Every culture copes differently with extremes of climate, and the Shanghainese are no different. They have developed some ingenious new ways to beat the heat when they’re out and about, and they still use all the old methods that work.
Umbrellas have replaced hats for the most part – Shanghai women are very conscious of their hairstyles and hate what a hat does to your hair on a sweaty day. The unexpected thunderstorms that seem to drop out of the sky from nowhere are another good reason to carry an umbrella, although it will be precious little protection from the horizontal downpour that follows.
Fans are very popular amongst the elderly, but young people think they’re not sartorially cool. Instead, they wave those ridiculous battery-operated rotary fans in front of their faces, or worse, wear a visor with one attached to the brim.
This method is for men only. When the temperature rises, roll up your shirt to just below your nipples and walk around with your belly on full display. The bigger your belly, the better. For some reason this is totally acceptable, even in restaurants and museums, or while riding a bike.
Women tend not to do the shirt rolling thing, it’s just not appropriate or modest, and instead they concentrate on tan prevention, because you don’t want to look like you work in the fields when you really have a counter job at Zara. You have to protect your lily-white skin by whatever means necessary. The most popular is a combination of a visor (minimal hair damage), a pair of white cotton gloves and a long-sleeved white cape. The capes usually have frilled or scalloped edges with small flowers embroidered around the front, and look like they were cut straight out of a tablecloth. Big sunglasses compulsory.
This week, with san fu at its peak, all bets are off and nearly everyone, men and women, have begun to travel with a wet towel on their heads. Hairstyles be damned.