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  • china’s classic haihun shan

    haihun-shanFor those that have spent time around Chinese youth, this is probably not the first time you’ve seen this blue and white striped shirt. Don’t get it?

    Ladies and gentleman, allow me to introduce the Haihun Shan (海魂衫), the “soul of the sea” shirt.

    In the beginning, it was just a generic undershirt for sailors and seaman, but over the years it has evolved into a sort of fashion / youth culture phenomenon. But how? OK, I’ll (try to) explain.

    China wasn’t a very colorful place in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, in fact, the 80s werent much of an improvement either. Essentially, clothing during “revolutionary period” was limited to three main colors: black, white, and grey (and sometimes dark blue). If someone own a haihun shan they were admired by all – it was considered very flamboyant and fashionable. Interestingly though, these weren’t very hard to get a hold of during that time; they just weren’t worn because most people didn’t want to break the mold and standout.

    As China began to reform social, culturally, and economically in the late 80s and early 90s, He Yong (one of three members of “Moyan Sanjie,” a nickname given to three of China’s early rock pioneers under the Moyan record label: He Yong, Dou Wei, and Zhang Chu) adopted the haihun shan as his trademark. When He Yong performed on stage he always wore the shirt together with a “young pioneers” red scarf to the delight of adoring, screaming fans. It wasn’t long before the haihun shan came to represent the power of the first Chinese rock ‘n roll movement.  This was the starting point of a Chinese counter-culture fashion phenomenon. From that time on, this pairing of the classic haihun shan with a simple red scarf spread like wildfire among music fans, particularly Chinese youth, as a key symbol of Chinese rock ‘n roll.

    The haihun shan has since become a mainstream fashion trend. Over the past few years, Chinese music fans and local hispters have fully, almost excessively, embraced the haihun shan and red scarf combo as retro fashion trend. Nowadays in China, you can often see these two classic elements proudly worn together with another Chinese retro classic: Warrior (回力) brand sneakers.

    Sailor stripes and other elements from seaman attire isn’t just a China thing, they have show up in other markets as well – even finding thier way into the French fashion sphere as a big part of haute couture designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s recent men’s and women’s lines.

    All things sailor have become must have pieces for fashion lovers worldwide as they can be used almost universally to match anything whether dressing up or down. I leave you with one final thought, don’t be caught this summer without a classic Chinese haihun shan! /// 洁米


    60s generation “rebels” (left), He Yong onstage in the late 80s (middle) and more recently (right) ///


    Chinese hipsters and music fans adopting the trend ///



    mainstream youth / fashion culture adopting the trend ///


    celebrities adopting the trend, Wang Fei (left), Ge You (center), and Kate Moss (right) ///


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    1. Charisette says:

      WOW this is right on the spot!


    2. Daan says:

      Very interesting. Where and how do I buy these shirts wholesale for New Zealand? If any email addresses or web sites, please let me know!

    3. Loar says:

      Whenever I see a website as good as this, I feel the need need to start working on mine. Thanks


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