China tries in vain to keep bellies buttoned up
Beijing has been on a manners kick for the last few years, but on the hottest summer days, there is no stopping men of all ages and shapes from rolling up their shirts and exposing their tummies.
When temperatures soar, many Chinese men raise their shirts in an attempt to stay cool. The practice is increasingly considered rude but that hasn't stopped the "bang ye" -- or exposing grandfathers. (John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times / August 20, 2010)
By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
August 21, 2010
Reporting from Beijing ó In the sweltering heat of summer, when the refreshing breezes desert the city, Hu Lianqun absent-mindedly reaches for a solution: He rolls up his shirt to expose his belly, often fanning himself with the garment to create his own air conditioning.
From the countryside to sophisticated urban centers such as Beijing, men of all ages, social standing and stomach sizes resort to a public display of skin, a hot-weather fashion faux pas that's the Chinese equivalent of knee-high black socks with shorts.
They're known as bang ye, or "exposing grandfathers"(despite their age range). In the hottest weather, bang ye seem to be everywhere, striding among the tall buildings in Beijing's business district, playing chess in parks, holding children's hands at the zoo and negotiating crowded alleyways.
There are precious few washboard abs among the lot. Still, many fail to notice that they're drawing smirks from fashion-conscious passersby. Most just don't care.
"I don't know, it just feels cooler," says Hu, perched on a park bench on a sultry weekday morning, the temperatures already into the 90s, the humidity soaring. "Look, you just shake your shirt to create a breeze. I don't see anyone laughing at me."
In the sports attire section of a nearby department store, Qi Tong scoffs at such reasoning.
"It lowers Beijing's standing as an international city," the 21-year-old says. "I go without a shirt sometimes at home, but never in public. If my dad reaches for his shirt when I'm out with him, I threaten to go home. It's just too embarrassing."