小老虎
Photo Credit: Anita He
LIFE

Best (and Worst) Tiger Fashions this Lunar New Year

International brands have released their annual animal zodiac-themed products—we rate them here

“Tyger tyger burning bright, in the forests of the night.” Like in William Blake’s poetry, Chinese malls and retail websites are burning with tiger-inspired designs as the lunar Year of the Tiger approaches.

The third animal in the Chinese zodiac is seen as an emblem of bravery, sternness, ferocity, and dignity, while people born in the Year of Tiger are said to be confident, charming, and competitive. Whether true or not, the fashion industry has certainly kept these qualities in mind.

As in every Lunar New Year, various brands have designed fashion products in accordance with the tiger-personalities, though some are certainly cutesier than any tiger found in the wild (perhaps in order to cash in on pop culture’s love of cats) and Gucci is already in hot water for using a real tiger in their fashion shoots and seemingly glorifying big cat ownership.

TWOC went window shopping in Beijing’s Taikoo Li Sanlitun shopping center for a look at the tiger-themed fashions lighting up the capital this Lunar New Year:

Shiniest tiger: Swarovski

Swarovski jewelry

Swarovski jewelry (Anita He)

As every year, the jewelry maker comes up with the shiniest offering on the list. Though the design looks like a cat with a 王 (“king”) character on its forehead (which tigers are traditionally depicted with in Chinese art), this sparkling bauble will make you stand out in any New Year’s party this holiday season.

Sassiest tiger: Kate Spade

Kate Spade handbags

Kate Spade handbags (Anita He)

Don’t have a partner to bring home to your extended family and fear their interrogation during Spring Festival? This brown tiger print handbag says everything about confidence, independence, and ambitions. Who says animal prints have gone out of fashion?

Coolest streetwear: EVISU

EVISU outfit

EVISU outfit (Anita He)

The denim outfit from the popular Japanese brand takes inspiration from both Japanese Ukiyo-e and traditional Chinese painting of tigers, and dresses it up with a street aesthetic, though we feel the tiger design on the legs tips it into over-dramatic territory.

Most misleading: Mac

Mac cosmetics

Mac cosmetics (Anita He)

Although Mac calls the colors in this makeup set “passionate Chinese red,” TWOC argues they are all various shades of pink and gold. Other than the lipstick packaging, nothing in the kit evokes the look of a tiger...probably for the best.

Least realistic tiger: Restill Show

Restill Show socks

Restill Show socks (Anita He)

It’s not clear whether the animals on these cute socks are tigers, or bears, or rabbits. There isn’t even the 王 character to help us in a debate.

Most chic tiger: Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs outfit

Marc Jacobs outfit (Anita He)

Many brands have used the tiger-print as inspiration, but this Marc Jacobs display has the right idea in using animal print as accents (in handbags, necklace, and sports shoes) while keeping the rest of the outfit simple and chic.

Most understated tiger: Maje

Maje belt

Maje belt (Anita He)

Let’s face it: Unless you are a very observant person, you’ll hardly notice the design on someone else’s belt buckle. Continuing the trend of minimal and tasteful, this accessory is thematic yet versatile, as it can be worn outside the holiday season and in various more “formal” settings.

Funniest tiger: 3age3project

3age3project slippers

3age3project slippers (Anita He)

Wearing one’s house slippers out on the street is a recent trend (though arguably, old people in the south of China have been trailblazing this fashion for centuries), and these footwear with tigers making faces and sticking out their tongues might be the best choice to show the haters you don’t care what they think about your relaxed footwear.

Least recognizable tiger (unless you speak Mandarin): Cross the Line

Cross the Line jumper

Cross the Line jumper (Anita He)

Is this a dragon? A red-faced pig? At least there’s the 王 character to help us figure it out...

We swear there’s a tiger element: Adidas

Adidas shoes

Adidas shoes (Anita He)

If you squint, you can just barely make out the tiger stripes in the red bits near the laces of this limited-edition sneaker, which chooses to emphasize less animal-related themes of the Lunar New Year. While this makes the shoes suitable to wear any other year, those really wishing to get their tiger fix might wish to check out these more overt tiger-printed offerings from Adidas and other athletic brands’ websites.

Most nostalgic tiger: toys in the malls

toys in the malls

Tiger-themed toys (Anita He)

Did you know that traditional Chinese culture was actually the trailblazer of tiger-inspired fashions? Most Chinese customers of the above brands will probably have childhood memories of the “tiger-head” shoes (虎头鞋) in this mall display, as well as tiger-head hats (虎头帽). A form of folk embroidery in various parts of China, these items are usually worn by infants and young children with the wish that they will grow up healthy (虎头虎脑, as the related four-character idiom goes) and be protected from evil spirits. Hand-stitched tiger-head shoes are recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage item by the Chinese State Council.

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author Anita He (贺文文)

Anita is a researcher at The World of Chinese. She is interested in stories that involve gender inequality, social issues, as well as current affairs. She is also passionate about the development of subcultures in Chinese society.