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HomeTopicsExpat LivingThe Colorful World of Knock-Off Fashion in Costa Rica

The Colorful World of Knock-Off Fashion in Costa Rica

I live in one of the knock-off capitals of Costa Rica. Walking around town today I saw three different men, in three different parts of town, all wearing the same t-shirts with variations on the Levi Dockers logo. None resembled the actual Dockers logo. At the largest Ropa Americana in the city center, I saw a variety of nice quality t-shirts with logos from Nike to Adidas to Lacoste to Calvin Klein. The prices are the giveaway. Brand name designer tees for three thousand colons. I bought several a while back. They are of decent quality and good for exercise or lounging around the house.

Every t-shirt has an imperfection that caused it to fail inspection for sale in the US and Euro markets. Most of mine have the same error – a tiny emblem of the logo, that is supposed to be on the sleeve of the shirt, is instead in some weird location elsewhere, such as the back or lower front area. Those are the ones that don’t make it to the intended market and are instead sent to the t-shirt dumping grounds down this way.

The flawed shirt that is otherwise of quality is one of the types of knock-offs found here. Another type is the blatant counterfeit. Years ago, when a designer named Tommy Hilfiger was big, we were inundated with products bearing the name Tonny Hilifer. There were shirts, shorts and of course, the unforgettable Tonny Jeans. Not Tommy but Tonny. Same logo, same colors and design, different name. There were no meaningful copyright laws here, so it was not unusual to see clothing and accessories with a familiar looking name or logo that had been slightly altered.

There are also the pre-made incorrect sports champion shirts. Prior to a major sporting event such as the Super Bowl or World Series, there will be thousands of tees produced with both competing teams announced as the champion. As only one can win, the shirts with the loser’s name will be dumped throughout the globe.

For four consecutive years back in the 90s, the Buffalo Bills had shirts proclaiming them as Super Bowl champs, and for four consecutive years they lost, which meant a good portion of the non-American football following world must have believed the Bills were an all-time sports dynasty.

One such shirt was my introduction to this phenomenon here. I still remember stopping the fellow who was wearing it and trying to explain that the Bills weren’t champs. He was not interested. To him it was just a nice quality shirt with a bunch of indecipherable English printed on it.

Other cheap tees will feature incomprehensible slogans in English. If you would like to see some examples, go to this website: My personal favorite in my collection is one that combines misuse of a logo with a nonsensical slogan.

Featuring the familiar Nike swoosh, it is overlaid with the slogan ‘Life and Crime’, then below, in smaller letters, ‘Just Fucking Do It’. There is something about this shirt that just screams Made in an East Asian Sweatshop. I have only worn it once, and that was for a joke photo to post on Facebook. I have seen it worn by others on the street on a couple occasions though.

So let the buyer beware. Make sure that brand name is spelled correctly, the emblem is in the right place, and that the team your shirt celebrates actually won their championship.

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