Being in fashion sometimes means taking style inspiration from the less privileged sections of society. So far we've been subjected to trailer trash chic (popularised by the likes of women who often appear in Hong Kong Tatler), peasant chic and even Derelicte-style homeless chic
Prison chic became popular in Germany last year when the Haeftling (which means inmate in German) label launched its online store. At the time the range consisted of prison-inspired menswear and leathergoods made by inmates of the Tegel maximum security prison. Initial reviews were very positive as people marvelled at how rapists, murderers and robbers could sew such straight seams. Even though my style is more sadistic jail warden
I think that selling prisongear an innovative concept .
One year on and Haeftling
- "Jailwear since 1898" - is still going strong. Go you hardened crims! Over 10 prisons in Germany and Switzerland have been recruited to cope with the demand. The product range has expanded to include womenswear, household products, jam and wine. Hands that have previously crushed someone's throat were been found to be particular effective at crushing grapes. There is also a physical Haeftling store where you can get a polaroid mug shot of yourself taken. You can hang it up at work and when your annoying co-worker asks you what you got arrested for, you can narrow your eyes and whisper menacingly at them "If I told you, I would have to kill you first". And do that finger slitting motion under your throat for good measure.
The beauty of Haeftling is that prisons earn money so that they can afford locks, prisoners get to do stuff other than plot escape routes (while earning more money than they would in a Chinese sweatshop) and consumers like us get to flaunt our "Made in Jail" labels without having to do the crime or do the time. See, it's a win-win situation. Klaus Dieter-Blank of Tegel Prison even goes so far as to say that the success of the label means that people are beginning to understand what goes on behind the walls. Yes, it's just like Santa's toy workshop with the occasional bouts of shocking violence and abuse.
As the Haeftling clothes are based on prison clothing, don't be expecting any namby-pamby hoity-toity artsy-fartsy designs. The Haeftling website features basic shirts, jackets, pants and dare I say it, wifebeaters. They come in a number of colours too but I have to say that these raspberry
and canary yellow
pants just scream "prison bitch".
Haeftling clothes are praised for being tough-wearing and durable which is probably why they are stocked in Hong Kong
. In particular they have been tested to withstand the following:
1. people body slamming against you while crossing the road;
2. people barrelling into you while you try to get off trains or lifts;
3. people giving you a flying shoulder tackle while they try to get a seat on the train;
4. being squashed by lift doors while you are trying to get on or get off; and
5. people shoving you aside so that they can walk past you.
The most interesting outfit I found on the site was a prison jumpsuit
. It could be worn as a statement about the shackles of society or the oppressiveness of the workplace (casual Fridays will never be the same again). It's also a great way to get a date. All you have to do is wear the jumpsuit and half-sing half-scream at your target like a lovesick maniac:
Only you can set me free
'Cause I'm guilty (guilty)
As a guy can be
Come on baby can't you see
I stand accused
Of Love in the first degree