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Governing Party Now Favours Rapid Eviction Of Squatters, But There’s A Catch

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Author: Mark Stücklin

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Property occupied by squatters in Spain. Wikimedia commons

The Spanish Socialist party seems to have come around to the idea of fast-tracking the eviction of squatters, but their proposal leaves a loophole that savvy squatters will know how to exploit.

Earlier this year the opposition PP party on the right proposed legislation to fast-track the eviction of squatters that got no support from the governing Socialist party, who run the Spanish government in coalition with the hard-left Podemos party. 

Indeed, the Spanish press reports that previous efforts by the PP to propose legislation to fast-track the eviction of squatters was scoffed at by the then Socialist spokesman Antonio Magdalena as intended to “generate fake social alarm” and damage the image of Spain.

But this week, with a General Election looming next year, the Socialist parliamentary group in the Spanish Congress has tabled an amendment to a draft bill (on the organisation of the justice system) intended to give magistrates the power to evict squatters in Spain “within a maximum of 48 hours,” and that also envisages changes to the criminal prosecution system to facilitate the prosecution of some types of squatting.

The proposal would allow magistrates to order the eviction of squatters within 48 hours “without the need to present guarantees, if the occupiers of the property cannot produce in that time frame the legal title that legitimises their presence in the property.”

Snag

But there’s a snag. Magistrates would have to inform the public prosecutor and social services if the squatters include anyone at risk of ‘social exclusion’ or ‘vulnerable minors’, which could hold up evictions for months if not years. Most squatters, in particular squatter mafia gangs who extort money from owners by holding their home to ransom, would know how to exploit this loophole to full advantage.

This initiative sets the Socialists at odds with their coalition partners from the hard-left Podemos party who are against any measure that makes it easy to evict anyone, whatever the circumstances. “They shouldn’t assume the agenda of the Right, because if they do, the Right wins,” says Podemos law-maker Rafa Mayoral, condemning the Socialists in comments to the press.

This comes at a delicate time for the governing leftist coalition as they try to agree a new housing law that Podemos wants to use to introduce rent controls all over Spain, make evictions almost impossible, and turn all the properties of the Sareb ‘bad bank’ into social housing. The law is supposed to be passed before the end of the year but the Socialists and Podemos can’t seem to agree on a draft to put before parliament.

Socialist support for the idea of fast-tracking squatter evictions is good news as it signals that a political majority are now in favour of the idea in principle. However, in practice, nothing is going to change for the foreseeable future. Extorting homeowners by holding properties to ransom will continue to be a profitable criminal enterprise with little risk of punishment in Spain, especially in squatter-friendly Catalonia, where close to half of all squatting takes place.

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Abanderado: The Unlikely History Of A T-Shirt Men Wore Because Women Told Them To

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A short-sleeved white t-shirt displays little hint of transgression, yet it is capable of defining its wearer’s personality to a large extent. In the case of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, the garment eroticized the protagonist, underlining his status as a paragon of the prototypical masculine ideal of the era. On the opposite end is Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski, dressed in a grimy, faded white tee in keeping with his carefree and lazy character. Between both those extremes lie endless possibilities. Fashion brands have riffed limitlessly on the timeless potential of the simplest of designs. In Spain, the success of the white t-shirt came about through Abanderado, a brand founded in the 1960s that managed to consecrate its shirt as a symbol synonymous with success.

From Mataró to the world

Abanderado was founded by Pere Sans in 1963 in Mataró, one of the hubs of the textile industry in Spain. In its early days, the company produced underwear for women, men and children. Before long, its white men’s t-shirt had triumphed. Maruca García Paredes, director of the fashion department at Madrid’s University School of Design, Innovation and Technology (ESNE), points out that the popularity of this basic item has fluctuated throughout history: “Its origins date back to the Middle Ages, but its spread began with the dawn of mass textile production. Curiously, its popularity plummeted in 1934 when Clark Gable appeared without an undershirt in the movie It Happened One Night. Marlon Brando restored its notoriety in A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Succeeding at selling a product as ubiquitous as the white t-shirt is not an easy task: there aren’t many obvious ways to stand out from competitors. So what made Abanderado different?

History of advertising in Spain

Decades before Calvin Klein revolutionized the fashion industry with provocative underwear ads starring a teenaged Kate Moss and a chiseled Mark Wahlberg, Abanderado had already made history on Spanish television: advertising was one of the brand’s strengths. At that time, the viewing audience was not as diversified as it is today and broadcasts on non-state run and regional channels had not yet begun. A TV advertisement was guaranteed to reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers. Thus, Abanderado became the first brand to advertise men’s underwear in Spain in the 1970s and sales skyrocketed.

The spots were hardly innovative. They extolled the values of the time by glorifying the “masculine” man. Although Abanderado’s clothing was designed for men, some of its advertisements were nonetheless directed at women. What is perhaps one of its most remembered spots ended with an eloquent musical slogan: “Men wear Abanderado because women buy Abanderado.” In the space of a few seconds, that song synthesized and legitimized a chauvinistic idea rooted in the era: that men wouldn’t dream of buying their underwear. This was a task reserved for women, that is, their mothers or wives.

The brand’s white t-shirts, with short sleeves or straps, became a consumer favorite. Children wore them to school and through adulthood. The lyrics of one of the jingles, sung by a woman, emphasized that idea of Abanderado as a signature present in the key moments of your life: “Since you were little you have always carried Abanderado within you. On the most important day, when serving as a soldier, when you fall in love, Abanderado.” The song alluded to the first communion and military service, two essential pillars for the most conservative sectors of Spanish society.

The message came at a time when Spain was facing great societal change following the death of the dictator Francisco Franco and the transition to democracy. On its website, the brand cites a 1980s study that listed Abanderado as the leader in men’s underwear sales, with a 37% market share. At that time, the company had more than 600 workers in its Mataró factory, making it one of the most important companies in the Catalonian municipality.

Michael Jordan signs with Abanderado

The turn of a new decade provided a huge boost for the brand. In 1991, Abanderado was sold to the American company Sara Lee. Its campaigns had borne fruit and Abanderado ads were already part of the collective imagination, although the firm ran the risk of appearing somewhat dated. The new parent company ensured it would reach a whole new generation by signing the biggest sports star in the world at the time: NBA star Michael Jordan wore Abanderado shorts in a spot that has become part of history. It was 1992 and Jordan and the Dream Team had just returned from the Barcelona Olympics with gold medals. According to the commercial, Jordan had also discovered Abanderado briefs while at the Games. The campaign signaled a powerful change in the brand’s mentality: women were no longer identified as the primary audience and an influential male figure was chosen to appeal to the interests of men, the primary wearers of Abanderado products.

At the beginning of the 2000s, Abanderado changed hands again. It was acquired by the Sun Capital fund, which moved its headquarters from Mataró to Madrid. Shortly afterward, the brand’s t-shirts ceased to be manufactured in Spain. As of 2014, Abanderado has been owned by the American multinational Hanesbrands, the parent company of other underwear labels including Dim, Wonderbra Champion and Playtex.

Where is Abanderado today? Has the company managed to keep its shirts relevant? Is the brand name familiar to younger generations outside of television and traditional advertising? The brand’s golden age may be in the past but the current panorama works in its favor. The white tank top has grown ever more popular among followers of current fashion trends. Luxury brands such as Prada and Bottega Veneta have not passed up the opportunity to include simple white shirts in their latest collections – with three-figure prices. “That has been the major change,” says stylist Inés Marinero, “the transition from an undershirt to a trendy garment. It’s something that started in 1990s and it’s now back in fashion. Sporty luxury is now a part of our lives, which is why the white shirt is now also worn with more elaborate and sophisticated fabric designs.” A few weeks ago, the style section of The New York Times dedicated an expansive article to the garment entitled: “Reinventing the Humble Tank Top.” García Paredes also links the popularity of the white t-shirt to “the informalization of the intimate garment”, adding that it has become “a staple whose versatility can go from elegance and sophistication to daring, comfort and simplicity.”

Almost six decades after announcing itself on the market, Abanderado is now just a shadow of what it was in its heyday, citing economic problems and a constant trickle of layoffs. But its white shirt remains ingrained on the minds of a large part of Spanish society. Its next task is to try and repeat its marketing success on the new generation.

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