Man at His Best

A Thousand Words On Our Culture: Application To The Fashion Clubhouse

Columnist Kuah Jenhan writes a (serious) letter lobbying to join the fashion clubhouse.

BY Kuah Jenhan | Oct 9, 2016 | Culture

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Dear Sir/Madam/BAE/YAS QUEEN,

I’ve often imagined that there exists a secret fashion clubhouse for the elite few who can differentiate between a boyfriend shirt and a dress shirt, who know why deodorants stain clothes, who can tell you what the “BB” in BB cream stands for, and who can name the colours of the rainbow according to their Pantone codes.

I, on the other hand, still rely on the mnemonic, “Michael Jackson Kiss His Brother In Uruguay”, which I learnt in my Malaysian public school. It’s odd because the phrase is in English, but actually stands for, “Merah, Jingga, Kuning, Hijau, Biru, Indigo, Ungu”, which you probably know as 485 C, 156 C, 3945 C… or whatever Pantone code that you’ve memorised by heart. Sorry, I digress.

 Anyway, I recently taped a stand-up skit for a Comedy Central show in which the producers found me extra interesting due to a little boo-boo (presumably) by one of their young’uns. They introduced me as “comedian by night, men’s fashion columnist by day”. “Walau-eh, comedy and fashion? Si-beh bizarre mix sia!” said the producer (from Singapore). This is clearly inaccurate as I am a columnist in a men’s fashion magazine, not a men’s fashion columnist. However, the edge that I was given just for being seen as fashion-savvy was very appealing. Therefore, I am very keen to become a member of the Clubhouse!

Frankly, there are many times when I haven’t been able to quite grasp why some things are considered fashionable. I struggle with hype. I tried kale, and I didn’t like kale. What is kale? It’s like someone took the dried edges of spinach that was held hostage and tortured, and served it. Its texture feels like you are running your teeth along someone else’s pants zipper. Oh, screw kale, but I really want to understand fashion!

Moto Guo’s pimply models during the recent Milan Fashion Week: Men’s were quite the sensation online and, in truth, confused me. After discussing it with a few friends, I concluded that the general sentiment was: “Malaysian on the international stage! Awesome! Huh? Pimples ah? Errr, better don’t do like that lah right or not?” The look was dubbed “nerdy grooming”, which is a pretty cute oxymoron, actually. I wish that I was more stirred up by this, that I was more fuh-syun, and that the pizza-faced, 16-year-old in me was more empowered by Moto Guo. This is where I believe the Clubhouse will be able to enrich my life.

Please know that, what I lack in savvy, I am 10/10 legit making up for in enthusiasm! To demonstrate this, I would like to offer some promising fashion trends for the consideration of the Clubhouse and its committee!

Being groomed for 11 years in an all-boys’ school, I believe that I can modify some of its conventions into fashion for the masses. You want “nerdy grooming”? THIS IS ZIT! According to school rules, we had to tuck in our shirts or risk getting a demerit from the fashion police, or, in this case, the fashion prefect. However, sometimes, when bending over to pick up erasers and whatnot, our shirttails slipped out and released the crack-en! To prevent this from happening, many boys tucked their shirts into their briefs and pulled the ends out of the leg holes. That way, their shirts were always firmly in place, and didn’t come undone when they bent over.

But that’s for amateurs and tubby boys. For the fashion forward, I say why not forego pants altogether? Why hide this genius life-hack and your thigh gap? Imagine a blue-and-white pinstripe power shirt with an Italian spread collar and French cuffs tucked into the latest David Beckham for H&M underwear with the gold-threaded edges of the shirt pulled through the leg holes! You’ll immediately go, “Wow, confident on the outside, business on the inside. Bold. Lit. Three fire emojis.” Pair it with a matching windowpane double-breasted jacket and never flub an interview ever again.

 Also, back in school, every other boy carried something known to Chinese aunties of the ’90s as a “water bottle tumbler.” I guess it must have confused them. Was it a water bottle? Or was it a tumbler? “How about both?” seems to be what they decided on. Anyway, said accessory came with a sling pouch and provided enough hydration for preteen boys in school. I say that’s what noobs do!

 In modern society, where men and women constantly strive for equality, we have been given the go-ahead to apply make-up, thread our eyebrows, and carry a handbag so long as we call it a man-bag. Thank you, gods of fashion! I motion that we repurpose water bottle tumblers and use them as man-bags instead! As Clairee from the movie Steel Magnolias says, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorise!” Who needs water anyway? Gah, I’m so over water! Instead of H2O, use your chosen water bottle tumbler to store house keys, mints and random receipts to signify the busy go-getters that we are. Just like the wicker teapot from Kate Spade, it’s fun, it’s kitschy, and it’s nostalgic!

I sincerely hope that you will have no doubt by now that I am serious about joining the Clubhouse, and that I am willing to do everything within my means not to let you down. I hope this application finds you well and, rest assured, I have more such style nuggets that I can’t wait to drop on you! I look forward to meeting you in person. I’ll be the guy dressed to kale, slaying it with no pants on, and rocking the water bottle tumbler man-bag!

Fiercely yours,

Kuah Jenhan


First published in Esquire Malaysia, September 2016.