Me and Chairman Mao
  Knocking it off.
Everyone knows that if you want counterfeit goods, China is the place to come, since something like 80 to 90 percent of all counterfeit stuff in the world is made right here in the Middle Kingdom. So the money from that knock-off purse you bought on the street doesn’t go to terrorists, it actually goes to the communists, which--in retrospect--doesn't seem so bad, does it? (Is it bad to be nostalgic for the days of the "Evil Empire"? already? Damn that Reagan and his deficit spending that finally broke the financial backs of the Bolsheviks! Or something, anyway.)

While the knock-off angle is all well and good, what I really like are the large selection of "almost the same" stores. That is, stores that have names and/or logos that are similar enough to famous brands to be recognizable, but different enough--I assume--to not get in trouble for it. Well, not under Chinese laws at least, which probably isn't saying much, but whatever. For example, if you don't feel like spending the 50 or 60 dollars necessary to buy a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt--or the four dollars necessary to buy almost the same thing at Xiangyang market--you can always go to one of the many US Polo Association stores around town, since the logo used by the US Polo Association is, you guessed it, a man on a horse with a polo … mallet, or whatever they call them. If that sounds suspiciously like the Ralph Lauren Polo logo to you, you'd be right. Coincidentally, they also have lots of shirts and sweaters for sale with that same polo player logo. Weird, isn't it?

Other favorites of mine include: "Ray-Boa" sunglasses--Holly has a pair--which look very similar to my Ray-Bans, right down to the "Ray-Boa" written in a white, semi-cursive script on the lenses; and "Gorgi Amoni," makers of fine menswear who have a logo that looks very much like the eagle used by a slightly better known maker of fine menswear named Giorgio Armani.

However, this next one is definitely my most favorite, since it involves what seems to be a copy of a copy. First, we have the original, well-known Western store and logo: Lacoste and its famous crocodile:

Can't afford a real Lacoste shirt (not surprising, since they are something like $80 dollars here) and don't want to get a fake one from the market? No problem! Just go to Crocodile, which is totally different because, as you can see, the crocodile faces the OTHER DIRECTION:

(I think it's actually a chain from Singapore, but I’m not sure.)

But wait--it gets even better. Suppose you are really low rent and can't even manage a Crocodile shirt to impress your friends with. Again, no problem! Just go to the "Clio Coddle" store, which is totally different from Crocodile--despite the strange spelling, which is reminiscent of the word Crocodile without actually being the word--because the logo, while vaguely crocodile looking, is actually some sort of strange, Paleolithic proto-crocodile with stubby "fins" and a very weird-looking mouth:

What comes after Clio Coddle? I'd like to think it's a knock-off Lacoste, since that would make a nice little circle: Real Lacoste > Crocodile > Clio Coddle > Fake Lacoste > Real Lacoste > etcetera etcetera etcetera.

And the moral of the story? Just when I think it can't get any weirder, it does.

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