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)