How do you say I love you, in Chinese? Wear the same thing

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Sometimes fashion trends don't translate well from one culture to another, then again sometimes they do. Take this trend: couples who wear matching outfits. We've seen it before in this country but it's kitschy beyond believe and it's never really been a fade here. Well, what's out here is now, apparently in in China. The Wall Streets Journal Laurie Burkitt in Beijing has been following this trend for quite a while and has just written about it. She says it's especially hard to miss Chinese couples who dress alike in the summer.

Laurie Burkitt: You see probably I mean in a fifteen minute span at least 3 couples are wearing the the similar outfits, and it has really just become fashion trend of stating someone's feelings on the outside and I talked to a number of different couples who basically said you know what this is our statement we want people to know we love one another and this is what we're choosing to do. So in the US you might wear wedding rings and in China you're going to wear matching outfits.

Werman: I mean I can't get my head away from thinking of millions Chinese couples wearing matching Christmas sweaters but surely that's not what's happening here. Wh-What are the couples wearing?

Burkitt: Hey they've gotten pretty fashionable. You can actually see couples wearing sometimes it's like these hip Adidas outfits where they look like they're getting ready to go play soccer together. Sometimes there's a little more suttle to it there's shirts that play off one another. You know it's sort of the old I'm with stupid idea only much more endearing. Then there's also like matching dress and suits. You've got outfits for the whole family that include grandma and grandpa. I have to say it's a little bit dorky but it comes across as pretty cute when you hear all the feeling that's behind it.

Werman: I mean couples are one thing but when you get to the whole family and everybody dressing the same way I mean does that echo at all for anybody the cultural revolution under Mao which embraced the tyranny of a single uniform?

Burkitt: One couple I interviewed they joked around with me and they said well our parents do wear matching outfits and everyone back in the cultural revolution did. So maybe it was all this sort of couple outfits and everyone was in love but no, I think in general people don't connect the two because these generations are endearing it now are so far removed from the cultural generation era but I do sometimes wonder if you got the older folks looking at the younger crowd and thinking huh we used to do that but it meant something very different.

Werman: And what happens if the couples break up do do they just retire that Adidas warm up suit hang it way up in the closet somewhere?

Burkitt: That's a very good question and it's one I have to say I started reporting the story actually almost a year ago in hopes of trying to find a couple that would break up. And in fact I found one. One of the people I spoke to, the female of the couple, she said I would rather wear dirty laundry I would never wear this shirt. So they don't go so far as throw it away I think they tuck it away in you know a little cupboard or something and dig it out for the desperate laundry times but yeah it still remains in their little keepsake boxes.

Werman: Unlike a diamond ring you can't really take a track suit down to the pawn shop can you?

Burkitt: Exactly

Werman: The Wall Street Journal's Laurie Burkitt in Beijing. Thanks so much.

Burkitt: Thank you Mark, I appreciate it.