Here’s a little follow-up to yesterday’s observations on Italian summer fashion. I first noticed this trend at the swimming pool, but the colors come out in full force during the evening passeggiata. Italian men, women, and children are wearing the American flag. And it’s not just limited to shirts. The stars and stripes are blazoned on bikinis, scarves, hats, shorts, skirts, tanks, and sweatshirts. On Corso Vannucci alone, there are at least 10 window displays that include Old Glory apparel. At first I expected to see familiar slogans attached like, “Don’t tread on me”, “These colors don’t run”, and “Freedom isn’t free”. Instead, the Italians seem to pair the flag with hearts. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find the flag in the shape of a heart.
From my limited experience here in Perugia, I’ve found that the Italians love all things American. The first question people ask once a conversation starts is, “Where are you from?” When we answer the United States, they smile; they light up; they often swoon. “My dream is to see America!” is a typical response. This favorable impression has been reassuring. When we arrived, I expected to encounter a little chill. I didn’t know how the Italians felt about the war, fast food, or giant Starbucks lattes. I worried there may be blame and negative judgement directed at us. All those fears are at rest; people are nicer to us once they learn we are American.
However, I still wanted to find out what the flag craze is all about. So this week, I went into a store and asked the shop keeper if she could explain its popularity. She said that it started last fall when Ralph Lauren featured the American flag on some of his clothes. Ralph Lauren is a big deal, she continued. Italians love his line, so when he added this little design, it exploded. The flag has been very popular since November. By the way, I’m not a big follower of the fashion giants like Ralph Lauren. I tried to learn more about this pivotal fall insignia, but my search has revealed nothing. Let me know if you’re familiar with what she’s talking about. Until then, I’ll resist buying Matt a red, white and blue speedo.