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August 1 goes hip

Accessories promoting the Swiss flag are fashionable - and not just on August 1 Keystone Archive

Not just on August 1, but for many months now, the country has been swamped with displays of the national flag - particularly among young Swiss.

This content was published on August 2, 2002 - 09:35

While older Swiss have long regarded the national day as an important occasion on which to wave the flag, for Switzerland's so-called "techno-generation", being nationalistic is no longer something to be shunned.

In recent months the country has been overrun by a minor fashion boom in which bright red T-shirts embossed with the white cross have become the season's must-have item.

The Swiss cross has become omnipresent, and no longer confined to Swiss army knives.

Marketeers have jumped on the bandwagon and are feeding demand for the distinctive cross on clothing, bags, watches and confectionary in what the media has described as the commercial branding of an entire country's image.

Commercialisation of patriotism

One of Switzerland's leading German-language newspapers, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, recently highlighted the transformation of Switzerland's flag from national emblem to a fashion icon.

"The display of the national emblem is not by right-wing extremists from the country, but by young, urbane contemporaries," the paper said.

What's remarkable about the demand for the Swiss cross among the young is that just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable.

In the past, younger Swiss tended to be embarrassed by overt displays of national symbols.

August 1 - sign of the times

The change is reflected in the growing popularity of August 1.

Once upon a time, the day was dominated by a sober speech from the president and until 1993 was still considered a normal working day.

Today, by contrast, the national holiday is less about politics and more about having fun. On Thursday, the Swiss unfurled their flags, ignited fireworks and indulged.

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