About a decade ago, I remember being dragged into a Hang Ten shop by my Mum, lured by a poster announcing a plain Tee promotion at five dollars per piece. I already had a few Hang Ten shirts at that point, so I protested. But my mother insisted that I (along with everyone else in the family) needed more home clothes. In the end, we left with a bag full of Hang Ten Tees.
On hindsight, it was not a bad investment — I still have two Hang Ten shirts and they don’t have the pilling that comes with age for many cotton shirts, while the others were transformed into disposable rags after years of wear.
With a pair of tiny footprints sewn above our hearts, Hang Ten shirts remain one of the most easily recognisable brands today, even years after slipping out of our wardrobes. The story seems to go the same way for brands like Giordano and Bossini — the former’s lion and the latter’s golfer remaining etched in our minds even if they have long made way for trendy fast fashion imports and accessible streetwear players. Similarly, for Bata, we still associate the brand with our school days, when everyone had the same pair of white velcro shoes.
These shops used to be found everywhere. But recently, Hang Ten closed more than a third of their stores and it seems that many of our old, favourite brands aren’t as popular as they used to be. Polo shirts no longer hold the appeal they once had, the logos plastered on the tops are perceived tacky, and velcro shoes still seem to belong solely — pun intended — on young students.
Sometimes, the old guards can come back to surprise you. Today, many of these brands are diversifying, breaking out of stereotypes we’ve placed them in. While some continue to retain many of our old favourites, others have managed to revamp themselves in the chase to keep up with the times.
While polo shirts still grace Giordano storefronts and advertisements, they have a much greater variety of apparel catering to different needs and audiences. Their G-Motion sports range is simple and versatile, and they recently sponsored a pageant in NTU in a bid to target the younger demographic.
Polo shirts are more ‘smart casual’ and it would be stretch to incorporate it into daily workwear. Giordano Ladies’ caters specifically for women who want a more sophisticated, minimalist wardrobe — it hardly even feels like a Giordano shop with the clean displays and muted colours.
Bossini was also another big player when it came to polo shirts, but the focus is now channelled to their adorable graphic tees and comfortable casual wear. They have had many collaborations as well, involving the likes of Tsum Tsum, LINE Friends and the Minions, including posts by popular influencers.
Their clothes are adorable and the characters have widespread appeal, reflected by the boldness and vibrancy of Bossini shops that we are still seeing now.
Yes, my mother’s old favourite. Hang Ten is known for both their polo and plain tee shirts and their shop fronts are often colourful, with stacks of bright Tees greeting customers. While Hang Ten has had some recent collaborations with other brands, the overall style of their apparels remains largely unchanged.
Ironically, despite their iconic emblem, Hang Ten has left little to no digital footprint. Or at least on the social media front, within Singapore. It seems they may have to play catch up!
(Fun fact: Did you know that Hang Ten originated in California? And ‘Hang Ten’ is a high level surfing stunt that involves the hanging of your toes over the surfboard.)
For many of us, our trusty Bata shoes were a constant companion throughout our primary school days, accompanying us as we played catching or hung from monkey bars. They are known for being the go-to shop for affordable school shoes — specifically, for those white velcro shoes that were a cinch for our seven year old selves to slip on.
But they have gone way beyond that now. A lot of the Bata related posts we spied on social media feature very modern takes on what we used to wear, and they cater to just about anyone with a pair of feet. However, they’re still a very much integral part of the Singaporean childhood experience, so white school shoes will still have their place in Bata outlets for a long time to come.
(Another fun fact: Bata was actually founded in Czechoslovakia!)
The thing about fashion is that it changes all the time. Many of these brands have an established foothold and image in Singapore, but may still find it difficult to stay relevant in the face of e-commerce revolution.
Despite that, it is undeniable that Giordano, Bossini, Hang Ten and Bata have all had their parts to play in our childhood and adolescence, whether it is embarrassing outfits we’d cringe at now, or the unique experiences among Singaporeans that we can all relate to (walking around Bata’s shop to test if our new velcro kicks can handle the school stress, anyone?). While some of us are all grown up, with greater autonomy over our sartorial choices, it certainly gives a new-yet-not-so-new perspective as nostalgia reminds us of a time unbounded by the material chase, as well as whatever that it is trending on Instagram.