If you scurry past China’s commercial, accredited malls — somewhere nestled between stands selling skewers of street meats and mom-and-pop shops — you will find alleys lined with just about anything for sale. Anything from the kitschy to the quirky to the country’s infamous counterfeits (some of which are copied so carefully they’re almost indistinguishable from the real thing).
Last week, I strolled through one of these cramped “strip malls” in Jinan, Shandong and very quickly realized the unique chaos and charm of China’s ethically-ambiguous manufacturing culture. Everything can be made in here. And, really, “You Can Choose Whatever you like there.”
Here are some truly special items that are literally one-of-a-kind:
1. A heart-eyed skull wearing a red “Fuck” beanie statement necklace.
2. Keychains of small doll figurines…
Cute in conception. Creepy on display.
3. And keychains of teentsy weentsy food items.
4. That you can haul in a teeny tiny itty bitty shopping cart.
If Dr. Dre made complementary airplane headphones.
6. A “Dragonfair” hair straightener that may or may not be legally endorsed by Avril Lavigne.
“Make your beauty come to life science and technology for beautiful hair.” SOLD.
7. A communist Obama tee.
(Toys.. I think.)
9. More guns.
(toys, I think.)
10. A toy blade.
In a bonus crossbows/arrow combo pack.
11. A REAL blade.
Tossed in a bin of other REAL blades.
12. “New Balance” and “Nike” sneakers.
Air-tight saran-wrapped so you know they’re… fresh.
At a haggled deal of 150元 (approx. $24). Further persistent and tactful haggling will get you an even better bargain.
14. A pair of super rare super meta “WWW.com” sneakers.
15. An assortment of fitteds and snapbacks of all the cool Western streetwear brand emblems.*
*not affiliated with the brands themselves. Obvi.
16. iPhone cases of all creeds and kinds.
17. (Some are more honest than others.)
18. Crocs for way cheap. And even those weren’t selling.
Even if they’re faux, 18元 is $2.89.
19. Copycat designer wallets for a real bargain!
10 RMB!!! That’s literally 1.61 USD. The cost of a pack of gum, plus tax.
20. A pinstripe tee probably translated by BabelFish.
you know it’s love when
the tiny details about
the ones that seem
insingnificant to most people
seem incredible and
magnificent to you.
21. …and some accidentally wise ones.
22. …but they’re mostly complete and utter jargon.
23. An existential trucker hat.
24. An array of U.S. servicemen hats.
25. Hanging plastic chicken, surprised.
26. Panda disguises.
27. A carefully etched headshot of a 90s Britney Spears on a piece of stone.
28. Darling little soldiermen in bed, with their sleeping piglets.
And on the street itself, one could cop…
29. Wood — straight up wood.
30. Fresh veggies.
Like, plucked-straight-from-the-ground-that-morning fresh.
That, I’m sure, was, er, prepared that morning too.