"White! You can't have white! It ruins it!"
I've become enough of a regular at my tailor that the chief of the place now comes out and discusses and hangs out with me while I'm getting fitted. She's a kind, creative, and highly intelligent Chinese woman, perhaps in her late 40's or 50's..
I'm flattered - this shop handles lots of business, and the first half dozen times I came I dealt only with sales staff. Apparently I've introduced enough people to the shop and get enough here that I'm getting personal consideration - and it looks like the quality level has moved up even higher.
...but she doesn't like my plan for white detailing on my red coat.
"Look, this coat is beautiful... it's very nice... but I also want something, umm, very different? Not normal, you know? Iconic, even? That means doing something different."
I got an all red coat, but I asked for the shoulder straps, belt, buttons, and detailing to be a mix of white cloth and silver metal.
"No, white is no good. Go all red."
"I want something funky."
"Go with black, then!"
That was my first thought, as well. Black would look good with red. But...
"Look," I say, "I'm American. We can't wear long knee-length coats that are red with black trim. It's, umm... it's a World War II thing. Looks too Nazi."
She looks at me, confused, almost stunned. "Black will be beautiful with red."
"Yeah, I agree in theory... but umm, how do I put this? You know in World War II, there were the Nazis, and everyone hates them? Their colors were like that."
She doesn't understand.
"You know? Germany? While you guys were fighting Japan? We were fighting Germany. Nazis. Red and black. Can't wear it."
She doesn't get it.
I draw a circle in the air against a wall. "See that? That's a sun..." I rapidly mime sunburst gestures off of it. "Sunburst? Beautiful, right?" I do a rectangular flag like motion. "But see! That was Imperial Japan's flag. So no one can ever use that symbol for a while, because everyone hates it." A couple salespeople around have sneered at the Japan reference. People of age 35 and older pretty universally dislike Japan here.
"So yeah... Americans, we dislike Nazis the same way."
She still looks confused. Maybe she doesn't know the word Nazi?
I put my left finger to my nose pantomiming a goofy mustache, snap my feet together, and extend my arm upwards.
"Ahh!" see says. "No Hitler!"
I laugh. "No Hitler, yes. Americans can get away with kind of sort of dressing like Lenin, but we can't dress like Hitler."
She laughs. "Okay. Red and white."
I nod. Red and white.