“I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible”

Hong Kong old-man style Venn diagram

As the summer heat and humidity persists, I am very close to adopting full-on Hong Kong old-man style. Old men know how to dress for the weather and they don’t give a shit if anyone has a problem with it.

Take yesterday’s old-man-style spotting: A retiree was on his junker of a bike cruising down the Ma On Shan promenade. He wore purple plastic bathroom sandals, light-weight shorts and a white tank top. Around his neck he had draped a dark pink hand-towel to soak up sweat. From his handle bars dangled a radio blaring whatever his favorite kind of music is. I am almost certain that he had just left his morning perch in the shade with the other old men. And I know that they all had their shirts rolled up over their bellies for better ventilation.

In addition to practicality, the other reason to embrace Hong Kong old-man style is the anti-consumerism aesthetic. Hong Kong can be a giant over-blown luxury shopping mall. Wandering around the IFC, Pacific Place, Hysan Place, or Elements shopping malls one wonders: Who buys this stuff? Why is nothing useful, like ballpoint pens, shower curtains or cookware, sold in any of these centrally located malls? Who pays US$ 4000 for a handbag?

This is where Seattle’s current hometown hero, Macklemore, comes in. His song “Thrift Shop” is all about finding your own style on the cheap:

“I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible.

I bought this big ass coat, at the thrift shop down the road.”

Everyone in Seattle this summer thought I was living under a rock because I hadn’t heard “Thrift Shop.” From what I can tell, it hasn’t surfaced in Hong Kong. But it should. This town is ripe for the message. (If you also live under a rock watch the video and listen here (explicit lyrics).)

So tomorrow, 

“I’m a take your grandpa’s style. I’m a take your grandpa’s style. No for real.”

This will be me at school pick-up, the hottest time of the day:  My old Sony Ericsson phone will be taped to the handle bars of my daughter’s Micro scooter and will be blaring “Thrift Shop.” I’ll have on flip-flops, the shorts I used for gardening in Seattle eight years ago, an old tank top and a big, tinted, face-sheilding sun visor. The first hand-towel I find lying around my house — likely the pink one with the floral edging sewed on by my grandma and sent to me three Christmases ago — will be draped around my neck.

And if I’m lucky, the old Hakka ladies will look out from under the black fringes on their wide straw sun hats and say,

“Damn that’s a cold ass honkey.”


Quotations above are from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song “Thrift Shop.”

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21 responses to ““I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible”

  1. I’ll incorporate this line “Marginally related posts” hahahaha Great and funny, as always! 😀 I keep the “Hong Kong can be a giant over-blown luxury shopping mall” as one of the most accurate HK descriptions I’ve ever heard!!

    • The big fancy shopping malls leave me asking the same question I used to ask myself in the Gongbei underground shopping center: Who buys all of this shit?

      I made it through 15 seconds of the Telenovela you posted before hitting my limit for over the top drama! Wow.

      • Hahaha you had to wait till the end..! There it was a stabbing and family gathering all of the sudden… Actually is one of the most iconic scenes (it has it all!) from one of the most iconic telenovelas here in Mexico… I can’t stand those levels of drama, by the way..! 🙂

  2. As I was reading this, I was thinking of our local old lady style….yeah, not about to adopt that! Flower pattern top with differently color schemed flower pattern pants never looked incredible on anyone, I don’t care how “hot” you are! In both senses of the word. I’m so grateful to whoever invented the cotton sundress.

  3. I have been of a mind for many years that old men know what’s up. My best friend and I are in a constant battle to see who can achieve maximum old-man-ish-ness. He has a slight advantage being a guy, but I always carry handkerchiefs and even tell kids to get off other people’s lawns. (I suspect our competition will end in a stalemate.)

  4. I’d gone from a follower of expensive casual fashion brands to the much cheaper alternative such as H&M, Cotton On. I’d most likely go for the expensive brands too if I earn a little more than the average salary of my age group.

    The thing is, I have to stay in the game to be the norm. That’s my take.

    • You’re absolutely right that it’s hard to stray too far outside the norm at certain points in our lives (like when building a career, depending on the field). But I still like the aesthetic of not over-spending on unnecessary things (like designer brands) unless they last a very long time and will get a lot of use.

  5. Hahaha. I can just see that retiree. You described him perfectly. And I have no idea why Hong Kong hasn’t adopted the idea of a thrift store. I remember donating a bunch of clothes to their line of “Goodwill” before I left… Maybe it’s because something used would not be in line with the materialistic mantra of that city? Something used is somehow not good? And it always seemed to me that some of those malls really *were* just for show. Who spends $4000 US on a purse? Celebrities, maybe? I wouldn’t even if I could…

      • The heat and humidity might have something to do with it. The way most people wash their clothes might, too. I never had a dryer in Clear Water Bay, and it was a dreadful chore (at times) to get clothing to dry. I don’t know how some people just let their stuff air dry. When I did that, it always ended up smelling moldy. I used to blast as much of my laundry as a I could with a wall heater. That helped!

        And even if it were passed down through generations, I’m not sure any purse is worth $4000! I splurged on an $80 leather purse in Taipei and it’s been with me all over the world and is still in good shape. 😀

  6. You have just described my dad — that wife-beater wearing, wife’s cast-off-pajama-pant wearing man. The only thing missing is the blaring radio which has been replaced by a useless hearing aid.

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