Supertat is the name for tourist souvenirs that go a little bit beyond what might be considered normal or rational.
Tat – noun [mass noun] British informalSource – Oxford English Dictionary
tasteless or shoddy clothes, jewellery, or ornaments:
The item illustrated above kicked the whole thing off. I got it in Salzburg in about 2005 or 2006. As you can see, it’s a Mozart Edelweiss Plastic Beer Mug Bottle-Opener Fridge Magnet. Isn’t it great? The amount of things they’ve crammed in there.
SCENE: Salzburg, Austria. Local tourism experts are debating the new line of items to promote their town.
Hans: Now guys, one of the most famous things about Salzburg is for being a centre of lovely big frothy beer, mmm. Therefore, I propose that we make a bottle opener! It could even look like a mug of beer or something!
Franz: That’s great, but let’s not forget the Edelweiss. That is well Salzburgy. There’s that song that a man does in that long music film.
Greta: Duuh, hello? Mozart? We can’t do something that isn’t Mozart, people will be all ‘Where’s Mozart? I thought he was from here? Maybe he was from, er, Switzerland or something’ and they will never come back and they will hate us to bits.
Gavin: I put paper on fridge but, fall off. Drifty fall!
Hans: Gavin’s right. What we need is a Mozart and Edelweiss plastic beer mug shaped bottle-opening fridge magnet!
Then about a couple of years later, I found this in Windsor.
Yes, it’s a British Police Helmet Bell Pencil Sharpener. Imagine how excited you’d be if you spotted a British Police Helmet Bell Pencil Sharpener in Windsor. You’d pick it up by its Police Helmet tip, tinkle the bell clapper, and – if you had a pencil – you’d be sorely tempted to sharpen in right there in the small bay-fronted tourist shop, in front of the blank-faced shopkeeper. And then you’d wear it on your head, and attempt to arrest the man for being so gloomy.
I didn’t do any of that, but all those possibilities seemed to sparkle from the conceptual facets of this amazing object. It was about at this point that I started to chat to my friend Richard about what these things should be called.
This wasn’t about tacky souvenirs. We all know about them. This was about pile-up collisions of themes and functions within one small gewgaw. How many operations and references can crowd onto one small gaudy item? Why is that…on that?
We couldn’t come up with the right word. So we asked my wife, who really should’ve been part of the initial consultation scope. She said ‘supertat’, which is perfect – so that’s what they are.
Supertat doesn’t have to be tacky – it can be, but that isn’t a key element. The Racy Lady + Red Bra Watering Can Cigarette Lighter was discovered in Berlin in 2007. The fact that the lady is racy, and that her bra lights up in red, is less significant in itself than the extra dimensions of watering can and lighter that accompany her.
It’s not surprising that Rome delivered classic supertat. A simple, elegant and baffling altercation between a keyring, a whistle and a bottle-opener. Topped with a calm, clarifying identification – ‘Ah – I see you have found our pea-whistle bottle-opening keyring. For yes, as you might suspect, you are in Rome’s famous colosseum’.
Paris. Glamorous. Cutting-edge. Proud. You want a brightly-coloured way to make tiny tiny calculations with something that’s clipping multiple pieces of paper to a fridge for some reason. Where’s it from? How can you ask – this is the Moulin Rouge of tourist tat, and as you can see, it’s from
The continent, however, is dominated by a supertat superpower. The best examples I’ve found to date are from Spanish regions. This Barcelona Toe-Strap Flip Flop Sagrada Familia At Night Bottle-Opener Fridge Magnet find was then followed by a trip to Mallorca. Mallorca.
Mallorca makes Tutankhamun’s tomb look like a binbag filled with old peas and fluff.
And having shared the joy of supertat with others, I have started to get donations. This contribution below, and more that I haven’t photographed and catalogued yet, shamefully.
I’m going to find these other contributions and add them to this page
as soon as I can when I remember to do so.
For now though, that’s supertat.