John Charles is one of the creatives at Thompson Advertising, Inc here in Beijing. This look is really quite punk in a way. I always find it interesting when people can wear a single color and still make it interesting. The Thompson website says that they are “business people, helping business people take care of business…Yes, we are creative, but you couldn’t tell by looking. ” I must say that I can tell from looking at John Charles is creative.
Could one say the same of the characters from Mad Men, my current favorite TV series? Perhaps in their own day, this would be the case, though my sense is that the intention was to make their costumes seem stylishly conservative – even for their own day – rather than edgy. As it turns out, this past weekend, Yan Zhang, a successful and very interesting young entrepreneur here in Beijing, hosted a Mad Men Party. Here are some of the photos. Compare the contemporary Beijing ad man with modern interpretations of 1950s/60s Ad Men.
Investment banker Mark is wearing a Senli and Frye suit. Julie is wearing a vintage 1960s dress and brooch.
Ben is hitting the look pretty accurately. Of course, they rarely wore suits this dark in the show, but medium grays are surprisingly rare these days.
Warren is manager of Punk, the club at Opposite House, currently Beijing’s hippest boutique hotel. Bill is working at the American Embassy and wearing a lovely suit from Saville Row that is in a shade quite like what one would have seen in Mad Men. I love the green knit tie.
Yan Zhang is the man who made it all happen. Nice tie, great apartment.
Nicholas had not seen the series, but he captured the spirit very well. The hair and glasses are perfect. The vintage suit made it seem a bit like a cross between Sterling and Pete Campbell while hunting in the English countryside.
A single, very well-designed beast is replacing the cartoony creatures that used to adorn tee shirts. Animals will no doubt appreciate the increase in respect shown through more accurate depictions using better fabrics. No one deserves it more than the panda.
Girls unafraid to look boyish are not new – girls avoided looking anything but boyish until the eighties. In the sixties and seventies, women wore little to no make-up and avoided form-fitting clothes. Androgyny was the norm, though not for reasons of fashion. When looking at women in their fifties and sixties, that past is quite evident. Aside from the most affluent and Westernized ladies, most tend to abjure the feminine touches that women of their age in the West grew up with. When middle-aged mainland women do attempt to look more feminine, it sometimes comes off as a bit forced. This is despite our perception that Chinese women are more feminine.
Visitors to China often find the younger generations to be overly girly in their dress and comportment. The lace, frilly things and references to stuffed animals abound. For foreign women, this can be grounds for complaining. However, with Li Yuchun, the Super Girl contest winner famed for her baggy jeans and noncomformist boyishness, it became fashionable for young girls to escape the confines of their sex and its cutesiness. Immediately, young girls throughout the county began immitating Li. Here it is nice to see a sex-neutral look on a girl that is a bit more stylish than mullets and shapeless clothes.
This hairdresser failed to fire a visual bazooka at us unlike most of his tacky colleagues. Might not seem like much, but this young Northeasterner is showing us proportions that menswear might increasingly opt for in the future. Many designers and consumers are tired of tight clothes and formalwear could also begin to go more toward fuller cut trousers.
To make up for those times when there were so many men appearing on the blog, I have been focusing on the girls lately. Julia or Fan Fan is especially attractive. Beijing has droves of pretty and even beautiful girls like her, but very few attractive ones. Being attractive has more to do with spirit and taste than chromosomes.
Ethnic looks are usually irksome but this works, because of the pretty wearer, that it is head-to-toe and not just one random element, and the lack of overwhelming colors or patterns. Fashion editor of Audio Vision Magazine Fan Fan, from Tianjin, is a connoisseur of China’s ethnic minority cultures, including music and handicrafts. This outfit was custom-made for her by a Dong women with a shop at Panjiayuan.
A few weeks after meeting me on the street, Fan Fan interviewed me regarding Stylites. I will try to put a link to the article soon.
In this adorable pair, only lovely Lu Lu, in the black trousers, spoke. From Anhui, she hosts a fashion show on TV. Over-sized tee-shirts tend to be irritating but here the braces and wide leg trousers are a good frame. With a touch of loucheness, this droopy outfit looks comfy. The trousers, what initially drew me to take a picture, are actually from Zara, which seems surprising.
They’ve been growing in number. In Beijing, skating and the styles that are such an important aspect of it were more the province of men, but recently a number of girls are doing the look well.
BTV8 was doing a documentary on Stylites at the time, so there was no time to ask for names, hobbies and favorite colors. A Shanghai girl, she works for Converse, a brand that can do no wrong in the eyes of hipsters globally and particularly in China. Camo prints are not favorites but on the right girl with the right attitude…
They lack the over-sized suit coat, but they are buttoning the top button. It’s not just these two either. All over Beijing and the world, men are becoming comfortable with this look that was formerly considered too daft or too nerdy. New England mothers used to clip off the top buttons of shirts to make sure their little boys wouldn’t look nerdy, but with a little bit of help from Prada runway shows and certain highly influential subcultures (somebody is bound to bring them up), the buttoned collar now seems linked to a stylish firmness and a confident rejection of needless ornamentation.
Well-known social and literary critic Thomas Meaney has a fun piece on Saddam Hussein’s rejection of the necktie at his trial. It is seen as a symbol of both the cross and, more rationally, westernization. In fact, the top buttoned look is more commonly associated with Iran than Iraq. Iranians sometimes refer to the shah’s rule as “the regime of the Crown and Necktie” and when I was there I noticed countless religious types with styles similar to the young fellows in the photos. Iran is still at the point where leaving three buttons undone shows one’s rebelliousness. The fact that China has made it to the point where buttoning the button is seen as free-thinking is notable indeed.
Saddam did have a square, so clearly couldn’t resist a little ornamentation even at this dire time.
Isn’t this the truth? This young man spins records and lives in the hutong next to mine and knows why China is big. We can never forget that all of China’s most brilliant moments have come under a strong and unified central government. It is critical that the masses rally behind it.
People who like to pose are lovely. They are like interviewees who enjoy telling their own story. The dress may not be a perfect fit or material, but the slouchiness and that of the hat give this young student a perfect vibe for summer. As you’ve probably noticed, the truth is that I haven’t been in Beijing since it was basically still that season. This is all going to change in a week.
Too many guys wearing hats recently! Hat-wearing rate has spiked massively over the last six months. Girls are even getting on the action. Personally, I have lost several rather pricey pieces of headgear over this same period. I had a particularly nice hat from Sicily, made of velvet, that seems to have been purloined by the hair dresser. His logic is sound. Without the hat to cover my scruffy rug, there is no choice but to invest more funds in its appearance. The sneaky hair cutting man stands to benefit from reducing my wardrobe’s hat population.
For some reason I guessed that the fellow in the pic was a Korean, but he is from Beijing. He does the hat and shorts thing admirably. In fact, his example convinced me to invest in shorts (or rather to invest in scissors to convert some of my more flarish trousers into shorts) right as the summer was drawing to a final close. Now that it is cold, try to get a glimpse of me doing the English schoolboy thing with a blazer. I’m debating about whether to do a suit with shorts for next summer. Sadly, my shaggy and thick legs really don’t warrant all of this.
This perfect pair would fit in on any trendy street in Asia. They capture the current fascination with hats on boys. This kind of hat actually looks better on Asia guys, so I think this style will remain. These two photographers have a certain louche aura, but the one on the right is a practicing Muslim from the Hui community. This is not to accuse Muslims of not being louche enough; Hui are simply less common than others. There are a mere 10 million of them, one-tenth the number of Chinese with the surname Li.
Wielding this interesting bag purchased here in Beijing, Halla is the shopping and travel editor for The Beijinger. The July issue of “The Beijinger” just came out and it includes the full results of the 2008 Reader Bar and Club Awards. The Beijinger is That’s Beijing’s new name. In this Beijinger, as always, you can find the latest Stylites as well as my column on men’s style, Trouser Press.