One of my earliest memories of not fitting in, fashion-wise, was when I was in primary one and turned up at a friend’s birthday party, where I didn’t look like the rest. Many of the other kids were in casual clothes meant for a rough and tumble, but my parents had me in a princessy frock. Back then, I probably felt a bit horrified, wearing something so different and fancy compared to everyone else, but now I feel pretty good about it.
Indeed, making an effort is something more people should do.
My memories of this incident resurfaced recently when a friend and I went for dinner at a restaurant at Joo Chiat. We had dressed nicely for our dinner — nothing too fancy; he was in a shirt and pants, while I was in a casual calf-length dress. However, he became self-conscious as soon as we entered the restaurant, since many other diners were wearing T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. He felt as if being surrounded by sloppily dressed folks made him look like he was trying too hard, though all he had done was bother to get dressed nicely.
That would have been the time to quote bespoke tailor Kevin Seah to him. Speaking with me on a story about the state of formal tailoring after the pandemic, Seah pooh-poohed the casualisation that many predict will be the future of men’s fashion. To him, how you dress is a matter of etiquette. He said, “There is a time and place for everything, including dressing up — and not just in a suit. I see casualisation, especially in nice restaurant settings, as a lack of respect for the establishment.”
The bonus: When you always make the effort, you will never be caught off-guard when you are suddenly met with an occasion where you need to look smart. Our featured watch collector in our June/July issue, financial adviser Lim Kim Sun, is always in a suit when he is at the office. He says it helps him get into “serious work mode”. While he used to dress down on days in the office when he would not be meeting clients, he was caught by surprise once. He recalls, “It just so happened that one day I suddenly had a client meeting, and because I didn’t want to appear shabby in front of a client, I ran home to change before our meeting.”
(Related: Is the suit dead? Hardly)
According to some, dressing your best is always a good idea. It’s unlikely that anyone would ever catch our featured Scion of Style personality this month, Marco Ficarelli, who is the chief revenue officer of beauty company Orveon Global, in anything other than sartorial perfection. The owner of innumerable suits, shirts, shoes, and what have you, Ficarelli believes in dressing up as a mode of self-expression — with no shortcuts.
When participating in online team meetings from home, shares Ficarelli, some of his colleagues overseas would occasionally tease him. “They would say, ‘You have the jacket and the shirt, but are you also wearing the shorts, Singapore-style? Stand up and show us.’ So I would stand up and show them that I was properly dressed. Everybody has their own personality, and you should not change that just because you are in a pandemic or working from home.”