Wearing shorts and slippers to school a sign of disrespect

From ‘Issue of respect over comfort’, 30 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Tan Lin Neo): A proper dress code for university students should be implemented and strictly enforced (Implement dress code for university students, by Mr Pavithran Vidyadharan; Dec 28).

I often see students going to campus dressed sloppily in T-shirts, shorts and slippers, as if they had just come out of their bedrooms. I am astounded that they dress like that to go to a place where they attain knowledge and prepare themselves to enter the workforce.

It is wrong to say that dress codes do not determine one’s ability to study, learn and acquire knowledge. Adhering to a proper dress code shows respect to the institution of higher learning and to the lecturers who, themselves, dress appropriately to impart knowledge to their students.

It is also a way to teach students to dress appropriately for the occasion and environment. How you dress influences your own bearing.

Discipline and respect are the core issues here, and are more important than the need for comfort while attending lectures.

Our universities are ranked among the top in the world and we didn’t get there by wasting resources chastising students for dressing like bums. In 1972, a NUS lecturer, sickened by a generation of ‘flip-flopping’ students, said this reflected ‘loose manners’ and an ‘erring sense of values’. Almost half a century later, in an age where the most successful people in the world are drop-out geniuses in hoodies, there are people who still subscribe to the antiquated convention that dressing well correlates with one’s moral worth and success, just like how stabbing peas with a steak knife is a telltale sign that you’re a fucking psychopath.

You could attend class all dapper but still end up getting caught cheating during your exams. And that applies to lecturers faking data or plagiarising for their publications too. Give our young people some credit. The majority are sensible adults who should already be familiar with unspoken rules when blending into society. No one in their right mind would stride into the lecture theatre in pyjamas using their iPad as a tray for a sandwich and kopi-o. If some weirdo creative type wants to stand out in suspenders and a sunflower bowtie then so be it. After all, once you’re done with university you either spend the rest of your working life as a corporate drone emulating the Wolf of Wall Street having to iron 5 damn shirts a week, or screw this socialist conformity shit and become a hawker, selling hipster mixed economic rice in an old army singlet and slippers. Either way, at that age assholes will remain assholes, whatever dress code we impose in uni. These are not kids who run crying home to Mommy and promise to turn over a new leaf whenever they get a tongue lashing from the dean for dressing like beggars or sluts.

One could argue conversely that it’s not our temples of learning that have succeeded on the world stage in spite of our student’s liberal dressing, but maybe BECAUSE of it. Because it made learning more conducive in this chronically hot weather, that it imbued students with a sense of empowerment and identity, that it allowed students to focus on academic work than being oppressed by an ascetic dress code taken out of a Good Behaviour Manual for monks and nuns in a monastery. The analogy that our students look like they just stepped out of their ‘bedrooms’ is also ironically apt. Aren’t we all encouraged to dream, after all?




Dress code for everyone in public places

From ‘Mind how we dress in public’, 8 July 2016, ST Forum

(Benjamin Sim Buke Huang): The case where a dentist was jailed for molesting an MRT passenger who was wearing shorts (“Dentist jailed 6 weeks for molesting woman on MRT”; July 2) reminds me of the kampung days, when adolescent girls were told by their parents not to wear hot pants or shorts in public.

The reasons given were that they were “too revealing” and did not reflect well on the girls’ modesty or upbringing. There is definitely a good case for today’s parents to relook how our adolescent girls – and adults, for that matter – dress when in public.

Women wear shorts to many places, even to places of worship. This shows a lack of respect for others as well as for the religion.

Perhaps there can be some dress code – for both men and women – when they are in public places.

There is already a Singaporean dress code in public places, and it entails a lot of shorts, spaghetti straps  and flip flops. Even if you wore jeans, long skirts or yoga pants you still risk being harassed in a crowded train.

While other readers were focussed on the fact that the molester was a dentist, the complainant decided to draw attention to what the victim was wearing, specifically mentioning ‘hot pants’. By linking the crime and the pants and proposing that people dress more decently in public, he’s suggesting that the woman may not have been groped had she not ‘ASKED FOR IT’. In other words, it’s the woman’s fault for dressing sexily and turning men, even dentists, into rapists and molesters. Which is exactly what some people in the 80’s believed, not to mention our ‘kampung’ parents who had the cheek to control what girls wear when they’re walking about in sarong without underwear. AWARE should be up in arms over this letter, and likely to argue that if men can’t control their base desires then the problem lies with them, not with a woman who decided to flash her fair, inner thighs because it makes her feel ’empowered’. Or because the weather’s just too damn hot.

Anyway, even if by some bonkers, dystopian ruling we end up all abiding by a universal dress code because hot pants are so damn dangerous, we all know what colour that will be.


Indranee Rajah defending uncle with holey moley shirt

From ‘Indranee Rajah stands up for man mocked for hole in shirt’, 22 March 2014, article by Goh Chin Lian, ST

People still do not appreciate enough that their actions can have unintended consequences for others, especially on social media, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah in a Facebook post on Saturday. The Tanjong Pagar GRC MP was defending a resident in her ward whose attire Miss Singapore Universe 2013 finalist Jesslyn Tan had mocked in a recent Facebook post.

Mr Koh Hee Huat, 55, was asleep in the MRT and wearing a T-shirt with a hole in it. Ms Tan, 25, posted a photograph of him on Wednesday with the caption: “Holey moley. Sibei trendy worzxxz.”

…”If anyone merits a boost, it is this quiet, hardworking, unassuming man. He may not be sibei trendy but he is definitely ‘SIBEI HO.'”

Before she took part in MSU, Jesslyn was a 2012 FHM model, and when asked what superpowers she would like to have in an interview segment, she replied that she wanted Wolverine’s healing powers. Not to mention razor sharp claws so that she can take a vicious swipe at innocent passengers on a train. She probably thinks it’s a better idea to have Invisible Woman’s powers now.


Jessyln’s intrusion of privacy and insensitivity is one thing, but as a MSU wannabe, poking fun at someone’s dress sense and suggesting that he can’t afford to buy new clothes is against the image of a compassionate, world-peace loving beauty queen that every contestant aspires towards. Imagine sending a representative like Jesslyn to help rebuild a school for impoverished kids, only for her to spend more time commenting on the kids’ shabby uniforms (or lack of) rather than do anything remotely charitable.  It also takes some serious cheek to comment on others’ outfits considering the kind of fashion abominations that MSUs have had to put on over the years. Oh, and THAT spelling. I can’t tell if ‘worzxxz’ is a typo or the language of an alien insectoid race.  She happens to be a Bachelor of Communication graduate too, maybe one who specialises in exotic languages.

MP Indranee was quick to come to Koh’s rescue, explaining why he wears ‘holey’ shirts to work and how he works his ass off till 3 am at Ye Shanghai Teochew Muay stall. Koh was apparently so affected by the post that he thought of quitting the job, and if an aspiring MSU can’t be bothered to come forward to apologise personally or even buy him some new shirts out of goodwill, then it’ll take an MP to soothe some nerves and offer protection. Thankfully for Jessyln, his salvation comes in form of Indranee, and not some furious kopitiam friends out for revenge who also happen to be Ah Long associates.

Or this guy.

This guy knows Teochew Muay Thai worzzxxzzz!

If I ever get verbally abused by Stompers for wearing ugly Crocs on the train, I doubt my MP would speak up for me, even if I threaten to kill myself because I got cyberbullied by a beauty queen. In fact, people get ruthlessly mocked for the way the dress all the time, the sloppy uni student, the aunty with a bucket on her head, the oversexy bareback with bra showing. Where were our MPs then?

There are many people like Koh out there, of course, sweating it out to earn a living and having to tolerate snobs like Jessyln Tan. They may not have holes in their clothing but have deeper holes in their pockets than most of us. If they weren’t sensationally victimised like Koh here on social media, would our MPs share real-life sob stories so readily with the rest of us outside of election rallies where such anecdotes are potential speech (and vote) winners?  You don’t need a beauty queen shooting her mouth off before you realise people like Koh exist and celebrate them for making sure we have porridge supper to eat at 3am. I’m also not sure if there’s an unintentional pun with Indranee describing Koh as ‘SIBEI HO’ following this ‘HOLE’ in a shirt saga. It sure was ‘SIBEI SUAY’ for Jessyln to get caught, though.

Well, if you do drop by for supper at Mr Koh’s Bukit Merah stall (thanks to his MP’s free publicity), try to refrain from inspecting his shirt, or it’d look like people are flocking to Ye Shanghai just for a glimpse of the famous hole like it were national treasure rather than the Teochew Muay. Meanwhile, it’ll probably be a while before we see Jessyln participating in any kind of pageant whatsoever, nor should she even think of going into fashion consultancy. I’d also suggest that she think twice before appearing in public wearing ‘trendy’ ripped jeans, before someone goes up to her and says: Hey Jessyln! HOLE SAY BOH??

Miss Singapore Universe’s big yellow fan costume

From ‘Where’s the wow factor?’ article by Cheryl Faith Wee, 18 Oct 2013, ST

UNDETERRED by two creations in previous years that drew much flak, fashion designer Riyan Haffys has unveiled his third national costume for Miss Universe Singapore. Ms Shi Lim, 25, this year’s title winner, will don a shimmery green mermaid dress, complete with faux orchids and a big yellow fan, at the 62nd Miss Universe pageant in Moscow on Nov 9.

Mr Riyan, 23, decided to use orchids and an eye-catching yellow decoration reminiscent of sun rays. “The sun rays represent how Singapore has grown from its humble beginnings to a vibrant city.”

…Mr Kenny Lim, 36, director and designer of home-grown fashion label Depression, says: “My first impression was, why does the national costume resemble a peacock? There are too many colours going on.”

…Some Singaporeans have mixed feelings too. Illustrator Sharon Yang, 23, cannot decide if the yellow fan looks more like an umbrella or a peacock’s feathers. “Without the thing at the back, I guess the dress is pretty acceptable. But we can come up with something more creative than this predictable design.”

She's walking on sunshine

She’s walking on sunshine

In 2009, MSU Rachel Kum wore a giant Vanda Miss Joachim orchid on her back, which made her look like a garden fairy. 2 years later Valerie Lim was strutting her stuff in what resembles a red curtain. Shi Lim’s stark citrus yellow accessory looks like she’s piggybacking a giant slab of lemon meringue pie. From the back, I can imagine she’d look like a stalk of magic mushroom.

The MSU contest is not known for its subtlety, and for a tiny nation that has been struggling to come up with something remotely representative of a national costume, it’s not good enough to simply put on a nice sparkling dress; you must heave something along with it just to handicap yourself, such that it’s not the beauty of the actual woman behind the dress that scores points with the judges, but the majestic weight that threatens to collapse on top of her as she parades on stage in front of a worldwide audience. Anything less than a fruit dress would make you feel naked in the costume segment of MSU.

All flares without the festivity, the yellow fan costume is a few alterations away from passing off as an attire for a frilled lizard mascot. But if you insist on sun-bursting flamboyance, why not go all the way with the peacock plumage, like what Miss Mexico put on in the 2012 contest, the kind of apparel that shamans would wear on their graduation ceremony.  It can also camouflage our soldiers better than the pixellated No. 4. A pity that she didn’t win because if you preen around in that, the swirl of colours would have a hypnotised the judges into giving her full marks.

Everyone wants to see her Peacock-cock-cock

This is admittedly an improvement over the Merlion costume, but  something wilder next year please, a costume inspired by our reputation as a foodie haven rather than the same boring orchids, like a giant crab shell with mermaid suit perhaps, the crab representing a famed local delicacy as well as a nod to our humble fishing village origins. At least the shell/mermaid combination makes more sense than a sun-fan that looks like a defence mechanism against predators.

Singaporean girls getting 3/10 for fashion sense

From ‘Singapore women either wear too little or too much make-up: TV host Pauline Lan’, 26 April 2013, article by Jan Lee, ST

When Taiwanese TV host Pauline Lan was in town on Friday to launch the Singaporean version of her popular Taiwanese fashion and beauty show Lady First, she was not shy to blast the local women for fashion boo-boos. “A lot of Singaporean girls have either too little or too much make up on, it’s often not suited for the occasion,” she says.

Another mistake she thinks Singaporean girls make is wearing the wrong lingerie and underwear for different outfits.

Out of 10 marks for fashion sense, she gives local girls a mere three. Then she turns her attention to the Singapore men, saying it is their fault that the women do not try harder. Pointing out the men’s general sloppiness, she says: “Singaporean men don’t give Singaporean women the urge to dress up!”

If a local fashion guru slams us for dressing sloppily, we’d probably accept the charge. A foreigner, on the other hand, without an intimate understanding of our crazy weather, is less qualified to judge. But more importantly, an outsider scouting the streets for fashion boo-boos can’t be sure that they’re catching badly dressed SINGAPOREANS or other foreigners since there’s so many of the latter about. It’s also a misconception that women here dress up to impress fellow Singaporean men, whether they’re in flip-flops and shorts or suit and tie. Women dress up to impress OTHER women.  So, bros, go easy on the shoeshine and ties. The babe in the skimpy hot pants is more interested in what your girlfriend thinks than you.

But what’s creepy is fashionistas checking out whether your undergarments match your outfit. Does Pauline Lan have X-ray vision or go around peeking down ladies’ blouses? Isn’t underwear NOT meant to be seen at all? Or do some girls expose themselves intentionally like so:

Brazen lack of dress sense

Lan isn’t the first foreign image guru to remind us that we’re horrid dressers. Television personality Jeannie Mai refers to flip-flops as FLIP-NOTS, and endorses ‘wearapy’, which basically means to dress ’emotionally’, advocating the use of ‘energetic’ and ‘bold’ colours to lift your mood or confidence. Seems psychologically sound, though I’m less convinced by wearing purple at a public speaking event to ‘convey ROYALTY’ unless you’re giving a tribute to the Joker at a Batman Comics Convention. Or you’re just Groovy, Baby!

Good for public speaking

In 2012, French designer Roland Mouret was shocked by the ‘fashion disasters’ in his hotel, especially sloppy men with their ‘wrong shorts and flip flops’ and suggested that there should be a law against awful dressing in swanky places.  He must have avoided hawker centres like the plague. Shame. In 1994, image consultant Robert Pante said most Singaporeans wear clothes that ‘even burglars would not steal’ (‘Most Singaporeans dress badly, says image guru’, 14 Oct 1994, ST). But burglars generally DON’T steal clothes at all; the only people who do so are those with a panty or school uniform fetish.

Singaporean women know better than to take Pauline’s abysmal rating seriously. After all, this is a woman who wears a beaver’s dam on her head.

No Tau Huay allowed at Diner en Blanc

From ‘Bloggers upset over Diner En Blanc rule’, 24 Aug 2012, article by Celine Asril, insing.com

Local food is discouraged at exclusive dinner event titled ‘Dîner en Blanc – Singapore’, and this is not sitting well among some bloggers in Singapore even before they could sit down for a meal. The hush-hush food party is a mass picnic pop-up event taking place at an undisclosed location in the city, set to take place on 30 August.

It apparently started on Tuesday, 21 August, when food blogger Daniel Ang – of Daniel’s Food Diary – posted an entry about Dîner en Blanc. In his post, he provided details about the event. He also jokingly included a list of white-coloured local dishes that diners may take along. Then, four days later, he tweeted, at 2.52pm: “Dear fellow bloggers, this is the post I was told to removed by Dîner en Blanc. I hope I have your support [link provided].” This is the first time he has been asked to remove his blog post, he claims.

When asked why, Ang said, “The French organisers conveyed to the PR company that they were not happy with my post. The argument is that chicken rice and tau huay [bean curd] are not in line with their image.”

Prawns aren’t white

Daniel’s suggestion of local fare such as soon kuey and pohpiah was clearly tongue-in-cheek, though the reaction to Diner En Blanc being a stickler for some fancy-ball theme rules has been overwhelming, verging on a possible boycott and a counter-event being proposed by some powerful bloggers to show who’s boss when it comes to local cuisine. Typical of passionate Singaporeans when something so close to their hearts (and stomachs) is being dissed as ‘peasant food’ by stuck-up foreigners: Organise a copycat local gastronomical event just to irritate the hell out of them. The sheer animosity that Singaporeans feel when our beloved tau huay gets snubbed just goes to show how dearly we identify with the stuff we eat everyday, with the nationalistic fervour and vengeance as if someone defecated on our national flag. What are we, hawker Nazis now?

In response to the furore organiser Clemen Chiang quipped: “The diners have to ask themselves if they are comfortable eating you tiao (fried dough sticks) and drinking champagne. If you feel comfortable putting you tiao on your table, carry on.”(Is Tau Hway too low-class for posh picnic?, 25 Aug 2012, ST). Come off it, NOBODY eats you tiao with champagne. You should pair it with hot almond milk paste or Horlicks, both foods in line with the White theme. Chiang also mentioned that this is really an extravagant pot-luck of sorts, that ‘da-paoing’ is not encouraged, similar to another European invention called the Slow Food movement, something which will probably never take off among ravenous buffet-loving Singaporeans who take less time to finish their food than browse menus.

Some good does come out of such culinary revolt though; thanks to some complaints of curry smells last year, we got ourselves an annual CURRY festival. There’s nothing wrong, or illegal, with having silly pretentious dining restrictions for some party; that’s the whole point of having a THEME, or men owning dinner jackets and bow-ties. For example, foldable tables must be 28″ by 32″ and white. Plastic cutlery and paper plates are forbidden (even if they’re white). Only wine and champagne are allowed, while beer and hard liquour are banned (I suppose Guinness stout wouldn’t make the cut too). But silliest of all is how you’d have to CARRY your own table (not to mention the expensive chinaware) there, dressed like you came out of a Jane Austen novel, or the hospital. In this HEAT. Anyway, if you’re not happy with the rules, if you think it’s snob-porn,  if you don’t want to risk being labelled a ‘cheapskate’, if you don’t want to end up looking like you participated in a Wet T-shirt contest instead of a classy Frenchie picnic, you just don’t attend, plain and simple. You could sign up for the nearest hobo convention for all I care.

Actually, we had Diner en Blancs all along

If I held an ALL-MEAT only party and force my attendees to come dressed only in leather or fur, I would piss off plenty of vegetarians. If I organised a Bollywood party and people come in blackface, someone may make a police report. People who could afford it hold all kinds of weird fetishistic parties in secret all the time, like the Secret Cooks’ Nyamatori feast where people eat off naked bodies. Whether it’s a self-indulgent, ‘atas’ black-tie event with ridiculous standards of etiquette, a swinger’s orgy or a tea party where everyone dresses as a character from Alice In Wonderland, what these people do for fun is really none of my business. In the case of DeB, however, the use of symbolic ‘white’ as a theme also suggests a kind of holy ‘purity’, while some may associate it with Western colonialist opulence and race segregation, as what ‘exclusive’ clubs like Singapore Swimming Club used to do in the fifties, banning locals from the premises even if they dressed to the nines and could discuss cricket like a pro with the nearest cigar-munching Englishman.

Chai Tau Kway (white version) may not make the DeB list of suggested foods, but perhaps they would reconsider if Chan Chun Sing were invited VIP and decided to bring it with him to the party in a bid to win bloggers over. I mean, he could even attend the event straight from Parliament without changing. As local Gangnam style goofs ‘Dee Kosh’ and Co would sing: Give me Tau Huay.

Scoot uniform like Star Trek

From ‘Scoot or Star Trek?’ 24 June 2012, article by Cheryl Faith Wee, Sunday Times

Tennis outfit, Star Trek uniform or Yves Saint Laurent couture? New budget airline Scoot’s cabin crew attire has caught some people’s attention – but not always in a good way. While parent company Singapore Airlines has seen its fortunes soar, thanks in part to the iconic sarong kebaya worn by its stewardesses, Scoot’s sporty, stretchy sheath has drawn criticism from some passengers.

Mr Jourdan Ng, 29, who works in the finance industry, took a Scoot flight to Sydney two weeks ago. He says the black and yellow body-skimming V-neck dress accentuates curves, but ‘for quite a lot of the stewardesses, it is not very flattering’. ‘The sporty material of the dress makes them look like they had just finished a game of tennis before coming on board,’ he adds. ‘It might be a bit too casual.’

…Local corporate design and production house Esta designed the uniforms for the budget carrier, which started operating flights earlier this month. Male cabin crew wear polo T-shirts with midnight-blue jeans. Esta creative director Esther Tay, 58, says the dress was inspired by current fashion silhouettes and took about a month to design. Its curved, contouring panels are meant to be understated yet chic and stylish.

Similarly, fresh graduate Christine Song, 23, who is contemplating booking a Scoot flight to Australia later this year, says the design ‘does not have that professional uniform feel and is just like a formal work dress’.

… Keith Png of clothing boutique Hide & Seek, who designs his own labels Koops and Keith Png Bespoke, likens the Scoot uniform to an evening dress from the Yves Saint Laurent 1966 Autumn-Winter collection – a long couture dress in navy-blue wool, encrusted with a pink silhouette that resembles a woman’s arched body. Png, 34, says: ‘Scoot’s uniform resembles this signature dress and I like it.’

As ‘iconic’ and timeless as SIA’s uniform is, it’s easy to forget that  the sarong kebaya, and even the stewardesses’ slippers, have also been criticised in the past for lacking functionality and professionalism. Ditch the stifling elegance for something more ‘casual’ and you get passengers complaining that they were suited up at World of Sports. If I needed a flight attendant to rush to my aid on a plane, I’d probably have a higher chance of survival if my rescuer wore something ‘tennis-friendly’ rather than tiptoe gingerly to my seat in a shrink-wrap kebaya. If I were held hostage by a terrorist, it would also be comforting to know that somewhere in the back someone is whispering orders to ‘Set Phasers On Stun’.


Personally, I think the female dress has its own kooky, adventurous style which fits the whimsy way the budget airline is named, despite making the ladies look like one of Marvel’s original Avengers, the WASP. The male top and dark pants however, as flaunted previously a few months back when the uniform was first launched, made them look like flight technicians rather than flight stewards, or like ground crew who load up baggage instead of cabin crew. Even the waiters at Crystal Jade dress better than this. Taking the plunge from SIA’s suit and tie to T-shirt is stretching the dress code from  ‘casual’ to ‘laidback slacker’.  Not sure if ESTA had changed the design to the current ‘polo-T’ since then, but they should at least consider making them a sleeker, tighter-fit if you want men to command greater presence like Jean-Luc Picard  instead of being mistaken for ball-boy stowaways.

Marvel’s own Tinkerbell

Koops’ Keith Png, on the other hand, summons YSL retro stylings, comparing the female dress to something more glamorous befitting of a catwalk. Such arty affection for something as mundane as a budget airline uniform could also explain the similarity in the playful tones between his fashion label Koops and Scoot. Here, there’s no ‘pink silhouette’ of an arched female anatomy, just a stripe of yellow that mimics the markings of winged stinging insects rather than high fashion. More ‘cartoon’ than ‘couture’, rather.

Yes, Scoot Lives