Departures of things I liked.

November 12, 2009

After being rather left behind in the what’s what of the men’s fashion scene, I wanted to check out men.style.com for updates. I was wondering why every RSS feed from Material Interest that I clicked redirected me to GQ.com. Feeling a little suspicious, I did a little google work of my own and found out that:

With the new month comes sad news that Men.Style.Com has shut its doors forever.

-“No More Men.Style.Com“,October 19, 2009 by prepidemicmag

All is not lost, as its sister sites GQ and Details are still up and running, and presumably revamped to cater for the loss of content from men.style.com

I am still trying to find my way around both websites, wondering to which website did the old features end up in. For now, it seems like most contents ended up on the GQ side.
The fashion show collections from year 2005 are there. So is the forum, and the Material Interest blog (reincarnated as the GQ eye), the 10 essentials. However, there is no dedicated section called The Upgrader anymore, a section recommending the best items in every category (oxford shoes, sunglasses, etc). Also, I wonder if we’ll be able to access The Sartorialist’s off-the-catwalk shots at the fashion shows.

A rather saddening piece of news that only further demonstrates the far-reaching effects of last year’s credit crunch. With much of men.style.com’s old content still being available, it’s not so much about lamenting its loss – all I need is a little adjustment to the new websites. Rather it’s a nostalgic sentiment about a website that, up until its last legs early this year, proved pivotal in introducing me to the finer points of men’s lifestyle since my college years.

While google-ing this piece of news, I also found out that one of my favourite men’s magazines in UK has also closed down early this year. Being left out of the UK radar for so many years, I wasn’t aware of its closure until today. This magazine is ARENA, a men’s style magazine that has been in publication for 22 years. During the year I was there, I admired this magazine because it respected its readers as modern men who want more than just articles about beer, football and breasts. Middle ground between FHM and Another Man.

On the style front, its fashion news and editorials leaned towards ‘stylish’ rather than ‘fashionista’, keeping things tasteful while maintaining its appeal to the average guy . The rest of the news and articles were usually well-written and intelligent and stayed away from the crass content of ‘bloke magazines’. They were unlike the British GQ whom despite generally having better fashion spreads, felt less readable on the whole due to the inclusion of “bloke-friendly” content.

This was generally true circa 2005-2006. Even the Jan 2007 issue that I got my sister-in-law to buy still maintained the qualities that I liked in a magazine. However, the last issue I bought early this year ( a discounted October 2008 back-issue) probably signaled that things were going downhill for the publication. The fashion editorials were unimpressive while the content was uninteresting, un-funny and insubstantial compared to its earlier issues. I didn’t hesitate to send it for recycling after my first read.

Here’s to you, men.style.com and Arena.
And here’s to you, recession! Only the strong shall survive, so they say.

PS: One of my favourite radio stations is also going under, from what a credible source tell me. Not surprising, considering the low amount of advertising airplay we hear. Don’t need to speculate about the listenership, then. Here’s to you too! It was great while it lasted.

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One boring Saturday afternoon, I decided to pop by the Central Market Annexe for design community pipit‘s 3rd anniversary arts and craft market. The surprise of the day was to bump into the free dance performance happening next door, The Bull and the Cowherd. What an honour to have the opportunity to see classical Indian dance legend Ramli Ibrahim with Guna live in action, for free! It was a pleasure to experience the rhythmic moves and emotive facial expressions of classical Indian dance in person.

Next are pictures from the craft market itself. As the pictures show, the event was chock-a-block with visitors, many of them young DSLR-toting (design?) college students:


The highlight was the stall by Japan’s MARI BRAND selling kawaii handmade dolls:


Adorable Christmas tree with handmade apple-faced baubles:

Other stalls sold everything handicraft: illustrations, drawing, greeting cards, dolls, ornaments, jewellery, patchwork:


Illustration art sold by this stall:


ps: I apologize for not ID-ing the last two stalls.

After dinner at 1-Utama today, I was walking past the shops with my friend when this guy came charging across us from our left with a purposeful walk and curious eyes. While I first thought he might want to attack us, it turns out he was actually attracted to the window display on the shop to our right. It was a Clarks shop that he was looking interested in (not us), and I was wondering what the fuss was all about.

After all, the Clarks in Malaysia hardly ever sold the classic favourites like Wallabies and Desert Boots. I remember entering the MidValley shop, and the sales assistant told me proudly that they seldom stock old products like that anymore. Rather taken aback with this ignorant answer, a Malaysian Clarks shop never caught my attention eversince, until today. But I digress.

Back to the story, I waited for the guy to finish salivating in front of the window display so that I could check it out for myself. No wonder he was staring for so long, he was looking at all 6 of these:
What a sight, right? These are actually the 60th anniversary collection of the Clarks’ Desert Boot.
The original desert boot is a suede one in tan, first sold in the 1950’s. The six designs shown here represent each decade since the birth of the iconic desert boot. From left is the tweed version (50’s), women’s paisley (60’s), women’s purple suede (70’s), women’s acid washed denim (80’s), men’s Britpop (90’s) and for the noughties, a reproduction of the first desert boot according to its original specifications.

My favourites are the oo’s (obviously), and surprisingly the women’s paisley and purple suede ones. While it is designed for women (and selected flamboyant or secure men), the paisley pattern is beautifully designed (“uses a classic print from the world-famous Liberty fashion house”) while the purple shade gives the suede a rich feel, and the fringe is rather FBT. The tweed one for me is just OK, while the acid denim one lost a few marks with the odd-looking pocket design. As for the Union Jack boot, I think the flag is more suited on a pair of Doc Martens than on the rather dandy-looking Desert Boot.

Each pair is retailing in the UK for 89 quid (~RM500), but with Malaysian markups I am not sure of the price here. The regular Clarks desert boot is sold at GBP69.00.

The desert boot, be it the anniversary version or the regular boot, is a classic shoe that should be on every discerning man’s shopping list. The classic shape with its ankle length and four shoelace eyelets is timeless and versatile.

I’ve been eyeing on a regular sand-coloured pair for some time already, but first I need to replace my ailing wallet and crumbling notebook.

Read more on the 60th anniversary collection here.

With some new observations mall-wise, shopping for men’s clothes in KL isn’t such a pain after all..

1. Cotton On
As mentioned in my earlier post, I discovered this label while holidaying in Australia a month ago. I was delighted when I entered its shop in Melbourne, because it was one of the few Australian labels that offers decent clothes at high street prices.
When I first found out that they were opening branches in Malaysia, the sales assistant told me that it was going to be in Pavilion and Sunway Pyramid. Further research on the internet, however, indicates that a branch is going to be opened in 1 Utama as well. Tongue in Chic reports that the 1 Utama branch would have opened on 24th October, followed by the Sunway Pyramid branch on 30th October just two days ago.
I was in Pavilion a week ago, partly to take a look at this new store. My initial observations were that

  • the store display was more reminiscent of a Giordano or Body Glove store than Zara or Top Man.
  • The shop seemed rather cramped for space, including the menswear section- female accessories and footwear were creeping into the menswear area of the shop. Considering the lack of square footage for the menswear, it is not surprising that the selection was also slightly lacking.
  • The buyers must have looked into the average Malaysian man’s love of the graphic tee, as the variety of these were clearly not lacking. In comparison, the selection of short and long sleeve shirts were rather limited- the ones I tried on in Melbourne weren’t on display here.
  • Like the Aussie store, the quintessential wife-beaters (singlets) abound in various colours, but I wonder if Malaysians were willing to transcend the stigma attached to the lowly singlet and embrace it as a streetwear standard. Ditto white plimsolls.
  • There were some canvas footwear available such as the slip-ons and lace-ups. I think I also saw the white canvas boat shoe. I don’t think they brought in the whole selection, though.
  • Those ultra-skinny ankle-hugging jeans and skinny shorts popular in Oz this season are available at RM150 and Rm100, respectively (or thereabouts, if I remember correctly).

In short, Cotton On is a great place to obtain Aussie-style streetwear basics at a reasonable price (lower than Australian prices, in fact) albeit the no-frills display and cramped stock arrangements. In time, my minor gripes would have been sorted as they establish themselves in Malaysia.

2. Forever 21

I never knew that the Malaysian branches had menswear, until I entered the Pavilion branch. The last time I was in Forever 21 was to accompany a female friend years ago in the 1 Utama branch that only stocked women’s clothing. Anyway, I was surprised by the decent selection of menswear available in the store ( insignificant when compared to the sheer volume of womenswear available, but still a sizable amount).
At first glance, they seemed like a smaller scale Top Man, offering casual, formal and sportswear. Design-wise, they are typically Caucasian in not being afraid of using colour, but being American the patterns and designs are more subdued and less fashion-centric than its European counterparts. A cross between Gap and Topman/Zara, perhaps.
Prices seem to be lower than other high street brands, but with similar design and quality. I didn’t have enough time to browse the place, but I definitely would come back for a closer look.

3. No-show socks
While some Malaysian clothing labels cannot be depended upon for keeping up to date with global menswear trends, we have a surprisingly good selection to choose from when it comes to accessories. A visit to any men’s jocks and socks section will explain it all.
A few days ago at Jusco, I was browsing through that section and this is what I bought:

I am sure by now that guys in shorts and sneakers are familiar with the sporty no-show socks pictured in the upper half of the photo. However, I was mighty surprised to see the ones pictured in the bottom half being manufactured locally. In the height of the Thom Browne ‘sockless’ trend, I have been reading about them in American blogs, about them being sold in American establishments. How long have they been selling these babies here?
For those who are curious, the odd-looking black thingies pictured in the bottom half of the photo are no-show socks too. They are worn to completely hide the fact that you are wearing socks at all. While some may wonder, doesn’t the blue pair of socks do the job already? The answer is yes, but only for those wearing sneakers. For those meaning to appear “sockless” in a pair of oxfords, loafers, or the currently in trend deck shoes, some traces of blue pair of socks will still be awkwardly visible. In comparison for the black no-show ones, they only cover the foot slightly past the toes, allowing no trace of socks to be visible behind the shoe vamp.
Kudos to BUM Equipment for actually introducing this to the Malaysian public.

4. The Topman Half Price Sale
…is genuine. I got a canvas bag, a pair of coated denim and a pair of tailored shorts – all at half price or less. Nonetheless, it helps to be of a slightly larger built and have more options from the larger sizes. Definitely one of the noteworthy sales to look out for.

Sometimes I feel that I have to stop complaining about the sad state of men’s fashion in Malaysia.
I just came back from a holiday in Sydney and Melbourne, and the selection of menswear there seems even more limited in certain ways. Of course, being a tourist I may have been window-shopping at the wrong places. That said, my observations are that the mens clothing I come across are either limited/expensive/basic.

In terms of the high street, I found men’s clothes in shops like Jeans West, Country Road and Energie rather bland and simple (and given the skyrocketing exchange rate, not worth my Malaysian ringgit). Maybe it’s an Australian thing though, as I observe that many men there tend to be dressed in decidedly subtle/simple basics like distressed plain tees, deconstructed cardigans, skinny denim/shorts and plimsolls. And almost always in monochrome.

On the designer front, I can’t be a fair judge for I didn’t spend much time in such shops. It’s a shame that while in Sydney, I didn’t have enough time to discover what was on offer for the menfolk in Oxford St and the like. However, I did manage to squeeze in some window shopping time in Melbourne on my last day, where I proceeded to Little Collins St that was purportedly the centre for menswear in Melbourne. Other than Assin and the shop that stocked Fred Perry, the remainder of the shops were mainly formal/officewear shops, tailors, proper shoe shops etc. Small yawn.

All is not lost as there were a couple of highlights:

I loved Assin. It’s the first time I got to see in person the clothes I’ve only heard mentioned in websites and forums- Lanvin, Dior Homme, Rick Owens, MMM, KvA, Ann Dem. Each item so precious, beautiful, sometimes unwearable and for a Malaysian tourist, so ridiculously out of budget. It was a great place to dream, still.

…and Cotton On! Towards my final days of my holiday and with no new clothes to speak of (unless the Havaianas count -PS: they’re cheaper in Oz), the only place that I found reasonably priced clothes were Roger David(?). That was, until I discovered Cotton On. They may be considered the Giordano of Down Under, selling mostly inexpensive basics, but the selection of stuff seems surprisingly good at that price point. I was tempted to get quite a few items, until something caught my eye, the price tags had prices in Malaysian ringgit as well! To my glee, I found out from the sales assistant that they had just opened branches in Malaysia- One Utama, Sunway Pyramid and Pavilion. I was looking forward to buying the stuff I wanted from the KL branches.

My experiences around Australia was too limited to give conclusive observations of the true scenario down under. For instance, I didn’t get to visit the local Aussie designer boutiques (eg Romance was born), nor did I get to visit any weekend markets. I didn’t even get to see Myer’s men’s department.
But one thing’s for sure, they haven’t got H&M, Zara, Topshop, Club Monaco, Gap, Banana Republic in the Australian high street. And for that I was glad to be back in KL!

And so my final stash after my Aussie trip consisted of:
1) Black havaianas (not pictured)
2) Plaid shirt from Cotton On
3) Custom Fit Polo from Ralph Lauren (at a price impossible to get in KL)

Terry Fox Run KL 2009

October 27, 2009

Leaving my gym after a short swim (I am trying my utmost hardest to fit in at least 30 minutes of light exercise on my non-workout days), I saw the Terry Fox Run organizers setting up a stall at my gym lobby selling this year’s run’s T-shirts. I am hoping to make it to this year’s run, but I can’t confirm my attendance in case my weekend gets a bit crazy, or in case I can’t find some friends to go with. So I decided to get the T-shirt beforehand in case I can’t make it. Proceeds from it go towards cancer research.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Terry Fox Run is held annually worldwide in honour of its namesake who ran across Canada in the name of cancer research. The Malaysian leg of this run is going to be held this Sunday (Nov 1) at 9.00 am in the Lake Gardens. It’s a charity run, meaning you can run as fast/slow as you want, wear whatever you want, and there’s no registration required. You WILL be able to donate money though, and buy yourself a t-shirt for charity. Do show up to lend your support for cancer research. (click here for more information)

If you can’t make it but wish to contribute, you can get your t-shirts at these places. If you’re a Celebrity Fitness gym member, you might be lucky enough to get them from the gym lobby, like me.

Below is the event brochure I got from the stall. (Albeit a bit crumpled from my gym bag)

..continuation from our Chicken Rice Ball experience in Part 1

4. Amoy Fish-shaped Kaya Thingies, outside San Shu Gong

As you walk along the five-foot way outside San Shu Gong souvenir shop in the direction of Jonker St, you will be greeted with a small-scale version of a Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-esque mechanical contraption that produces copies and copies of this


We don’t know what it’s called, but it looks the Japanese snack with red-bean filling called Taiyaki. In this true-blue Malaysian version however, it is filled with pandan kaya instead of red bean. Still tastes good tho.

5. Capitol Satay Celup, Lorong Bukit Cina

After some more strolling along Jonker Street, Guilingao in a place I can’t remember and a short break in a friend’s hotel room, we set out for our next destination, satay celup.
The place opens at 5.00 pm, and so we thought that leaving the hotel at 6.00 pm would give us ample time to avoid the dinner crowds.

But traffic was slowing to a crawl, and we were only nearing the place at around 6.20. My local friend/food guide started expressing her concerns already (“Sei lor, the road already so jammed up, surely no more place to sit already“). I scoffed at her concerns (“Cannot be lah. All the cars here going for Satay Celup meh?“). But always trust the locals, because right in front of the shop, we were greeted with this:


In KL, the age old traffic jam wisdom tells you that you have to leave your house early to reach your destination early. Leave the house 20 minutes later, get stuck in the jam and arrive in your destination 60 minutes later.

Same theory applies for the Malacca Satay Celup queue. Be there at 5.00pm and beat the crowd. 15 minutes late? Welcome to the queue. With such ungodly queues, they would certainly benefit from signboards like this one:

OUR wait time was 70 minutes, which was good because we worked up an appetite with all the waiting.


In a nutshell, eating satay celup is always an enjoyable experience in itself (What interactive food experience isn’t?). That said, the enjoyment factor was slightly hampered by all the waiting. Like I said before, I am not a firm believer in irrational queuing for food.

The gravy that night tasted a bit burnt compared to my first experience in Capitol last year. Possibly the gerisik (coconut shreds) that was added to the gravy was overfried. Highlights were of course the century quail eggs (tasted 10x better than regular ones, probably 10x more in cholesterol as well) and the ‘bonus’ given intermittently. This time around, we had giant prawns (one each), some ‘premium’ squid, and one piece of abalone (that was pathetically split 9 ways).

At the end of our satay celup experience we were so stuffed that there was no way we could possibly have another bite. So at our next destination, the Portuguese Settlement we ended up just giving the place a look-see and walk off our heavy dinner.

6. Kerang Bakar @ Melaka Raya

Our friend then brought us along some dark back lanes to an enclave famous for its kerang bakar or grilled cockles. In typical fashion, this establishment offers a whole variety of grilled and fried seafood ( ‘Lala’, cuttlefish, ‘balitong’) and other stuff like sotong kangkung and tauhu bakar.

It would be most authentic to eat all this crouched on long benches underneath the kerosene lamps, throwing your kerang shells into the holes (with litter bags underneath) conveniently located in the middle of the table. Alas, given the popularity the place and the size of our party, we were not afforded the fortune of doing so and were instead ushered towards the regular chairs and tables at the corner of the lane (ugh).

I wasn’t a fan of ‘kerang’ to begin with, the sight of the raw and bloody kerang only made me think of hepatitis. My friends, possibly vaccinated or immune or oblivious to this threat, devoured the kerang, plate after plate. I joined them for a few pieces of kerang, carefully selected to have no visible traces of blood, and it was admittedly very good. The blended chili/onion/lemon concoction used as dippiing sauce was specially mentioned by my food guide friend.

7. O Jian at Medan Makan Boon Leung, Melaka Raya

Not too far away is the very popular fried oyster omelette stall, recognizable by the crowd of people waiting for it. So popular is the place that to optimize their business, they went from sit-in to take away only, and there is only one standard item that can be ordered – any special requests would not be entertained. And as the popular Melaka saying goes, “Be prepared to wait”. In our case, it was 30 minutes.
I can’t vouch for its taste because we only got to eat it an hour after getting it. But it uses the authentic small oysters instead of the big ones favoured by the newer stalls in KL.


And that concludes the Malacca Food Trip report. There were so many other things we couldn’t fit in this time round. So for the next Malacca Food Trip, we will be going for, among others- Nyonya food, Portuguese seafood, Masjid Tanah Mee Goreng. Until then…