Life Deserves A Bit More of Formality

“Suit Geek” is our feature column where each month we reach out to one of our loyal customers & friends and ask him to share his work, life and his unique point of view on tailored suits & gentlemen style. 

On our fourth interview for “Suit Geek”, we invited our client & good friend Mr.Bao. He was working in the IT industry for more than two decades. After retirement, he started travelling in Europe, and eventually fell head over heels for suits and gentlemen style. Today he will share his gentlemen style, his thoughts on Semi-bespoke suits, and the reason why he values a sense of “formality” in his life. 


Mr.Bao


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“I started my career doing project management. That was back in the 90s.”

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“I want to grow old looking like Mr.Bao.” “Mr.Bao made a suit using this fabric? Then I’ll do one too.” These are the kinds of things you can always hear at PRINCIPLE M about Mr Bao. It’s like we hired him as a brand ambassador, to be the face of some sort of campaign at our shop, except we didn’t. He is just a really cool gentleman that leaves an impression wherever he goes.

In the beginning, you might think it’s only because he dresses like one. He looks like the living version of a well-seasoned gentleman, and he even suits up for a morning stroll. Then after you get to know him a little bit, you realise that he is the kind of person who would say “Let’s face the other way, there are ladies standing here.” while he was smoking with others to show his consideration. 

Then after you have a few conversations with him, you hear some of his stories, and you share some laughs with him, then you’ll think that growing old is not that frightening anymore, because of people like Mr.Bao. They give you the courage to keep on going and just enjoy life, especially the golden years. Age really is just a number.

But grow old in suits, please. 

/On His Very First Suit

“I got my first suit ages ago! It was in the 90s. We had a dress code at our company, and you had to wear suits during the weekdays. Back then some of the companies work 6 days a week, and on Saturdays you could wear ‘smart casual’. ” 

“My first suit was a charcoal suit, with stripes. I remember it was a brand called Shunmei, supposedly a Japanese-Chinese clothing company, so their suits were also Japanese style. I didn’t know anything about suits at that time. I only bought it because I had to wear one at work. It was very random.”

 Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, 1960
Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, 1960

“Suits in the 90s were all very…industrialised. All of the suits you could see in the shop, the colours and patterns might be different, but they all had the exact same design and style.” 

/On His Journey to Tailoring

“A couple of years ago, after my retirement, I started traveling aboard. I went to a lot of countries in Europe, and those cities that have historical significance and nice scenery. In Europe, often you see a lot of senior people wearing suits and coats, dressing very elegantly. The suits they are wearing are all kind of big, supposedly they bought it when they were young and stronger. However, even if the sizing was not right, you can tell it was very good quality.”

“Then I thought, I want to grow old looking like that.” 

“Since then, I developed an interest in suits. I started reading articles in the magazines about suits and formed up an understanding on suits. Even now I probably can’t say I have found the style I can master, but I know what suits me and it did take a long time, and money to come to this far.” 

“I used to be like whenever I saw something I liked, I’d make one, then I realised it actually didn’t suit me very well. It wasn’t until I started trying out semi-bespoke at PRINCIPLE M did I find some of my personal styles.”

“Semi-bespoke suits can truly represent your personal styles, because it’s only made for you. My first Semi-bespoke suit at PM is a Navy Cashmere Blazer, with gold button details. And it’s also one of my favourite jackets. Speaking of this, I have to give some credit to our tailor Jamen, he really understands me and my style, and whatever I ask, he can deliver. I appreciate him for that.” 

“Some of tailors nowadays make clothes like what it used to be: all the same. The jackets made by 100 different tailors all look the same. It’s not supposed to be like this; it’s supposed to be 100 different jackets.” 

“When you first start making suits, go with Made-to-measure. After you know what you want, and understand how to communicate with the tailor, then you  shall consider Semi-bespoke or Bespoke. And chances are, you have to find the tailor who understands what you need and has the ability to achieve it.” 

“However, to be able to truly know what you want, you gotta pay some ‘tuition fees’ at the beginning, haha. I also have clothes in my wardrobe that I know I’ll never wear again.”

Mr.Bao does his fitting with Jamen.
Mr.Bao does his fitting with Jamen

 

/On His Daily Style

“Now I’m retired, so I don’t have to dress up for work. I can just wear whatever I want. But when I go out, normally I still will wear a suit. For example, when I go to the park for a stroll with my wife in the morning, I wear a jacket, with a pair of chinos, and a pair or rubber sole leather shoes. Although my wife always says, “wear trainers! Or you’ll get tired soon.” But I won’t give in haha, formality is important.

“Now I’m retired, so I don’t have to dress up for work. I can just wear whatever I want. But when I go out, normally I still will wear a suit. For example, when I go to the park for a stroll with my wife in the morning, I wear a jacket, with a pair of chinos, and a pair or rubber sole leather shoes. Although my wife always says, “wear trainers! Or you’ll get tired soon.” But I won’t give in haha, formality is important.

Mr.Bao in Chad Prom Coat

My dressing philosophy is to wear what you wear according to the occasion. When I’m going out for a run, of course, I have to wear a tracksuit and trainers. But when I’m attending an event, like weddings, I will dress formally for the occasion. One time I went to a wedding, I was wearing a blazer and a tie, not a suit, so it wasn’t even that formal, turns out I was one of the only three people who dressed up, the other two were the groom himself and the host. The host even asked me to go on stage doing a speech…”

“Dressing up for occasions shows your respect for the environment, and for people around you. Like going to weddings, even if the bride and the groom won’t have any strict dress code to the attendees, it would be inappropriate to show up in shorts and flip-flops. It was supposed to be one of the most unforgettable occasions for the hosts, which are expected to wear something nice and formal. I think we shouldn’t overlook this.” 

Fresco Navy Blazer Made by B&Tailor in 2018
Fresco Navy Blazer Made by B&Tailor in 2018

“The photos you see on my Instagram, those tweed overcoats, the jacket Jamen made for me, I wear them when I take a walk with my father. Sometimes I’d carry a cane. People ask me why, well, it’s because of my dad! He wouldn’t carry his if I didn’t carry one either. He’s 84 years old. I would be worried about him if he didn’t carry his cane with him. Actually, Justin helped me buy this cane, it’s from a brand called Fox.”

“I really like 1940s and 1950s menswear style. Back then there was no ready-to-wear, everything was custom made and suits were every-day wear, not for  certain types of occasions. When you look at Fred Astaire’s films, after he performed a dance number, his suit still looked the same as before, not stretched or anything, still very elegant. I think that’s amazing.”

“Suits in the 40s and 50s had achieved a perfect balance among design, practicality, functionality, and most importantly, comfortability. You have enough space at the front, and the sleeves holes are not too high.” 

“That’s the golden age for menswear. The clothes that I make now, are all kind of inspired from that period of time.” 

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Shall We Dance (1937) 

“I like a soft structure, no shoulder pads. I also like to extend the shoulder lines a little bit, took the inspiration from the senior people I saw in Europe. Their suits all look very comfortable and a bit loose.” 

“For summer suits I’d move the buttons lower a little bit, making the V area more wide and obvious. I want the length to be longer, at least the back length has to reach my hips. For a gentleman, I think letting strangers on the street to see your butt is not very appropriate.”

Mr.Bao at the Whisky shop

/On His Lifestyle

“Recently, there’re a lot of people consulting with me about growing a beard. Do you know why? Because everybody is quarantined at home and they can’t go to the barber shop. So they thought how about growing a beard! I’ve got all kinds of questions: how to make it grow to the right direction, the density, how to grow your beard from the middle…all kinds of questions, ha!”

Do you cook?

 “Because of the Covid-19, I cook for my father at home everyday. I have interest in cooking, even though I don’t really think I have any gift for it, ha! I was a project manager, so I care about following certain orders and procedures. But you know, Chinese recipes, they don’t tell you how many grams of ingredients you should add to your dishes. Instead, they say “a little”. I never understand how much is ‘a little’. So one time I cooked it right, the next day I just lost my game and it tasted different!”

“I love travelling, and all of those surprises that come with it. One time I was in Poland, it was in winter, all of the museums closed very early, at around 4 pm. We had nowhere to go. Then we thought Poland is famous for its pianists, maybe we could go to see some concert. So we just randomly chose one, listened for two hours, with free wine offered. I was going to go to the museums, then ended up at a concert with free wine. That’s what travel means to me, unexpected surprises.” 

What do you bring when you go travel?

 “A carry-on and a handbag. I drive a lot, so normally I don’t carry a checked bag. If I’m going to take a long flight or a long train ride I’d wear the blazer Jamen made for me. It’s so comfortable! I’d pair it up with suede loafers and corduroy trousers. Sometimes I carry a suit bag, with a couple of suits. Normally, I travel for less than two weeks, I don’t want to leave home for too long, so I don’t carry that much luggage with me.”

“Right after my retirement, I thought I was going to do everything that I didn’t do when I was young. The first thing I did was get a tattoo. I didn’t get these tattoos when I was young. I also want to learn dancing.”

Mr.Bao and his cat tattoos

“I buy 2 new books every month, and I try to finish reading them every month, too. For this month I bought one that is talking about Japanese, the other one is about the Louvre. But I have to admit most of the time I can’t finish reading them on time. The more that I buy, the less I can finish!”

“I’ve seen a lot of Hollywood films made in the 40s and 50s. Like those Hitchcock classics. One of my favourite is Dial M for Murder. The menswear style in that film is more similar to the 60s. You can see the lapels are getting thinner, and there are vents at the back. But it’s still very beautiful and elegant.”

Dial M for Murder (1954) 

“I’m less and less interested in the stories some films were trying too hard to tell. Recently I only want to see two veteran actors bantering each other on-screen. I just saw The Dresser, a British film, and I really liked it. It’s a movie about an aged actor and his long-time dresser. I’m getting old, and watching two old guys acting really resonates with me. In the movie, both of them are getting old, wanting to shine for one last time, and the actors portrayed that pretty well.

 The Dresser (2015)

If you didn’t do what you did, what else do you think you would have been doing for a career?

“Shoe shining. Seriously. The feeling that you have when you’re holding a nice pair of shoes in your hands, and you make it all clean and beautiful. It’s very satisfying. And it’s a job that takes time, it’s about patience.” 

“Don’t make your hobby your career. I used to love taking photos. People have said to me, “be a photographer!” But let me give you an example first, someone asks Justin to make a suit, and gives a lot of requests. You know that it won’t work out, and it doesn’t suit the client either. But a business is a business, you have to do what the client says. If it’s just a hobby, you can simply say: Sorry. I can’t do it. And that’ll be it. So don’t make your hobby your career, or you’ll possibly end up in disappointment. 

When I was young, I had all the energy in the world, I wanted to give back to society. But now I’m getting old, I just want to do boring things. Be normal.”

“Justin, I think what you guys are doing is amazing. Hang in there, man!”


Interviewer: Justin
Writer: Carrie
Photographer: Adora
Produced by Principle M

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Premium Tailored Clothing & Accessories | Beijing