5000 Years of Chinese History on Your Clothes

The character (shi) has been moulded over centuries by countless generations. Its meaning is profound, and its beauty timeless. But was not always as it is now. This is its story.

The Evolution of the Chinese Character 世

The Evolution of the Chinese Character 世

The first ever Chinese characters were created over 10,000 years ago. These ancient characters are called pictographs and are derived from drawings of objects in everyday life. They looked something like this:

Ancient Chinese Pictographs

Ancient Chinese Pictographs

A few thousand years later the pictures were augmented with indirect and abstract symbols.

Chinese Abstract Symbols

Chinese Abstract Symbols

Over time, diverse adaptations of the characters spread throughout the kingdoms of China and caused great confusion. It was not until around 1899 that a solution was found. The discovery of inscriptions on oracle bones from the late Shang dynasty (c. 1200BCE) finally put an end to the confusion.

Chinese Oracle Bone Inscriptions

Chinese Oracle Bone Inscriptions

Almost every single Chinese character in history has evolved over time to become what it is today.

The character (shi) itself has gone through centuries of change and amassed meaning beyond just that of its foundation.

The of today consists of 5 strokes. Its primitive form is a pictograph resembling 3 leaves on a branch.

Primitive form of 世

Primitive form of 世

Later derived from the character [see below] which means “leaf”, (shi) symbolises the cycle of life that a tree’s foliage undergoes. The birth of a leaf in the springtime before its death in the fall. This is extended to mean “generation”.

The Chinese Character for “Leaf” 葉

The Chinese Character for “Leaf” 葉

The penultimate adaptation of the character was built by fusing three identical iterations of the character (ten) together. Naturally, three tens make thirty and the following character which is already very similar to was born - .

The Chinese Character 丗   (thirty; life; generation)

The Chinese Character 丗 (thirty; life; generation)

But Why Thirty?

For the ancient Chinese, 30 years was considered a lifetime. Or in other words, the life of a generation. Finally, through all existing generations living together on this planet, the last of its meanings can be derived. 世 also means “world”.

means life, and the world.

The character  世  (shi) defines not only the visual soul but also the core meaning of  Zai Level .

The character (shi) defines not only the visual soul but also the core meaning of Zai Level.

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Chinese Character Clothing in Fashion Design

Chinese character clothing is becoming increasingly popular, but not everyone is getting it right in the eyes of Chinese people. Chinese characters may look beautiful, but designers should also be careful to take meaning into consideration when creating new designs.

Nike Air Force 1 High “NAI KE” exclusive to China

Nike Air Force 1 High “NAI KE” exclusive to China

The trend of Chinese characters in designs created by foreign brands is thought to have begun in 2015 with Nike’s launch of its exclusive Air Force 1 High “NAI KE” for the Chinese market.

Since then, other brands have been adding Chinese characters to their designs such as Adidas and Supreme.

The Hu NMD “Greater China Pack” collaboration between Pharrell Williams & Adidas

The Hu NMD “Greater China Pack” collaboration between Pharrell Williams & Adidas

More recently, in 2018 the Hu NMD “Greater China Pack” was released by Adidas in collaboration with Pharrell Williams in which the collection comes with four colours. Each colour represents the natural elements of water, wood, metal & fire and also correspond to the four words translated as, “Peace”, “Passion”, “Happy” and “Youth” that are labelled on the left shoe.

“…reducing Chinese culture to aesthetic element simply could not resonate with local consumers,” a GQ columnist wrote.

An example of what some deem as a less appropriate use of Chinese characters, is the 2017 Spring Summer collection by Designer Han Kjobenhavn. The Chinese characters 回旋踢和麵烤面包 can be directly translated as “Roundhouse kick and bakes white bread.”

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It has as much meaning in Chinese as it does in English, and has been criticised by Chinese netizens ever since. Although, according to the site the original intention was to pay tribute to Eastern culture.

Using Chinese characters in clothing purely for aesthetic purposes and without a deeper meaning, has sometimes been criticised as cultural appropriation. But it doesn’t end there. Angel Chen who is a part of a new wave of young Chinese designers influencing both Asia and the West says,

“As a Chinese person, when we are using Chinese cultural elements, it’s very important to know the background. It’s the same for Victoria’s Secret or any other foreign brand using Chinese culture. They need to fully feel respect for the culture and they need to use it properly.”

The Victoria’s Secret runway dragon that received widespread Backlash in 2016.

The Victoria’s Secret runway dragon that received widespread Backlash in 2016.

Chen goes on to say,

“When you are not able to tell the history behind it, when you don’t have the reference or that knowledge to back up the cultural element, the idea is very weak; it’s just like a collage, you cut and then you paste.”

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Top 3 Clothes with Chinese Writing

As the Chinese language grows in popularity, so too are clothes with Chinese characters.

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You’ve probably already seen your fair share of questionable Chinese tattoos. And while the risk is far less when choosing your clothing to wear, you probably don’t want to be making the same mistakes that others have!

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But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top 3 favourite choices for Chinese character clothing pieces that both look good on you, and carry a deeper meaning:

1. Chinese Character T-shirt - #ScanMe

Although named after its design, the #ScanMe T-shirt has a deeper meaning behind it.

“While the exact translation of “佛系青年” (fu xi qing nian) would be “Buddhist youth”, the actual meaning has no religious connotations. It refers to the positive, passionate, peaceful & optimistic attitude towards life that a group of young people have taken amidst the ever-increasing demands & pace of urban life. Those who adopt the philosophy are said to enjoy life through the pursuit of progress (with an emphasis on “pursuit”) rather than being worry-stricken by (what is to be) the result of their efforts.”

Only those truly in the know will have come across the meaning of “fu xi qing nian”. And it’s not a bad philosophy to go by either! For those reasons, it takes our number one spot.

2. Chinese Character Cap - Don’t Panic

This phrase might be considered the Chinese version of “Keep calm & Carry On”. The Don’t Panic Cap serves as a reminder for you… not to... uh... panic!

“The Chinese characters “请勿惊慌” on this baseball cap translated directly mean “Please don’t Panic” and serve as public reminders to avoid chaos in the wake of an emergency.”

The cap itself has a sharp aesthetic feel to it as well, making it on our list at number two.

3. Chinese Character Hoodie - Black Raiden

The meaning of 世 is deep and carries a long history, which if you’re interested you can read more about here.

“The Chinese character (shi) symbolises life & the world. It carries profound meaning and is what constitutes the logo of the brand. In the Classics collection, we take the purest form of in keeping with the essence of Zai Level.”

As a piece of clothing, the Black Raiden hoodie holds a special place in our hearts with its clean aesthetic and profound meaning. Therefore it takes the last spot in our Top 3 Clothes with Chinese Writing list.

If you’re interested in checking out more Chinese character clothing, be sure to visit the Zai Level Shop.

Clothe Your Character

Zai Level 在世界上. Follow Zai Level around the world @zailevel_official.

The Character Qilin - 骐麟

Chinese-qilin

A mythological creature that can often be found guarding tombs of the dead and is sometimes described as the “Chinese Unicorn”. Traditionally depicted with two horns and a deer’s body, a Qilin is the representative of all fur bearing animals such as horses, cows and deer.

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It is said that the Ming Emperor Yongle (1360-1424), was given a giraffe’s head as a gift by a famous explorer called Zheng He. The head was thought to belong to some sort of Qilin, and although the Chinese emperor didn’t believe it, qilin is actually the word for giraffe in Japan to this day.

While aesthetically its difficult to see the likeness to the Western unicorn, the similarity between them resides in their association with gentleness, virtue and benevolence. The Qilin is also sometimes depicted in a variety of ways by different sculptors who give it one or three horns instead of two, and the body of a fish or an ox instead of a deer.

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The Chinese character for “Qi” is a type of horse (and as such contains the horse radical ma), while the character for “Lin” is a complex one, with 23 strokes.

The Qilin is thought to be so gentle that its hooves do not disturb grass, nor do they penetrate through the water’s surface while walking. Its appearance is thought to be an auspicious omen, and it’s said to have appeared during the reign of the Yellow Emperor as well as the birth of Confucius.

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

The Ultimate Chinese Clothing Vocabulary List

So you want to know the most important Chinese words and characters for clothing. Well then, roll up your sleeves (挽起袖子) and let’s get to it! This is the Ultimate Chinese Clothing Vocabulary List.

General Clothing Words in Chinese

Hoodie
Chinese: 卫衣 (liánmàowèiyī)

T-shirt
Chinese: T恤 (T xù)

Sweater
Chinese: 毛衣 (máo yī)

Coat
Chinese: 外套 (wài tào)

Pants / Trousers
Chinese: 裤子 (kù zi)

Jeans
Chinese: 牛仔裤 (niú zǎi kù)

Shorts
Chinese: 短裤 (duǎn kù)

Dress
Chinese: 连衣裙 (lián yī qún)

Skirt
Chinese: 裙子(qún zi) / 短裙 (duǎn qún)

Shoe
Chinese: 鞋 (xié)

Sneakers
Chinese: 运动鞋 (yùn dòng xié)

Boots
Chinese: 靴子 (xuē zi)

Sandals
Chinese: 凉鞋 (liáng xié)

Winter Specific Clothing Words in Chinese

Coat
Chinese: 外套 (wài tào)

Hoodie
Chinese: 卫衣 (liánmàowèiyī)

Scarf
Chinese: 围巾 (wéi jīn)

Gloves
Chinese: 手套 (shǒu tào)

Mittens
Chinese: 连指手套 (lián zhǐ shǒu tào)

Blazer / Jacket
Chinese: 夹克 (jiá kè)

Vest
Chinese: 背心 (bèi xīn)

Sweater
Chinese: 毛衣 (máo yī)

Sweatshirt
Chinese: 运动衫 (yùn dòng shān)

Windbreaker
Chinese: 风衣 (fēng yī)

Earmuffs
Chinese: 耳罩 (ěr zhào)/耳套 (ěr tào)

Hat / Cap
Chinese: 帽子 (mào zi)

Intimates & Sleepwear Words in Chinese

chinese-words-intimates-sleepwear

Pyjamas
Chinese: 睡衣 (shuìyī)

Nightgown
Chinese: 長袍 (chángpáo)

Undershirt
Chinese: 內衣 (nèi yī)

Underpants
Chinese: 內褲 (nèikù)

Bra
Chinese: 胸罩 (xiōng zhào)

Panties / Knickers
Chinese: 三角褲 (sānjiǎo kù)

Bathrobe
Chinese: 浴袍 (yù páo)

Slippers
Chinese: 拖鞋 (tuō xié)


Formal / Evening Clothes Words in Chinese

chinese-qipao-cheongsam

Dress shirt / Blouse
Chinese: 衬衫 (chèn shān)

Tuxedo
Chinese: 燕尾服 (yàn wěi fú)

Suit
Chinese: 西装 (xī zhuāng)

Cheongsam
Chinese: 旗袍 (qí páo)

Tie
Chinese: 领带 (lǐng dài) / 领结 (lǐng jié)

Cravat
Chinese: 领巾(lǐng jīn)

Holiday / Summer Clothes Words in Chinese

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Bathing Suit
Chinese: 泳衣 (yǒng yī)

Bikini
Chinese: 比基尼 (bǐ jī ní)

Swim Trunks
Chinese: 泳裤 (yǒng kù)

Flip-flops
Chinese: 人字拖 (rén zì tuō)

Sandals
Chinese: 凉鞋 (liáng xié)

Accessories & Other Words in Chinese

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Belt
Chinese: 皮带 (pí dài)

Bracelet
Chinese: 手镯 (shǒu zhuó)

Breast pin / Brooch
Chinese: 胸针 (xiōng zhēn)

Button
Chinese: 扣子 (kòu zi)

Earring
Chinese: 耳环 (ěr huán)

Handkerchief
Chinese: 手帕 (shǒu pà)

Jewelry
Chinese: 首饰 (shǒu shì)

Necklace
Chinese: 项链 (xiàng liàn)

Raincoat
Chinese: 雨衣 (yǔ yī)

Ring
Chinese: 戒指 (jiè zhǐ)

Watch
Chinese: 手表 (shǒu biǎo)

Zipper
Chinese: 拉链 (lā liàn)

Sunglasses
Chinese: 太阳镜 (tài yáng jìng)

Interested in Chinese character clothing? Check out the Zai Level Shop below.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Chinese Chengyu: The Frog at the Bottom of the Well - 井底之蛙 - Jing di zhi wa

The frog at the bottom of the well is a Chinese chengyu (成语) used to describe someone who is short-sighted and has a very narrow view of the world.

chinese-chengyu-frog-at-the-bottom-of-the-well

There was once a frog who lived at the bottom of a well. The little frog thought he had everything he needed, well water to drink, insects to eat, and a little rock to lay upon while watching the clouds pass by. Yet he had never been outside of his well, nor did he know anything about the world beyond it.

One day, a curious sea turtle appeared at the entrance of the well and looked down. The frog saw the visitor and immediately began to show off, “Hello! This is my home and its so pleasant here. I can do anything I want. I can hop, sleep and play in the water. Sometimes, I can even see the moon! Why don’t you come down and share this paradise with me?”

The curious sea turtle heard the proud frog, and tried to climb down. However, the well entrance was too small, and the sea turtle couldn’t get in. So he pulled back and prepared to leave, but before he set off he said to the frog, “Have you ever lived in the ocean or experienced swimming freely in the sea? It’s as vast as the heavens and its beauty is beyond imagination. Even in times of drought we are content. Living in the ocean is true happiness.”

With that, the sea turtle departed and the little frog was left speechless at the bottom of his well.

the-frog-at-the-bottom-of-the-well-chinese-chenyu

The moral of the story and chengyu 井底之蛙, is to never limit ourselves to one rigid point of view without having explored as much as we can in the vast world around us.

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see the Zai Level shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Chinese Character Yellow - 黄 - Huang

In Chinese, yellow corresponds to earth, and symbolises royalty.

chinese-character-yellow

The first Emperor of China was known as the Yellow Emperor. Yellow was also the symbolic colour for the five legendary emperors of ancient China.

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As the most important colour in ancient China, emperors were dressed in yellow robes, palaces were built with yellow tiles and during the Ming (1368-1644) & Qing (1636-1911) dynasties official flags were yellow.

China used to be referred to as the “Yellow Earth” and its mother river is the Yellow River (黄河).

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In modern Chinese yellow sometimes has other, less flattering connotations, such as “yellow movies” (黄片)  informally meaning “pornographic film”.

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Chinese Character White – 白 – Bai

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A colour which embodies the absence of colour. White is associated with innocence, purity and mourning. It also represents the element of metal in ancient Chinese culture.

White, or un-dyed cloth to be exact, is worn for funerals and mourning as opposed to black in the west. The white lotus is an emblem for purity and virginity.

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The colour is also used to depict wisdom, as white hair comes with old age.

white-chinese-paimei

In Chinese Opera, white make-up means treachery and a white flower in a woman’s hair is thought to be unlucky.

chinese-opera-white

In the theory of five elements and five colours, white is also related to the cardinal direction west and the autumn season.

 

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white-chinese-autumn

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Chinese Character - Red - 红 - Hong

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Why is Red Considered Lucky in Chinese Culture?

It is said in Chinese mythology, that long ago a beast called 年兽 (nián shòu) would appear on Chinese New Year to devour all the people and livestock that it came across.

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Eventually it was discovered that 年兽 (nián shòu) was particularly sensitive to loud noises and was completely terrified of the colour red. Ever since then, Chinese people have hung red lanterns and scrolls on their windows and doors as protection from the beast. As such, red has become one of the most prominent colours in China.

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Red represents fire and is traditionally the colour of happiness & good fortune in Chinese culture.

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Chinese New Year is dominated by it. Red envelopes (which are monetary gifts given on special occasions) are red for good luck. It is worn at celebratory events but is forbidden at funerals. Even rising stock prices are indicated in red (in China, Korea & Japan), rather than in green like in other countries.

Another popular Chinese myth is that the founder & first emperor of the Han dynasty (202-195 BC) was said to be “the son of the red emperor” so people decided to honour the colour ever since.

Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Top 5 Benefits of Wearing Clothes with Chinese Characters

You’ve seen them in Kung Fu movies, you saw them take over the World Cup in Russia, you might have even seen them at some local restaurants. But you probably aren’t wearing any right now! Chinese characters are becoming more and more popular. But what are the advantages of wearing them on your clothes? These are the Top 5 Benefits of Wearing Clothes with Chinese Characters.

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You’re the Only Person Who Understands the Meaning

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Unless you’re in China, chances are that you are the only person who understands the meaning behind the characters. That makes you one of a select few!

You Don’t Need a Tattoo

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You’ve probably already seen enough people getting tattoos of Chinese characters, words or phrases. Now you can get something slightly less permanent, with a similar effect! (For clothes with Chinese characters see here)

They Help to Learn the Language

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If you’re learning Chinese, it always helps to have a visual reminder of what you’re learning.

They’re Easy on the Eye

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Chinese characters are just so attractive to look at, that sometimes one wonders if the world would be a better place with more of them to look at.

Combine the Ancient with the Modern

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There’s nothing like using the oldest written language in history to spice up your modern wardrobe.

That’s it for the Top 5 Benefits of Wearing Clothes with Chinese Characters.

Do you like wearing Chinese character clothing as much as we do? Check out the Zai Level Shop here to see the latest t-shirts and hoodies.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Zai? Level? 世?hmmm..

Upon its conception, we knew that our brand “Zai Level” had to have its own unique identity. From the get-go we sought to encapsulate our characters & dreams within it. We also hoped to inspire those connected to the brand through our positive energy and outlooks on life. During the somewhat difficult process of doing all that, we not only managed to bestow Zai Level with an identity, but also, dare I say it, an inimitable soul.

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Zai Level is represented by a unique logo which is embodied by the Chinese Character (shi) 世. Shi signifies life and the world. The meaning of Zai comes from the character 在 (Zai) which translates as to “to be at”. Combining both unlocks the hidden message behind our brand.

Zai Level signifies to be present, to live now and to the fullest.

As far as I’m aware, most people (including us) often think about the past or future. Our brains help us survive by learning from the past and predicting the future. But such a gift comes at great cost. We are tormented by thoughts of lost money, death, heartbreak and often even find ourselves longing to be a child again. We don’t want to take risks because we tried that once and it didn’t work out so well.

So what do we do? We crawl back into the comfort of a monotonous life. We have a roof over our heads and there’s food on the table. We feel secure. But like the comfort you feel when you get under a nice warm blanket - while it may be all snug and cozy, it can still get awfully boring after a while! Not much bad can happen, but not much good does either.  

So what does this all have to do with Zai Level? Well, we want to inspire people to brave the unknown territory that lies beyond the certainty of that warm bed. But don’t worry - you can keep some of the blanket! (Check out the hoodies in our shop 😉)

I think you can agree that focusing all our energy on the past or future won’t really help us to live happier lives, especially if their drenched in fear. So, we’ve taken some steps ourselves to risk more and do things that make us feel alive! (even if a little uncomfortable at times) And we’d like you to join in on the fun! To live life (世) the way you want to, and to make your way through the world (世) in a way that excites you. All the while being (在Zai) here in this moment, now.

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Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

9 Reasons Why Hoodies Are the Best Piece of Clothing in History

9 Reasons Why Hoodies Are the Best Piece of Clothing in History

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You’ve definitely seen them around. You might even have one on right now. They keep you warm and comfy, but do you know the true benefits to be had from wearing a hoodie? These are the 9 Reasons Why Hoodies Are the Best Piece of Clothing in History.

Take a Nap Anywhere

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Wherever, whenever. Retreat under your hood for a quick snooze.

Layers on Layers

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You can wear layers both over and under your hoodie. Or even a hoodie within a hoodie for twice the warmth. They’re calling it Hoodieception.

It’s All You Need

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You don’t need anything else, really. Not even the footpath (or pants for that matter).

Hoodie + Coffee Combo

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The most sought-after combo today. Wrap up warm & don’t let go of the coffee mug.

Up Your Cute Game

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If a hoodie can make this puppy even cuter, then it can definitely help you out.

Safe Zone

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When it all gets a bit too much, just retreat back into your hoodie.

The Ultimate Cover

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Your hoodie is your go-to piece when you don’t want to be recognised.

Protects You from All the Elements

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Well… almost.

Straight up Bad-ass

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Great for when you’re going for that mysterious, may-or-may-not-be-a-ninja, look.

That’s it for The 9 Best Reasons to Wear a Hoodie.

Are you a hoodie lover too? Then check out the Classics Collection here!

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Do you love Chinese characters as much as we do? Check out more of our informative blogs about Chinese characters here or see our shop for Chinese character clothing.

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

Loud Designs, Quiet Cuts

Just as streetwear has stepped into the mainstream over the years, so too has it created a new kind of consumer. Someone who loves the prints and designs, but perhaps isn’t as excited about the eccentric cuts that come with them.

This is what drives the concept “Loud designs, quiet cuts”. The idea is very simple. While the print designs attract attention, the cuts are less exaggerated.

Shen Love T-Shirt

Shen Love T-Shirt

The philosophy is particularly apparent in our up-and-coming T-shirt collections.

Take the #ScanMe T for instance - The large Chinese characters & their accompanying designs could by no means be considered “timid”. But the cut is less pronounced and provides a balance to the overall feel. Combined with your particular style of clothing, you can easily go for a range of looks with this versatile crew neck.

#ScanMe T-Shirt

#ScanMe T-Shirt

The exception to the rule? Our most “out-there” garment available right now is the Cream Assassin hoodie. While the cut is unique, it actually makes you feel surprisingly elegant when you wear it. Admittedly the actual feel does play a role (because it’s so incredibly soft!) Even so, it’s still easily combinable with regular clothing for a sophisticated yet casual look, as can be seen below.

Cream Assassin Hoodie

Cream Assassin Hoodie

Click below to visit the Zai Level Shop

Zai Level Shop

Chinese character clothing shop. Clothes & accessories inspired by Chinese calligraphy, language & culture.

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