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Has any historical group of people undergone a startling change in opinion than pirates have in recent years? It’s been truly remarkable the way that people have changed their opinions on pirates and the pirate look. There was a particularly memorable episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is forced into fulfilling his obligation to wear a pirate themed puffy shirt on a talk show that was created by Kramer’s girlfriend at the time. Being coerced to wear a pirate-esque puffy shirt seems to represent how laughable pirates had become.
However, in recent years looking like a pirate has become the thing to do. Whether you are a child who wants to look like their favorite character in the blockbuster trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean, or whether you are a teenager who empathizes with the rebellious styling of pirate fashion, having a bit of pirate fashion has suddenly turned into an asset. After all, there’s something so rebellious about looking like a pirate. Whether it was reading childhood tales like Treasure Island or watching classic Disney movies like Peter Pan, there has always been a bad boy element to pirates.
Nowadays pirate shops are finding that their businesses thriving. Whether they are serving people who are looking for fantastic pirate costumes for a costume party or kids that want to look like Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean or hipsters that are looking to add some pirate fashion accessories to their stylish ensembles, pirate shops are truly living through a golden age of pirate related products. The times have certainly changed and who knows how drastically different that Seinfeld episode would’ve been if it was made today. All that I know is that Jerry probably would’ve jumped at the chance of wearing a puffy shirt and he would’ve been showered with praise for his authentic pirate look.
A Special Pirate Store
Deep in the heart of the Spanish flavored Mission District in San Francisco lies the city’s lone independent pirate supply store. This pirate store has gained national attention due to the creative impetus behind it. Founded by renowned author, Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia is a pirate supply store and also a nonprofit writing workshop and tutoring center. One of the most well known features of San Francisco, 826 Valencia is a truly charming school that provides kids between the ages of 8 and 18 opportunities to improve their creative writing under the mentorship of some of the top literary minds in the Bay Area.
In addition to assisting children increase their creative writing abilities, 826 Valencia has gained renown for offering English as a Second Language (ESL) tutorship. Combined with its writing workshops, frequent field trips, and overall commitment to providing free educational programs to kids, 826 Valencia is rightly praised. However, the story behind its connection to piracy is quiet fascinating.
After being turned down by numerous church basements and school facilities as a host site for their services, the individuals that would develop 826 Valencia would find the perfect spot in an empty store located on Valencia Street. However, as part of the city ordinance in that area, a building located on that street was required to provide either retail or catering services. Understanding that their services were going to be primarily directed to children, the people of 826 Valencia had the brilliant idea of developing a pirate supply store that would fit within the city ordinance requirements and help nurture an environment that would foster a child’s imagination.
To their credit, 826 Valencia has run with the pirate store theme. If you were to walk past the store, you would have no idea that there was an educational facility inside the store. The storefront is adorned with pirate clothing and pirate accessories like eye patches and compasses. Rebellious and cheeky handmade signs dot the store which only lends itself to the pirate store’s creative energy. While its operators could not have possibly imagined it when they started it, 826 Valencia has become the most popular pirate store in San Francisco and arguably the whole country.
The Appeal of a Pirate
Whether it’s mimicking the way that pirates talk or trying to dress up in your favorite pirate costume, there is something so irresistible about pirates. Childhood tales like Treasure Island helped create folklore out of pirates and who can resist the childhood fantasy of being at sea plundering and scoring some serious treasure? After all, there’s something so simple and so appealing about the idea of following a handwritten map that would lead to buried treasure. A big reason why people are so attracted to pirates is through Peter Pan. The iconic story helped set up the way that we think of pirates. After all, who can forget the towering Captain Hook that would order his captives to walk the plank?
Of course the glamorous image of being a pirate and the reality of pirate life are completely different. Although pirates are justifiably romanticized for their defiant attitude, the fact of the matter is that being a pirate is a difficult life. In some cases, pirates were able to find fabulous wealth through their pirating ways. For the most part, though, pirates died young and lived a terrible life. Pirates were more susceptible to disease due to the extensive traveling involved in that kind of life and ate poorly. Still, despite the cold hard historical facts that debunk the romantic myth of a pirate’s life, the dream continues. Major television station, CBS has produced a reality show that follows a group of contestants acting as modern day pirates attempting to search for lost treasure. So far, Pirate Master has been quiet successful.
In addition, the term piracy is tied to rebellion. Sports teams are attracted to having pirates as their logos and mascots due to the ruthless reputation of pirates. Additionally, the rebellious nature of pirates can be seen in the modern usage of the term piracy, which is used to denote unauthorized use and transfer of copy written material. In some cases, the term pirate shops are used to denote stores that specialize in selling bootleg material. Although many companies are devoting much of their resources to stem the tide of this form of piracy, many people continue to indulge in trading pirated material. After all, you don’t have to be traveling in the sea to be a pirate these days.
Pirates of the Caribbean
One of the biggest reasons behind the recent repopularization of the pirate look has been the massively successful Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Never has such a successful film franchise been developed under such low expectations. After all, while Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was an expensive movie for Walt Disney Pictures to create, many people were skeptical of the commercial potential of a movie that was based around a Disneyland ride. As it turned out, these early cynics have been proven completely wrong, as reports have indicated that these Pirates of the Caribbean movies have made over two billion dollars worldwide.
However, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl boasted an all-star cast of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush. The movie would go on to be one of the most successful movies in 2003 and Walt Disney Pictures quickly revealed that this initial movie was just the tip of the iceberg. Since then, Pirates of the Caribbean has gone on to break international box office records and has quickly revived the flagging fortunes of pirates. The movies has also led to Johnny Depp being nominated for Best Actor and Depp’s character, Captain Jack Sparrow, being a major favorite for kids around the world.
As Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp helped update the image of pirates. Ditching the puffy pirate wear that was popularized in the 1950s by actor, Errol Flynn, Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was a mixture of Rolling Stone’s guitarist, Keith Richards, and Looney Tunes character, Pepe Le Pew. In Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow can be seen with dirty hair, big belts, numerous rings, and a classic pirate hat. Due to Johnny Depp’s irresistible performance and the massively commercial success of Pirates of the Caribbean, pirate shops today are finding that they can’t keep up with the demand for pirate costumes and the latest in pirate fashion.
Looking objectively at the movies, it is quiet surprising that many movie studios have avoided crafting their own version of the epic pirate movie. After all, even the most hardened cynic would get a kick of joy while watching the intricate sword fights that are seen throughout the trilogy. Additionally, one of the biggest advantages of creating a fantasy movie in the world of pirates is its unique mixture of reality and fantasy. While it may sound ludicrous to think that there is a bit of reality in Pirates of the Caribbean, the movie was able to capitalize on the many pirate related myths and codes of conduct that had been established in previous works on pirates.