Two of the most ubiquitous items seen daily on earth are on display in this quick snap taken at a local tienda here in Vilcabamba.
One of my campesino neighbors is relaxing in the the waning afternoon light wearing ubiquitous item #1: a New York Yankees baseball cap. No other utilitarian item of apparel has crossed gender, nationality, age, social class, etc more than this cap. Possibly only the infant’s diaper will be worn by more humanoids.
It’s as though someone wanted to thumb his nose at the New York Yankees copyright protection division and walk every square mile of terra firma handing out the caps to absolutely everyone.
They are the ultimate fashion equalizer. “Elon Musk meet Manila tuk-tuk driver” …. what the NY Times referred to as “The Common Man’s Crown.” I’m sure most of us can agree that the bill on a baseball cap is one of the most stellar functional designs in haberdashery.
Decades ago when I would spot a NY Yankee’s cap on someone and I would occasionally ask: “Do you know what these letters stand for?” More often than not they would remove the cap, turn it around to look at the initials and remark with a smile: ‘I’ve no idea.” The sweet smile said; I’ve never thought about it, equals not important. They simply purchased some headgear to shade their eyes and face. And possible make them feel as though they had become part of a mysterious and cozy cult because everyone within 1,000 kms was wearing the same cap.
I stopped asking folks in faraway places if they knew or rooted for the Yanks when the tables were turned on me once when a Saudi Arabian asked me if I knew what his baseball cap emblem said. It showed an oval with some Arabic script above a smiling penguin wearing a neck scarf and holding some kind of stick. I took a stab and said “Lacrosse” he chuckled and said, “No it’s one of our hockey teams and they are named the Penguins.” Of course! Don’t know why I didn’t get that!
Ubiquitous item #2 in the photo of course is the plastic stacking chair. They are everywhere on our planet. The injection machines used to make these thrones can cost up to a million dollars and are the size of a semi-trailer. Prices have fluctuated on these chairs from $35 to $1 per chair-depending on country of origin, design and durability. Smithsonian magazine ran a feature article about them in July 2004 titled; “Everybody Take a Seat : Comfort for the masses or tacky blight?.” This particular chair in the tienda has been repaired at no less than four points: look for the interlaced plastic twine snaking through small holes drilled at various points. A common practice in poorer countries who try and stretch the life of virtually every item in their possession rather than just chucking them posthaste. As we all know, in time this hunk of plastic will find its way to a landfill to become part of one of the greatest challenges facing mankind at this moment: plastic use / misuse / disposal / recycle.
American-born photographer Thomas Ives has worked for international news and feature magazines for over 38 years. His photo essays and images have appeared in National Geographic, Time, Geo, Stern, Newsweek, Life, Smithsonian, and many others publications. He lives in Vilcabamba with his Ecuadorian partner. For more about Thomas, click here.
Thomas Ives may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and more of his work may be seen on his Instagram account: thomas_h_ives