International travel can be a real headache when it comes to language barriers. There are places like Thailand, where Westerners feel that locals are answering “yes” to all their questions. So let’s toss out those slightly incomprehensible dictionaries and stop using up all our data allowance with Google Translate. Instead, let’s don Icon Speak T-shirts to finally be understood wherever we go.
How does it work? It couldn’t be any simpler. Each T-shirt bears 40 universal icons. Just point your finger to the corresponding icon to inquire about the time, a restaurant, a hotel, a Wi-Fi hotspot, the restrooms, fire, gas, drinking water or even a doctor.
Behind the concept are self-described “lunatics” George, Steven and Florian. The three friends’ motorcycle broke down in Vietnam. “Through a shirt you can – in the most rudimentary ways – combine gestures, vocals and mimics to create interaction,” they explain on their website. “You won’t have to worry that we will send you software updates to your shirt which will make it uncomfortable to wear, slow to wash or any such thing.”
Still, it’s always a good idea to make a little effort to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “please” and “thank you.”
Light and washable, this ingenious T-shirt comes in several different colors and cuts — even tanktops — for men and for women. Tote bags, hats and beanies are also available on the brand’s website, iconspeak.world
Oli is a little skeptical that T-shirt users will understand whatever responses they are given. But that’s another story.