My Wardrobe

Actor James Kumar wears fashion items no one else wants

James Kumar (wearing a pair of limited- edition Year of the Horse adidas shoes) loves to shop online.
James Kumar (wearing a pair of limited- edition Year of the Horse adidas shoes) loves to shop online. PHOTO: DON WONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Actor James Kumar says he is a fashion rebel - donning anything from weird sunglasses to a women's cardigan

James Kumar, 34, actor. The bachelor is known for his roles in Vasantham dramas and playing trainee surgeon Arjun Bhaskar in the Channel 5 series, Tanglin.

How would you describe your style? I'm always trying to be somewhere between "dressed up" and "I woke up like this". I'm an introvert and an extrovert - I don't like a lot of attention, but I also like playing with other people's senses.

Sometimes, I'll wear a kurta top with skinny jeans and boots - a modern twist on the Indian traditional style. I love black and goth styles, but I also try to marry the dark and light sides with colours.

There always has to be a sense of mystery. I'm a rebel. If something is in and it's everywhere, I won't buy it. The glasses I'm wearing now - the salesperson said: "No one's buying them", so I said, "I'll buy them".

When did your interest in fashion start?

Growing up, I wore only black. Things started to change when I entered the media industry in 2012. That's when I realised that your name is a brand. You'll never catch me in bermudas, even if I go downstairs to the shops. I'm always in skinny jeans.

I started experimenting, mixing and matching. Being in the industry, you can get away with a lot of things when it comes to fashion. I've made obnoxious decisions as well, just for fun, to see how people react.

Who are your favourite designers and which are your go-to brands?

I love Converse and Dr Martens. When it comes to clothes, I try to go for non-branded stuff. It's who you are and how you emit energy that make the clothes. It could cost $7 from a shop downstairs. It could even be a women's cardigan, but I make it look like a men's one and no other guy would have it.

I would like it if people saw me and said: "Oh, that's a James Kumar".

Who are your style icons?

Old-school and quirky people: Johnny Depp, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain with his chequered flannel shirts.

What are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe?

A floral patterned shirt that cost me only $7 from a dodgy shop in Chennai (photo 1); a pair of trousers that I bought for laughs on Lazada, but it ended up working for me (photo 2); a gold necklace from Asos that combines the two things I love best - skulls and wings (photo 3); a pair of loud, limited-edition Year of the Horse adidas shoes; and an obnoxious tiger-print hoodie I bought on Lazada (photo 4) and which I wore on a Tamil variety show where everyone was supposed to wear traditional outfits. It was fine. Nobody died; nobody got sued.

What are your weaknesses when it comes to shopping?

I have a thing for sunglasses. On the Tanglin set, if my colleagues see a pair of weird-looking sunglasses lying around, they would say: "It's probably James Kumar's".

When it comes to online shopping, I don't know how to stop. I spend hours on different apps. Lazada is one - you can find gems if you know how to mix and match. Zalora is another. And then, there's Asos.

What is your favourite splurge piece?

When I was 23, I bought a pair of Diesel shoes for $400 because they were black and looked sexy.

And then, there was a Puma peacoat. I mean, who buys a peacoat in Singapore? But they were selling it, so someone had to buy it and I did. It was about $300. The first place I wore it to was Cameron Highlands.

Is there a purchase you have regretted?

I regret when I've bought something online and it doesn't fit. Or if it smells bad. What is your most recent fashion purchase? A pair of sunglasses that I bought online last month from Asos (photo 5) for $10. I'm into the steampunk look.

What is the best shopping or style advice you live by?

Make it yours. Don't be afraid. People tend to follow what they think is the proper way and not experiment. Which is a good thing for people like me because when you do your own thing, you'll probably stand out.

I like it when people ask where I got things that are actually accessible. That shirt could be right in front of you, but maybe you're not brave enough to say: "Maybe I could carry it off".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'No one wants it? He'll wear it'. Print Edition | Subscribe