Monday, June 21, 2010

The arcane art of telling fakes from originals

IF you are looking for jerseys of your favourite soccer team now playing at the World Cup in South Africa, wait until late July if you want to get them real cheap. By that time, they will go a-begging, an expert bargain hunter told me.

Two weeks ago, jerseys were in season as I found out at the Uptown all-night market near my home. They had replaced Crocs shoes in popularity.

There was a shopping frenzy at the most crowded stall. The RM10 price tag of the jerseys in the bin must have been the cause for the enthusiasm.

One chap there says the soccer jerseys in vogue now come from the north. Prices range from RM10 to RM30 each, depending on the design and material. Of course, if you can afford it, it is better to get an original, failing which what traders call a "replica" or "AAA-grade" jersey will have to suffice. Triple-A grades are given to product samples for which new materials or designs are created by the original manufacturer to test the waters but in the case of jerseys at the pasar malam, your guess is as good as mine.

Apart from the price, some people say it is pretty difficult to tell the AAAs from the originals, although those in the know will tell you otherwise. One giveaway is the quality of the fabric used. In an original, it should feel silky and cool to the touch, and usually does not leave a crease when crumpled. The stitches should be uniform and equally spaced from the seams, and always done in an unbroken stream.

The best evidence yet is the badge. It should be embroidered and not printed. The symbols must be clear and correctly placed, and the letters legible. If they are not, it would probably be unwise for you to pay through your nose for the jersey. But I was stumped by the AAA jersey I was shown. It appeared to be genuine, right down to the collar label that says "Made in England".

One trader priced his AAA at RM65 a piece but said he would be happy to give a RM10 discount if I was really interested. He claimed that the AAAs he sold were just as good as the originals and no one would notice the difference, especially if other clothing worn measured up.

I was reminded of an accountant friend who needed a gold watch to match his expensive tuxedo when attending a black-tie function. He borrowed a "Rolex" from his brother's Petaling Street collection. My friend laughed when he related to me that someone prominent he met at the function actually complimented him on his good taste.

But what happened to the nasi lemak lady I heard about years ago was not so pleasant. She had a penchant for wearing gold bangles and one day the glitter attracted the attention of robbers.

Moments after the robbery, just as the woman was feeling a great sense of relief that all the jewellery she lost were fakes, the thugs returned and gave her a slap. They told her that if she could not afford gold, she should not wear fakes. I had a good laugh when neighbours related the incident to me.

As for the jerseys, I think they will look odd on me because I do not play soccer and am not the fan of any club. An Eagle Pagoda T-shirt will suffice for now. At least I can be sure that it is an original.

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