These Laundry-Modeling Grandparents Are An Instagram Sensation
Last Tuesday, 83-year-old Chang Wan-ji and his wife Hsu Hsiu-e, 84, celebrated reaching 50,000 Instagram followers with their 18th post. By Saturday their 19th marked a doubling of that figure. Three days later—at the time of writing—they're nudging half a million followers.
The owners of the Wansho Laundry in central Taiwan, the couple have been anonymously washing clothes for the last 70 years. Then lockdown happened. To keep them amused, their grandson, Reef Chang, talked them into dressing up in unclaimed clothes their customers had abandoned years ago. To everyone’s surprise, the resulting account, @WantShowAsYoung, has become a huge hit, featuring in the style pages of the New York Times and on BBC News.
There they are in one picture, modeling sky-blue Converse, graphic t-shirts and plastic pimp shades, very Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys. And there, in complementary beige suits, styled out with rolled-up sleeves and cutting-edge attitude. Also there, beaming in bucket hats and hooded neon windbreakers, more forgotten laundry—or is it Off-White, S/S'20?
“They had nothing to do,” the younger Chang turned unofficial stylist told the New York Times. “I saw how bored they were and wanted to brighten up their lives.”
Indeed, a truism of lockdown is that WFH has meant less dressing up. As the ‘Zoom shirt’ – defined as "a... shirt that’s kept on the back of your desk chair to quickly be presentable for video conferences” – entered the Urban Dictionary last week, The Guardian called on Esquire’s style director to help navigate the new rules of not getting dressed up for work.
Faced with being unable to open shop, and understandably wary about going outside, the octogenarian proprietors of Wansho Laundry have happily moved in the opposite direction.
"My grandson is very creative,” Ms. Hsu told the New York Times. “His creativity has made us happy, and other people, too.”
In a year of unrelenting doom and gloom, mounting East-West tensions, and a distinct lack of readily available fun, it’s not too difficult to see why the account is proving such a tonic.
“It’s beautiful seeing your grandparents put life into forgotten clothes whilst showing there’s no age limit to dressing fun. Inspiration ????,” writes an Instagram user called landbeforeslime. “I’m so glad to have found this page!”
“Ohhhhhhhhh this is the most delightful account you guys are giving me so much joy and inspiration! I am with my Poppops in quarantine and hope to take pictures with him soon. He lost his wife my gma in early covid and could use some extra attention/distraction,” says janelleppin.
“Also, he has a great beard!”
Becoming Instagram famous can be a notoriously short-run affair, and while Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Hsiu-e are quite reasonably baffled at the sudden global attention, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if their story had legs. Or formed the basis for the next Gucci campaign.
Either way, they’ve already provided a noble public service – in more ways than one. As posts on @WantShowAsYoung suggest “???? A friendly reminder?Don’t forget to pick up your laundry.”
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.