If 9/11 couldn’t kill irony, nothing can. So we arrive at the news today that a clothing store in Los Angeles, that great blasted basin of dying dreams and flourishing bad ideas, is selling shirts with the marketing hook that similar styles were worn by El Chapo, the murderous drug kingpin who was recently captured after escaping from prison. Specifically, the store is selling versions of two shirts that appear in photos accompanying actor Sean Penn’s Rolling Stone interview with the cartel boss.
According to TMZ, the store in question is called Barabas, located in Downtown Los Angeles (not far from the Staples Center). They are selling two button-up shirts, one with vertical blue stripes, the other a garish paisley, that El Chapo is seen wearing, one in a photo with Penn, another on his own. The store makes the El Chapo connection right on the homepage of their Web site, which TMZ says initially crashed because of the sudden surge in attention. Each shirt will set you back a cool $128, not cheap for a piece of passing kitsch.
The big question is, I guess, if El Chapo’s shirts actually have any connection to Barabas, besides the store selling the same, or at least a similar, style. It’s not likely that El Chapo actually ordered the shirts from Barabas online while in hiding, right? Or, his henchmen probably didn’t drive up to L.A. to buy him shiny club shirts, I’m guessing? You’d really have to go back and source the shirts to find out where the Barabas and El Chapo shirt connection began. Some factory somewhere, I guess. Like most things start these days. Anonymously, in an unpleasant place.
So. Will you buy one? How much is a passing joke worth to you? The way I see it, you only get about one wear out of one of these things. ”I’m gonna wear my El Chapo shirt out tonight!” you say, and your friend or girlfriend or boyfriend chuckles or rolls their eyes. So you wear it, and a couple people get it and laugh. You explain it to a few more people, and they laugh, sort of. But then everyone else? Well, everyone else just thinks you’re wearing an ugly shirt. What you have to decide is how much those few laughs are worth. That’s the trick. Measure some brief moments when you are the funniest, cleverest goofball in the room against the cost of the material, and the weight of all the confused stares your terrible shirt will elicit from most sensible people. Those brief moments could be worth it! But you should really think about it.
And Barabas? Well, I guess you can’t really blame the store. They saw an opportunity and seized upon it. That’s the American dream, really. You gotta make money however you can make it. Or, y’know, dye trying.