A while back, I wrote a post about what to do if you travel to another country and don’t speak the language. The various suggestions, which included Google translate, iTranslate VOICE3 and other methods that require internet access or at least a smart phone, were all good, but sometimes you need something even more basic than that.
Welp, I think I found it.
It’s called ICONSPEAK.
Since 2016, ICONSPEAK has been making T-shirts that have the simplest but most essentially icons that a modern traveler would need on them so you can communicate with almost anyone from almost anywhere. Really basic stuff like bed. Food. Money. Drink. Medical. Tools. Police. Motorcycle. Telephone. Train. WiFi. Toilet. It’s as low tech as can be, but the 39 icons gets the job done and helps you communicate when there’s just no other way to do so.
The concept was developed by two guys in Switzerland, Georg and Florian, who found themselves in the depths of Vietnamese back country with a rented motorcycle that was very dead. They walked to a small town where communication was difficult and it took a quite a bit of work to try to get the locals to understand they needed someone to fix their bike. Once they got out of that predicament, they came upon the idea to design so you could just point to the icons on your shirt, which you’d already be wearing, to get your point across.
Since that time, ICONSPEAK’s original World Edition T-shirts have flourished and been sold all over the world. It’s been popular enough where they’ve extended their clothes line and also sell drawstring bags, tote bags, baseball caps and even iPhone cases.
The shirts are made of 100% certified ringspun pre-shrunk cotton (heather grey color has 10% polyester, heather blue, red, green, dark grey have 65% polyester). Other shirt details include:
- Tubular construction
- Shoulder-to-shoulder tape and seamed collar
- Double-needle bottom hem
- Rib sleeve cuffs
- Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 Certified
What’s more they’ve even spread out from the World Edition and have shirts & other items with icons specific to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Moscow, Munich, New York, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Switzerland.
They’ve also come out with more specific collections, for lumberjacks, surfing, camping, relaxing, yoga, etc. I think my favorite one (well, two) are the shirts they have made especially for Oktoberfest:
Personally, I think ICONSPEAK is a great idea and I plan on buying a T-shirt for my travels. If you want to see everything that ICONSPEAK has to offer, check out their website.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary