"The whole world is becoming one homogenized mass, with everybody eating at MacDonald's and wearing Levis," is a complaint I frequently hear from people who wouldn't be caught dead eating a Big Mac or wearing jeans that cost under two hundred dollars. When I'm presented with this dire assessment of exotic cultures crushed by capitalistic juggernauts, I do my best to look sympathetic, stop listening, and remember my friend, Somsak.
A Bangkok boy born and bred, Somsak has style that James Dean would have envied--highly polished motorcycle boots, teeshirt, sideburns, carelessly held cigarette, and the best-fitting Levis that I have ever seen on any human being.
"Where do you buy your jeans?" I asked him, after many weeks of envying their perfection.
"Every year when I go to Paris, I buy a pair of Levis. They fit me, but you know, they're never quite right. So when I come back to Bangkok, I take them to my tailor, and he copies them. He makes me six pairs of Levis, just like the ones that I bought in Paris but better, because they're made just for me. Every year I have new Levis made when I return from France, and I put the ones from last year away for my sons, so they'll have them when they grow up."
"But your jeans even have the leather Levis label, and the little red tag. How does your tailor make those?"
At that point Somsak looked at me with the benign pity that only a Thai person can convey properly, and that never fails to make me feel as though I should go away to drool quietly in a corner. "Oh, Janet," he said gently, "those things are very easy to buy in Bangkok."