Nolita Complex

The $100 Challenge

The leaf accessories had a certain decadent charm, but their frothy appeal quickly melted in the somber atmosphere of SSUR (219 Mulberry Street), a chic shop whose windows bear the slogan "Solidarity With the People" in various languages. Inside, $100 easily covered both a $28 T-shirt with the slogan "Make your Marx" and a portrait of Karl himself, and a $68 cotton sweater bearing the famous silk-screened likeness of Che Guevara. Despite its political pretensions, the store had a distinct skater sensibility, though when this was suggested to the callow youths behind the counter, one shrugged and muttered, "Not necessarily." Still, someone managed to puncture the staff's slacker reserve. As we lingered over a shirt inscribed "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows . . . " an elderly Italian neighbor, who looked like she had been on the block for half a century, stopped by to chat up the sullen sales help. She took one look at the corn muffin a clerk was shoving in his mouth, rolled her eyes, looked heavenward, and said, "That's what you're eating for supper?"

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