Undies at hammersicklestuff.com
CCCP Carryall Bag at e-potpourri.com
Communist Scarf by Peach Pit
Communist Button Tote by Hobocamp Crafts
Commie Mints at perpetualkid.com
'Greetings Feline' Tee by Jester Funny Books
Red Star Gloves by Super Sugar Ray Ray
And on a totally unrelated (but sort of related) note...