When I apply the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” to my study abroad experience this semester in Seville, Spain, I would change the expression to “the cultural emblems of one country’s rejected decade are another country’s hottest fad.” By this, I mean that those elements that characterize what we Americans look back on as a 10-year lapse of good taste, the 1980s, have been welcomed whole-heartedly into the collective embrace of Spanish pop culture.

Like any immigrant, these styles have assimilated and adapted to their new surroundings, but are still quite recognizable to anyone who remembers them from their golden age.

Now, before I go on to point out exactly how ’80s culture has reared its overly-rouged, glittering face here in the land of bullfighting and Basque separatists, I want to say that all remarks lampooning the quirks of Spanish style are not intended to put down the people of Spain as a whole.

First of all, such a mean-spirited review would be quite an inappropriate response to the kindness with which these people have treated me. And, secondly, because it is only a section of the population to which these observations apply.

To the discerning American eye, the most obvious manifestation of the 1980s in Spanish culture is the popularity of the hairstyle that we regard as being so corny it has become a trendy Halloween costume. By this, I am referring to the almighty mullet.

A stroll through one of Seville’s abundant parks after school hours will reveal gangs of young people sporting mullets as proof of their good fashion sense. The Spanish mullet, known as the greita, is typically quite distinct from the type traditionally sported by the country singers and World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers of American culture. Rather than a flowing mane, it is a sharply cut square with errant strands stretching toward the shoulders, always gelled to perfection.

There is also a female variation of the Spanish mullet, a long drapery of unevenly layered mats of hair, quite similar in appearance to the hairdo of Garth’s girlfriend in “Wayne’s World 2.” This look is sometimes accompanied by a meandering rat tail.

Moving downward, we find a male attire that could quite possibly have been inspired by a delayed satellite transmission of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video. A polyester jacket clasps the slender Mediterranean frame, followed by a pair of hip-hugging jeans that sometimes flare slightly at the bottom.

Like icing on the Easy-Bake oven cake, a pair of low-top sneakers with a dazzling combination of primary colors look like two shoe-laced popsicles on the gray pavement. For special occasions, the trendy Spanish youth may sport an immaculate white blazer over a dress shirt, sans tie and un-buttoned just low enough to give their female targets a hint of the manliness that lies beneath. From time to time, this ensemble can be seen finished off with a pair of posh, black sunglasses.

While popular Spanish fashion trends reflect a jarring blend of recycled ’80s style from the New World with chic, discotheque Euroflair, no element of Spanish culture pays homage to the leg-warmed decade with such reverence as the local radio stations do, who spread their waves from the stormy coasts of Galicia to the beachfront resort happy hours of the Costa del Sol.

Several of these radio stations have such a hardcore devotion to pure American ’80s music that their rotation includes a large number of songs that aren’t even played in the United States are simply because they are too ’80s.

The combination of supercheesy synth riffs, overly artificial snare smacks and cookie-cutter lyrics can cause anyone who managed to survive the ’80s music scene have convulsive flashbacks.

Now, I know I have never been one to bow out of a party-wide shouting of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” but trust me, this music is a little too extreme for even the most hard-core Duran Duran fan.

All cultures have their quirks. The peculiarities of another country’s culture are often just as fascinating for the traveler as the inexhaustible source of discovery that lies within its history and tradition. I encourage all of you to go abroad and see for yourselves what lies beyond the comfort zone of home and school – whether you want to turn Japanese, bless the rains over in Africa or go to a land down under, the world awaits you.

Bromfield can be reached at dbromfield@campustimes.org.



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