Reporter: Crystal Chui Tsz-ying
It is a weekday evening at a Hong Kong coffee shop. Men in suits and young office ladies turn their heads towards the entrance as a young man strides in. The young man’s outfit is not what we usually see men wear: a short camouflage-patterned jumpsuit with a pair of flats. He has shoulder-length wavy hair, a neat goatee and chiselled features. He is also completely unperturbed by the other customers who are blatantly staring at him.
The Guy Who Dresses Up
Joey Ma Chung-hon says he is used to attracting attention whenever he goes out. “Let it be. It doesn’t matter to me,” Ma says while chewing a mouthful of apple crumble.
His craze for fashion began seven years ago, when he was a 20-year-old student in Los Angeles. Ma says the people there wear all sorts of clothes, their various styles along with punk and EMO styles inspired him to love fashion.
Ma’s closet is anything but conventional. There are heels, skirts, dresses, an extensive collection of colourful socks and all sorts of eccentric garments and accessories. “There are some things, which if you don’t do them when you’re still young, you will regret it. You just can’t ask me to wear clothes like this when I am 30 or 40,” he says.
Right now, he has around 300 items of clothing and 100 pairs of shoes in his wardrobe. He usually buys clothes online and spends an hour surfing fashion websites each day. Ma spends an average of $10,000 and a maximum of $50,000 on clothes each month. His parents sometimes complain about the expenditure.
Since March this year, Ma has uploaded photos of his outfits on his blog titled “Individuality”. He posts up photos of himself in different outfits and from different angles. Each picture is accompanied by information about each item of clothing. The site now has posts on more than 160 outfits. In mid-September, he started posting photos on LOOKBOOK.nu, a fashion website where people from all over the world share their own street-fashion photographs.
This blogging experience took Ma’s interest in fashion to a higher level. After developing the habit of taking photos of his outfits, he now pays even more attention to what he wears.
But not everyone appreciates his efforts.
He meets friends of friends who are surprised to see his crazy outfits, and people post his photos on online forums. The posts criticise his tastes in fashion. But Ma says none of this is going to make him change his style. “Somebody even said, ‘I would beat him up if I saw him on the street.’ What they are doing is too extreme. I was sad for a while but afterwards I was completely fine,” Ma giggles as he explains. He may look proud and unapproachable in his photos, but in real life, Ma is a softly-spoken and shy person.
Ma thinks whether someone is hurt by put-downs depends on whether that person can accept himself and the outfit he is wearing. If the answer is “yes”, then he should not care about what others think of him. He adds, “Many people in Hong Kong do not have the guts to be themselves. Perhaps some men want to be well-groomed as well, but they are too shy to do so.”
Still, Ma knows there is a time and a place for him to express his individuality. He works for his family’s fruit product trading business and adopts a more sober look for his work attire. He dresses in suits for work to project an impression of reliability for his clients. He thinks this is the reason why most Hong Kong working guys stick to wearing suits and most of them rarely spend much time on grooming. Now he is a member of the working population, Ma keeps the stylish clothing and ”crazy” outfits for holidays and gatherings.