My Wardrobe

Dress up with hats and ties

Lecturer Sean Chen Liu (above) says ties, socks and hats are essential to a gentleman's wardrobe.
Lecturer Sean Chen Liu (above) says ties, socks and hats are essential to a gentleman's wardrobe.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Cotton and polyester two-in-one polo tees.
Cotton and polyester two-in-one polo tees.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Skinny neckties.
Skinny neckties.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
A suede bowtie.
A suede bowtie.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

It is possible to create new looks by varying one's accessories, says Sean Chen Liu


Sean Chen Liu, 28, single, business English lecturer at East Asia Institute of Management

How would you describe your style?

Steampunk. I was fascinated with Japanese illustrator Hayao Miyazaki's famous animations such as Castle In The Sky (1986) and Howl's Moving Castle (2004) when I was in university doing film studies, so I guess that was my starting point.

I dress in that style and wear a vest, blazer and houndstooth cap when I go to work every day. Students and colleagues have commented on my style, saying that I look unique and stand out from the crowd.

When did your interest in fashion start?

Lecturer Sean Chen Liu (above) says ties, socks and hats are essential to a gentleman’s wardrobe. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

I cannot really remember. To me, fashion is a means to an end.

Who are your favourite designers and go-to brands?

I like Hong Kong brand G2000 for its polo shirts and shirts and online retailer Asos for accessories such as rings (photo 1). I also love picking out gems at flea markets in Australia, where I used to live for eight years.

Who are your style icons?

I am more influenced by actors from the 1920s to 1960s film era, such as Humphrey Bogart. He seemed to be a person of authority and charisma. I like the fedoras, shirts and jackets that he wore. I find that men dressed a lot more gentlemanly back then. These days, men are not properly attired for occasions.

What are the favourite pieces in your wardrobe?

It depends on the weather and location. When I was living in Australia, I was a huge fan of suspenders (photo 2), blazers (photo 3), sweaters and waistcoats.

Here, I wear my cotton and polyester two-in-one polo tees (photo 4) from G2000. It has a shirt-like collar and vest-like body so it gives the illusion that it is layered, but is breathable in the hot weather.

Do you have any weaknesses when it comes to shopping?

I have a soft spot for accessories such as hats, ties, rings and shoes because I believe one can create new looks just by varying accessories.

What is your favourite splurge piece?

Skinny neckties (photo 5), bowties, socks and hats (photo 6) - these are essential to the gentleman's wardrobe. They are the finishing touches for office attire. I am disappointed that ties are not as prevalent in Singapore. If a shirt is made of the right material, such as cotton that is woven less densely, then you wouldn't feel that hot wearing a tie.

Is there a purchase you have regretted?

I bought polo shirts from G2000 in a rush and did not notice some had different fabric patches sewn onto them until I got home. The patches had different textures and prints and that was the style, but I did not like it. I have worn them only once or twice.

What is your most recent fashion purchase?

A suede bowtie (photo 7) from Asos. It cost about $20.

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

Be yourself and be presentable. People judge by first impressions. Before others get to know me for who I am, I want to make sure the opportunity to do so exists through my dressing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Dress up with hats and ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe