It was the 20-year-old's "cocky" walking style that purportedly riled a group of 10 tattooed youths who set upon their victim with parangs outside Cathay Cineleisure Orchard on Saturday night.
Mr Wilson Siau, a full-time national serviceman, said he was smoking in an empty space between the mall and *Scape with five other friends after dinner at about 9pm.
The youths approached him and commented on his walking style, particularly the way he swung his arms, which they described as "arrogant".
Ignoring their taunts, Mr Siau turned to walk away when all 10 went after him.
He told Shin Min Daily News: "At least three of them punched and kicked me. Another two with parangs slashed at my head. To protect my head, I wrapped both my hands around it, resulting in numerous slashes on my arms and lots of blood."
The parangs are said to have been about 20cm long. The attack lasted about a minute until security guards from the mall emerged. The attackers are said to have fled in three taxis.
The victim said he recognises his assailants and will assist police investigations.
On Saturday night, Mr Siau underwent an operation for his head injuries. Yesterday, he received stitches for the wounds on his hands. His arms are in casts.
He added that one of his fingers had almost been slashed off and required surgery.
He is now in a stable condition at Singapore General Hospital.
Army pals said Mr Siau was a transport operator and an "obedient and nice guy who likes to joke around".
His supervisor, Sergeant Mohamed Azmi, 24, who visited him yesterday, said: "It's senseless that his attackers were so agitated by such a small thing. It's his size; that's how he walks."
Last December, a 23-year-old man was left in a critical condition after he was attacked by a group of men at the mall.
Shopkeepers and shoppers at Cineleisure and *Scape, both of which are popular youth hangouts, say they are worried about their safety. Some say petty theft, confrontations and fights to varying degrees occur at least once a month.
They suggest increasing police patrols, screening suspicious- looking youths and having more security guards along the stretch.
Said a woman named Marie, 24, who works at a cookie shop at the mall: "The area can get very crowded on weekends and it can be hard to manage the crowd. I was quite traumatised after seeing all the blood yesterday."