The Spirit and Personality of What We Wear

HOW we dress speaks of who we are, our personality, and even our profession.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for instance, would never sport an Issey Miyake black turtleneck, the kind that gave Steve Jobs that quintessential look of a relaxed yet stylish tech geek and entrepreneur rolled into one. As a leader of a country, whose national colors are red and white, it is natural for him to wear shirts that echo those very colors you find on the state flag.

At community events, in the multitude of wefies he enjoys taking with fellow citizens, you’d always find him in some bright red polo shirt, sometimes dappled or streaked with hints of white. It’s practical in our warm and humid clime, it’s also bright and happy, even patriotic.

The Prime Minister has taken the color one step further by softening the red to a pink in more formal occasions with his long-sleeved pink shirts. The color, unlike a loud red, is softer and warmer, and is emblematic of warmth, an outstretched hand, and a listening ear.

Dress choice speaks volumes of taste and identity. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg, two giants in the tech world, believe that geniuses shouldn’t have to fuss and fret over their wardrobe choices. There are better things to do with their time than to keep a fancy wardrobe. Jobs fancies a black turtleneck and relaxed cut jeans; so does Mark Zuckerberg, except his top is that signature gray T-shirt.

What one wears also conveys powerful messages, such as the one against ostentation. Consider Pope Francis, whose sartorial choices celebrates austerity in a whole new way. He wears a gold-plated silver papal ring, versus the solid gold of Pope Benedict before him. While the German pope, also called the Prada Pope, would wear a traditional ermine-lined papal robe, no one would ever dream of Pope Francis going for that kind of decadence. As for shoes, Pope Francis’s shoes are simple, plain black ones, versus the bright red papal shoes of his predecessor.

Why should he have to make a ritual of what he wears, you imagine him thinking. Here’s a man with nobler priorities: to reach out to the destitute, to spread the word of God, to touch the world with his messages of mercy, peace, and love.

In the same way, Michelle Obama tunes in very carefully to what she wears and how she dresses. While simplicity and austerity may not exactly be her goals, all her fashion choices are always astute, reflecting not just her personality, but her diplomatic savvy.

As the first lady of the United States, she is known to embrace a wide range of designers with amazing ethnic diversities: Naciso Rodriguez (Cuban-born), Naeem Khan (from India), Monique Lhuillier (Philippines), Phillip Lim (Thailand), Duro Olowu (Nigeria), Shoji Tadashi (Japan), Mary Katrantzou (Greece), Vera Wang (American Chinese). And this is just a glimpse of a much broader, more encompassing list.

The most striking aspect of Mrs. Obama’s fashion picks is not just a sense of democracy, she’s careful to eschew the ultra-expensive. In her husband’s very first inauguration in 2009, the fashion brand associated with the newly minted first family is not some chichi name, but the all-American J. Crew.

Not only did Sasha and Malia sport J. Crew wool coats, gloves and scarves, their mother wore J. Crew olive gloves, and their father attended his inaugural ball festivities with a silk ivory bow tie specially designed for him. When New York Times reported on this, their headline ran thus: J. Crew Gets a Seat at the Inauguration.

The message is loud and clear. The first family wants America to know that how they dress reveals who they are. Here’s a first couple who values thrift and good sense, and is at the same time, an ardent supporter of a true-blue American brand. They don’t believe in putting on airs, in the same way they believe their girls should still make their own beds.

(670 words)

Nathaniel Soo, Secondary Three
April 2016

For more essays by Nathaniel, visit Nathaniel Writes

This essay was written in response to the ‘O’ Levels 2013 exam, Question #3:
The way we dress reveals who we are. What are your views?

You may also like:
The Way We Dress

For more ‘O’ Level essays, visit:
. Student Essays
. 2014 ‘O’ Levels Essays by Viv



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