Lost in the Shadows
Remember, you’re not Hmong Der just because you’re white…
Short Description: Oppa Hmong Style!
Dress: Neo-traditional, a combination of Hmong styling with the bright colors and shiny, reactive fabrics in season in China this year. Wide sashes at the waist, with baggy pants and jackets, cut to hint, not reveal, for the men, with decorated aprons over dresses and lots of silver bling, xuav necklaces, for the women. The ladies also generally wear headwear of some sort, the siv ceeb, either just wrapped around the head or done up in the turban. If they’re feeling particularly fancy or ‘authentic’ they might try to pull off a proper headdress, you’ve seen them, the big lampshade-looking affairs. Take a word of advice from the Vu, my little babes-in-the-woods, these are not for everybody, know your limits darlings. Both sexes wear the heavily-decorated hlab nyiaj, or coin pouch, although nobody actually carries coin anymore, it’s still a sign of wealth. As a side note, it’s a fantastic place to keep your mananacillin if you’re out for a little tsiaj qus lus.
Symbols: The intricate geometric patterns of the paj ntaub hmoob, the ‘Story Cloth’ of traditional Hmong embroidery. The distinctive patterns are seen all over anything even vaguely Montagnard, even things that have nothing to do with cloth or clothing. Clothing, it would seem,
Lingo: Hmong Daw, tau mas.
- Styles: C-Pop, C-Rock, H-Ghetto
- What’s on Their Playlists?: The Elementals, Devilmen, The Dust Monks, Xingan! Xingan! Xingan!
- Local bands: Lis Xab, Txwv Koob “The Ancestors”, Dawb Av, Pov Pob, The Yawm Hav Dej Band
It’s hard for any of us to imagine the Paired Villages without the Hmong. They’ve been a vital part of the Two Thorps for nearly a century, resettled here in payment for their ancestors service as guerilla fighters in the foreign wars of the bad old US of A. Which, the Vu knows, sounds like the plot to the latest “The Gahad of Neil” sim but is, the Vu swears to you, the Spirits own truth.
It is, as always, far more npam complicated than that.
tseeb has lus, leej muam
-Phim Kooj Koi
But it’s only the last couple of decades that the Hmong have gotten ‘cool’. For decades the Hmong were one more lumpy bit of Goat’s Head floating in the Bipolar Burgs’ spicy ethnic soup, trying to maintain their identity in the rising tide of the monoculture. For quite some time, Hmong culture remained a flair for professional mages after the Awakeneing. In the locality, it was other, non-Hmong spellworms who started picking up the distinctive style of the txiv neeb. It was these mages who were really the first “Montagnards”.
It was during the Shadow Decade of the 50’s that Hmong went mainstream. We all lived through the dark days of ‘runner chic’ and have the psychological scars and year book photos to prove it (well, not anymore since the Vu had a darling hacker friend fix that… but you get the idea…). In the cities, ‘runner chic’ wasn’t complete without at least one poseur dressed up like a Hmong shaman in the group. It was the real Hmong who started mockingly calling them by ‘Montagnards’, a french slang for the Hmong themselves that had long fallen out of favor.
While the 50’s mercifully ended, Hmong culture has not. The Hmong are no longer dingy little refugees at the fringes, but have money and position and stand at the center of Two Towns social life, and a number of our most prominent citizens are from Hmong decent. (Top chef Charlie Hang of Noj 30, Saint Paul police Chief Ana Ng, Ares-Minneapolis CFO Cy Foung, club owner Phuc Yu, former Governor Mee Zong etc.)
Oh, so I’m ‘prominent’ now? That’s not what you said last Saturday, tsaus fuab…
Professional jealousies are sooooooo last season, darling ;) If it falls to the Vu to be the bigger man… but than, from what the Vu hears, who isn’t?
If there’s no more sincere form of flattery than imitation, then the Hmong are a real American success story. ‘Montagnard’ has grown to be a flashy club style all its own, incorporating elements from Nippon Glam and C-pop with a distinctive Hmong flair, only enhanced by the danger and romance of the connections in the public consciousness with the Vang family. Montagnard is ubiquitous in our Double Trouble’s after-dark world and no scene is quite complete without at least a hlab nyaij or two. Even occasionally among actual Hmong. And the circle of style rolls on…