The linguistic and cultural reasons behind the design of one of our burger-loving reporter’s favorite pieces of clothing.

As you’ve probably noticed, we don’t really have a strict dress code at SoraNews24. T-shirts are pretty much the standard attire for our writers on most days in the office, but that also means that our writers need a large wardrobe of T-shirts to get through the working week.

Our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun is particularly fond of cool-looking fast food T-shirts, and one of his favorites comes from Shake Shack Japan, which came to the country in 2015. But while this shirt includes the familiar green-outline burger that serves as the New York-originated hamburger chain’s logo, it also has…a fish?

Huh. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? Shake Shack doesn’t have fish burgers, fish sticks, or any other sort of pescatarian-oriented items on its menu. So why a fish? The reason is twofold.

First, that’s not just any fish, it’s a sea bream. Not only are sea bream prized for their flavor in Japan, they’re also considered a sign of prosperity and good fortune, as the Japanese word for sea bream, tai, is similar to the word medetai, meaning a joyous celebration or happily auspicious event.

There’s even a Japanese proverb, “Ebi de tai wo tsuru,” or “Using a shrimp to catch a sea bream,” meaning to turn a modest effort into a sizeable success, and that’s being referenced on the front of the Shake Shack Japan shirt, where someone is using a burger to fish for a sea bream. So it’s not just a shirt, but a good-luck charm too.

For the rest of the reason why there’s a fish on the front, let’s go around to the back, where we find this guy just below the collar.

Abstract as the art style may be, with his floppy hat, pronounced earlobes, and fishing pole, anyone who grew up in Japan will instantly recognize this as Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune (even with the embellishment of a milk shake for him to sip on). Ebisu is the god of prosperity, and is generally depicted as either being in the process of catching or having just caught a nice, big sea bream.

Ebisu’s presence on the shirt isn’t only to give the wearer an additional dose of good luck, though. One of the first places in Japan to be graced by a Shake Shack branch is Ebisu, the Tokyo neighborhood that shares its name with the God of Fortune (and also the brand of beer that used to be brewed in the district), and this shirt is specifically a Shake Shack Ebisu shirt.

At 2,990 yen (US$21) it’s not the cheapest T-shirt around, but just like with Shake Shack’s burgers, P.K. thinks it’s worth the above-average price point, He’s had the shirt in regular rotation in his wardrobe for close to four years now, and it’s still in good shape, with no significant fading, fraying or stretching. He especially likes how the color and design is cool enough to win him some style points even before people realize it’s a Shake Shack shirt, and the extra smiles from fellow fans who do know where he got it makes it even better.

▼ P.K.’s shirt even came in a snazzy box that would make it a great gift.

On the Shake Shack Japan online shop, the sea bream/Ebisu shirt’s current status is “sold out.” The listing is still there, though, so fingers crossed that it gets restocked soon, and in the meantime P.K. is going to be very careful not to spill anything on his when he’s chowing down on his next big, juicy burger.

Related: Shake Shack Japan online shop
Photos ©SoraNews24
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