“Suit Geek” is PRINCIPLE M’s original feature column where each month we reach out to one of our loyal customers & friends and ask him to share his clothing, life, and his unique point of view on gentlemen‘s style.
For our 14th interview, we invited our friend & client Mr. Cao Tan. Those who know about The Refinery, might have already heard about our guest today – he never missed a single trunk show. He loves to chat, so we often talk about menswear. Sometimes he also gives us some advice, which turns out to be pretty helpful.
The love that he has for menswear is both sensible and sensitive, meaning there’s a path for his love for menswear, with different stages, deeper and deeper, but all filled with passion, if that makes sense. He also shares his interest in rock music and cult films in particular, which would definitely make you feel that this is an interesting guy.
/WEARING SUITS TO WORK?
“My name is Cao Tan. I work at a consulting firm as a consultant. Our company has a variety of consulting services, and I’m in charge of human science. “
Justin: Do you have a dress code at your company?
Mr. Cao: We have a very strict dress code. When you’re at work you must dress in business formal attire, which means suits, with or without a tie. This is to present a professional image to our client.
“But the reason that I’m wearing suits every day is not just for following the dress code, it’s also a hobby, a passion for me.”
Justin: I like the tie you’re wearing today, very interesting.
Mr. Cao: Haha. I got inspiration from Jamen’s pink animal tie!
Jamen has a pink tie with animal prints on it. We shared a picture of him wearing his tie once on Weibo and asked people if they could recognize the animal on it.
Justin: So your company’s dress code is pretty conservative, and you still would wear a tie like this to work?
Mr. Cao: Yeah. Others may feel odd but I don’t care.
“When I wear a suit to work everyday, of course I’ve been asked if I was gonna attend a formal event in the evening. They may feel strange, and I would also ask myself if I’m overly dressed. But then in the group chat (with menswear lovers) all tell me people will get used it sooner or later. This is you. “
Justin: So if you go walk your dog, you’d still wear a suit?
Mr. Cao: Haha. Look, I’ve been wearing suits all day! I have my “dog walking look” – I’d also wear dress trousers. It’s made by a piece of incredibly soft fabric, very comfortable.
/FROM CITY BOY TO CLASSICAL MENSWEAR
Mr. Cao shared his classical menswear journey with us, in a very clear chronological order. He used to wear tracksuits a lot, “city boy” he describes his style. Later on, because of his profession, he had to rethink the way he dresses. He bought suits from big fashion brands before, also tried tailored suit once, didn’t work out well. It was not until he went to Italy did he really change his view on classical menswear.
“My tailored suits journey really begins when I went to travel in Italy.”
“I was quite shocked. I went to Florence and Rome, the people there would dress in suits so casually, walking their dogs or something. The suit looks so good on them, lapels wider, high-waisted trousers, the proportion looks great. Then I realized, you don’t wear suits for certain occasions; it can be your daily outfit.”
“I went to a few stores on the streets in Florence, trying to absorb more about Italian suiting style. But at that time, the means to study those things were limited, and I couldn’t find any offline communities to help me learn. So when I got back from Italy, I went online searching all of the information on suits, then WeChat entered everybody’s life, so I joined a few groups who all share the same love with me, also to know the best places to commission a tailored suit in Beijing. Then people recommended PM to me.”
Mr. Cao mentioned how fitness changed his needs for suits.
“I started working out in 2015, then I couldn’t find any ready-to-wear suits that fit me well. But ready-to-wear shirts are worse, I can never close the first button, which is why I tried tailored shirts here, turned out to be pretty good. Then I started making suits, and it’s been very nice.”
/Live rock n roll, vinyl records, and cult films
Mr. Cao loves rock music. We interviewed a musician Hongwei for our Suit Geek column last December. Mr. Cao jokes, “I was upset that you didn’t tell me about the interview first! I would’ve come and asked for an autograph or something, haha.”
“When I was 13 or 14, I bought a rock album for the first time, and that was Nirvana’s Nevermind. The cover was a baby swimming, and I found that very interesting. But the first time I listened to it, I just felt it was too loud. But because you didn’t have money at that time, so each time you bought an album you would listen to it over and over again. Then after a while, I started liking it.”
“At that time you didn’t have much choice. You just bought whatever the store sold. Now you can download an app and listen to whatever you want.”
Justin: Do you have vinyl records?
Mr. Cao: Yes I do, I like them very much. A vinyl record has A side and B side. Everytime you go to switch a different side, there’s a sense of formality for doing it. Besides, you can’t skip a song when you’re playing vinyl records. Nowadays we’re so used to online streaming serevices, we would only listen to the first 30 seconds, probably even less, then you’d skip to the chorus, or change to the next one. Vinyl records slow you down, “forcing’ you to listen to the music all the way through. I appreciate this sort of ‘vintage formality’.
“When you hold a vinyl record, you can feel the weight, and that makes you feel this is something valuable, like a piece of art.”
“You’ll learn to cherish it, too. Because for vinyl records, each time you listen to it, it gets worn off, and that will hurt its quality. So each time you listen to it, the less time there is left.”
Speaking of live concerts around town, Mr. Cao has got something to say.
“This new Mao Live House is not the same one as the old one, so it won’t feel the same. Lots of rock bands started from there. Also, D-22 at Wudaokou, Hongwei must have known, their band used to play there before, now the bar got torn down. The owner was an American, working in the finance business, got some money in his pocket. Rock n roll is just a passion for him. I think he also owned a music label. Back then there were many local bands playing there, including Joyside. I like the old band better, very punk, now they’re sort of British rock.
Mr. Cao also mentioned a few cult films, including Rubber and Dobermann, which none of us have ever heard about.
Justin: I can see you’re really into niche markets.
Mr. Cao: You see, when you’re young, you like those things because you want to be different. Then after a while, you found yourself actually into those things, interesting, isn’t it? □ PRINCIPLE M
Interviewer: Justin Writer: Carrie Photographer: Adora Videographer: Nicholas Produced by PRINCIPLE M