1. More and more people in Russia can be spotted wearing gear with logos, words, and branding tied to New York City, even if the love for their swag isn't tied to a love of the United States.
2. That's the concept behind New York City-born photographer Todd Prince's series of portraits of people across Russia, which he's been working on for the last year.
3. Prince tells BuzzFeed News that he first got the idea for the project during the summer of 2013, when he saw four people in Moscow — where he lives — wearing Brooklyn-themed clothing in the span of five hours.
4. At the same time, Prince said, he was starting to see more and more people wearing American flags on their outfits around town.
5. "All this struck me and helped spur the idea because it was coming just as US-Russia relations were really souring over Syria and other issues," Prince wrote in an email.
6. Prince first started taking photos for the series in 2014. The idea started small, maybe 10-15 photographs.
7. By the winter, when he began seeing more and more NY hats in public, he opted to expand to 30 portraits from across Russia's cities...
8. Then 100. As of press time, Prince has collected more than 140 portraits on his website.
9. By this spring, Prince noticed an influx of New York Yankees hats, which surprised Prince, as baseball isn't popular in Russia at all. As few as five years ago, "anyone in a baseball-style cap was probably a foreigner. "
10. "When I asked some Russians about the ‘NY’ hat, they said to them it means the city of New York and not the Yankees," Prince explained. "Some didn’t even know that it was the emblem of a baseball team."
11. "What surprised me is that very few of the people wearing the New York hats or shirts have been to New York," Prince said. "They either bought them in Russia or in third countries like Italy, Thailand or Turkey."
12. Many of the Russia residents he spoke to got their gear from the Moscow branches of stores like the Gap and H&M, or through local stores that specialize in foreign clothing.
13. "When Russians — or anyone else — are buying New York shirts in places like Milan or Istanbul — fantastic cities in their own right — then you know New York is a brand like Gucci, Adidas and not just a city. "
14. As for just why these people were wearing New York gear, Prince said that many told him it was their dream to visit New York. "When I asked why, they normally cite things like TV serials ‘Friends' or 'Sex in the City' or Hollywood films."
15. Almost uniformly, when they say "New York," they're talking about upscale Manhattan — not necessarily Brooklyn or the Bronx despite what their shirts and hats say.
16. Despite Russo-American relations being at a low-point, largely because of Russia's meddling in Ukraine, politics rarely came up in Prince's discussions with his subjects.
17. "I have had conversations over the past year with several Russians who say they love American music, films and clothing, but dislike American foreign policy and politics," Prince said. "They separate culture and fashion from politics."
18. "And if New York is viewed as a ‘brand,’ then it is even easier to make that separation." That said, you're still more likely to see a Russian wearing a shirt reading "Moscow" than "New York," despite the uptick in popularity.
19. So Prince keeps snapping photos, with the hopes of maybe one day showing them all in an exhibition in New York, to "show just ‘regular’ people living in Russia all connected by the New York clothing theme. "
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Hayes Brown at email@example.com.
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