Go Ducks! In Ouaga

In happier news, while out riding my bicycle I came across this shirt in a streetside clothing seller’s stand:

Go Ducks

Sorry about the somewhat blurry photo, but the item in the center is clear enough.

I first encountered this phenomenon in Lomé, Togo, 30 years ago. I saw somebody walking down the street with an Oregon Ducks tee-shirt on. I almost approached him and asked him when he had attended Oregon, when I realized that the shirt was celebrating Oregon’s victory in a bowl game they had lost. Presumably, this is another example, though not quite a particular as an “Oregon Ducks: 2016 Alamo Bowl Champions” tee-shirt would have been. When a team loses, its gear suddenly stops selling quite as well in the States. So, off it goes in the “used” clothing trade and it shows up in street markets around the third world. All sorts of people like western sports gear, even if they don’t know much about the teams. So you can find all kinds of stuff here. This was a nice tee-shirt, 100% cotton, asking 3000 francs CFA, or about 5 dollars US. And that was the price for the white guy. I would have bought it too, except that it was much too small for me. I asked the guy if he had a XXL or even an XL, but that was the only Ducks one he had. I wasn’t interested in a Manchester United jersey.

The used clothing business is fascinating. In Lomé, they called the special area of the main market where this stuff was sold the “Kennedy market”, since the first shipments, at least apocryphally, showed up shortly after the assassination of John Kennedy and were said to be his used clothing. The stuff is dirt cheap and normally, especially now, not actually used but factory seconds that can’t be sold in the developed world for a variety of reasons (like the team lost). All kinds of poor people have access to decent clothes at an affordable price, thanks to this. At one point, Goodwill and Salvation Army were big sources, but I understand that over time they have been supplanted; still, I do see lots of used shoes in the markets here. I had a volunteer in Guinea who married a Guinean woman and decided to stay in the country after the end of his service. He went into the used clothing business with his brother-in-law, though I think in the end he managed to lose most of his money.

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