The Zentai Phenomenon: Serial Killer No. 1
By Jeffrey Bishop
The Zentai Phenomenon brings back the serial storytelling style, which peaked in popularity in the daily newspapers and weekly magazines of the early 20th Century, prior to the advent of a large and literate middle class and inexpensive printing of books — and particularly, of paperback books. This serial presents a standard Scurry Tails short story, but will do so over time between today and Nov. 1. The series will use a news clipping motif to “cover” the story in “real time” with the fictional events it represents. Come back often or click Follow to be sure to receive each new posting in the story as it’s published!
Tell Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds
Scare Rating: 1/5 Ghosts
Zentai Craze Causes a New ‘Run’ on Body Stockings
By Rich Donaldson
CHICAGO (PA News, Oct. 14, 2012) — The zentai phenomenon is literally covering the nation, as children, teens and young adults seek out — within increasing futility — the latest costume craze.
A lack of supply is leading to extreme frustration by those trying to find the garb in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Zentai outfits are a cultural import from Asia and are a staple of the performance theater and cosplay, or costume-play, communities. The form-fitting full-body stockings are typically made in bright, solid colors from spandex-like materials.
“They’re just awesome, because you can be a plain old zentai foot soldier, or you can dress up on top of the zentai suit,” said Rob Masterson, a 7th grade student at White Hill Middle School. “That makes them perfect for Halloween. Just add a Stetson and some boots and a lasso, and you can be a zentai cowboy like me!”
Melissa, a senior at Rockville High School and the cheer team captain, has been canvassing city costumers, seeking a maroon costume to match her school colors for next week’s homecoming game.
“I haven’t been able to find maroon. I saw plenty of them in the shops this spring, but I never would have thought they’d sell out of them!” she said. “I bought a couple other suits in other colors while I still could, in case I find someone who wants to trade with me. But now I think I can get a lot of cash for these!”
Bob Cagney, of Cagney’s Costumes, said that while the costumes are just another fad, it’s one that has been profitable for him — to a point.
“Every time I get a shipment, they sell out,” said Cagney. “It’s great, but it ain’t, because I can’t tell you when I’ll get more of them in. And while the fad is hot, no one’s buying anything else. You know how many gorilla costumes I got in the warehouse? A zillion? No one wants to be a gorilla. If anything, they want to be a blue gorilla; a guy in a blue zentai with a gorilla mask on. It’s killing us!”
Cagney indicated that his distributor for the zentai suits is Xeno Imports, a company apparently shrouded in mystery. Retail costumers like Cagney and others indicate that they’d never heard of or worked with Xeno before mid-summer, but now work exclusively with the firm for their zentai costume needs.
“None of those other suits are like Xeno’s zentai suits,” said Ed Horton, owner of the Scare Shack chain of seasonal Halloween superstores. “Xeno’s suits don’t seem to stain or rip, and they’re warm to the touch and they fit onto your skin just like it was your own skin. It isn’t like spandex or nylon; it’s something special that they came up with themselves. And the kids know the difference.”
Of the 22 costumers in the Chicago area that we spoke to for this story, each one reported that their relationship with the distributor started with a single complementary shipment of 6 suits — one in each primary rainbow color. Once the suits sold out — which normally happened the same day they were put out on the floor — a Xeno sales representative would show up and lock in follow-on orders — an easy prospect given their explosive popularity.
“The suits are real cool,” said Dan Pulver, a Scare Shack manager, “and so are their reps. They glide in, tell you how many they think you need, tell you when you can expect them, and glide out. They don’t even want payment for the suits up front; they want them on purchase order only. They say they want happy retailers, and they know their products are going to move. It was working out great until the shipments slowed to a trickle.
But the logistics slow-down isn’t limited to just the Scare Shack. All calls to the only phone number available for Xeno Imports went unanswered. Cagney said that’s a typical response from the company, which to his experience — an experience shared by all the other companies that we spoke with — only deal through their cadre of mysterious field representatives.
Cagney said he worries that Xeno has nefarious intentions this Halloween season: that the company might be manipulating inventories to drive up demand — and prices.
“I just hope we get a big box in here in the next week to prove me wrong,” said Cagney grimly. “Otherwise, it’s going to be a really scary Halloween for us.”
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