Selling the Loser Identity on Taobao with “Diaosi”
Diaosi is a strange term. When looked at literally, the characters mean something like “dick strings”, and though it was originally quite a pejorative term, it has in the past year come to be a term of endearment and a self-identifier for the young and unlucky. ChinaSmack’s glossary has a definition of the term so good that I won’t bother explaining further and will instead let them break it down:
Roughly “loser” or maybe “douchebag” when used negatively but often is used humorously. This term originated on a Baidu discussion forum, and describes someone who is poor, ugly, short, good for nothing, a failure in life, and even prone to excessive masturbation. It has become a popular term similar to the Japanese term “otaku” and can be used to refer to both males and females.
But just as otaku came to define a culture of sorts (heck, there’s even a mainstream gaming website named after it, sort of), diaosi has come to define China’s downtrodden. And of course, while they might be poor, they still have some money, and that means sellers on Taobao are marketing to them.
First and foremost, there’s an awful lot of diaosi. Of course, since diaosi tend to be young and poor, we’re taking t-shirts, not Louis Vuitton. There’s this sharp design (pictured right), for example, featuring the stylized characters for diaosi with the blunt motto “I have nothing.” Or this collection of shirts marketed to diaosi, which features slogans like “I’m a virgin” and “Dumbass artist.” For those who can’t afford clothing from the real Dior, there’s this mocking diaosi knockoff, which is clearly quite popular because it’s carried by a lot of different Taobao shopkeeps. And there are lots of other options, like this clever shirt with a non-existant Chinese character printed on it that uses elements from diao and si both.
Taobao also features a wide variety of products being marketed as “mystical” diaosi tools. These tools include everything from a tiny makeup mirror shaped like a MacBook Air to a USB key shaped like a bar of gold to a wallet that looks like a $100 bill (pictured below). Most of the “mysterious” diaosi tools are just sex toys, though — for losers, these guys apparently have pretty active sex lives!
Of course, diaosi generally like to play online games, so there is also quite an assortment of stat boosters and “assistants” for various online games (League of Legends is obviously the most popular at the moment).
It’s hard to imagine any of these people will still be calling themselves diaosi in five or ten years, but as usual Taobao’s vendors are striking while the iron is hot and capitalizing on the diaosi trend. Personally I wouldn’t be caught dead in any of these shirts, but the transaction numbers — many shops have shipped hundreds in the past few weeks — are proof enough that plenty of people disagree.