26 August 2014


I am peeved.

I have returned from a session with my tailor – or I should say my now ex tailor – where I was being measured up for some new work shirts. Mr. Ting is not my original tailor. I have only been with him for the last couple of years after the retirement of Mr. Chen – who tailored for me for many years. Mr. Chen made several beautiful suits for me, and a number of very nice shirts.

Mr. Chen was eighty years old when he retired in 2011 - after more than sixty years in the tailoring business. He was dear old fellow and I thoroughly enjoyed his companionship and his great professionalism.

I sought out Mr. Ting two years ago when I needed some more shirts made. They seem to wear at the collar and cuffs after eighteen months or so and even though I am pretty much a slob – I do like nicely tailored shirts. Before moving to Asia I was quite content with off the rack shirts and suits but there is nothing like custom made outfits. They contour the body and not only feel more comfortable but they look quite nice as well.

I only wear white or light blue shirts made from pure cotton. Don’t ask me why on the colour front – it is just my personal taste. The pure cotton thing is essential though here in the tropics. They allow the body to breathe but are also quite effective in cooler climates that I occasionally encounter when doing stints in Tokyo, Shanghai or London.

Places that have winter.

I miss winter sometimes.

Being hot all the time is better than being cold all the time but variety is the spice of life and I strongly suspect that the constant heat and humidity I live in is a major contributing factor to my ever-increasing madness.

I think I am perhaps losing my mind.

So I am in need of some more business shirts. Not only are some of them a bit worn but also they – like many of my clothes - seem to have mysteriously shrunk. Or is it shrank? Shrunken? Shranked?

Such words confuse the fuck out of me at times and getting the correct tense makes me – well tense.

I need to chill out.

It is the madness.

Anyway off to Mr. Ting I went after work and despite having all my measurements on file he insisted on doing the whole tape measure thing. From armpit to wrist, from the throat to the waist, around the neck – and so on.

It takes forever.

There are also many choices to be made on the design of the shirt. For example I like a pocket and I also like pleats on the rear of the shirt. I want my cuffs to have buttons but also the option to wear cufflinks. I don’t wear cufflinks very often as they are a bit like my sock situation – one of the pair seems to mysteriously disappear and I have a little box full of single cufflinks.

It pisses me off.

When I was telling Mr. Ting about my shirt design requirements he made a peculiar tutting noise when measuring my girth.

“Why do you tut Mr. Ting”

I enjoyed the poetry of saying that.

“You are fatter than the last time you were measured Mr. Peter Sir” he replied.

“I most definitely am Mr. Ting – but please do not allow too much for that for I am taking some quite determined measures to reduce my fatness”

He tutted again.

“Tut me not Mr. Ting” I retorted.

“I am making headway”

“Alright Mr. Peter – I will allow just a little bit extra at the waist then”

I let that pass.

I think I need a couple of months to rid myself of my waistline. I blame my surge in weight on ten days in the US a month ago eating cronuts and drinking incredibly nice red wine with my best mate Berty.

The discovery of the cronut was particularly devastating.

It is a cross between a donut and a croissant and is absolutely delectable. My appetite was enhanced in the US was by doing things I cannot speak of here – lest the Singaporean government read about it and then come to arrest me.

They will then cane me, hang me, shoot me and set me on fire before sentencing me to life imprisonment.

I wouldn’t want that.

Neither would my mum.

Whilst he was scrawling down my measurements and showing me his finest white and light blue cotton material I asked Mr. Ting why it was that on men’s shirts the buttons are on the right side of the shirt but on women’s shirts the buttons are on the left.

In a most Singaporean manner he simply stared at me and said nothing.

I am quite used to this and take it as an ”I don’t know”

It irks me.

Both the staring and the button thing.

So I started messaging some people to see what they thought. It was a little foolish of me to message some of the English – for they are generally a foolish and a not particularly bright race of people – but I had a gut feeling it was an English thing and they may have invented the shirt.

I received some immediate and of course ridiculous replies. A couple of people suggested that it harked back to the Victorian era when women were ‘dressed’ by their domestic help and having the buttons on the left was easier for them. I dismissed this immediately as I know that men were also ‘dressed’ by their butler type dudes – so that didn’t really make sense. One of the English advised me that it had something to do with drawing a sword from a scabbard, which was equally nonsensical.

I quite like the Victorian era fashion and way of living though and would have enjoyed being a part of the gentry. I would have enjoyed saying things like ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and ‘come hither’ and may in fact attempt to bring it back in my conversations in the office. The not-particularly-bright English with whom I work could pick it up.


I think my madness is creeping in again.

It is difficult to keep it at bay and I shall turn down my air conditioning a notch.

When Mr. Ting had finished his staring I said, “Mr. Ting I would like you to make these shirts with the buttons on the left hand side. I want them made in a girl-buttoned fashion”

No one can actually tell the difference when the shirts are worn.

“Cannot,” he replied

“Cannot?” I asked.

“Cannot,” he repeated.

“Why not?” I enquired.

“It is man shirt”

“It will still be man shirt – just with girl sided buttons” I retorted.


“Alright let’s do this then. I want alternative buttons. One on the left side and one on the right side all the way down the shirts”


“It will be a new fashion craze that could make you very famous Mr. Ting”

“Cannot Mr. Peter”

“What the fuck Mr. Ting? It is not such a difficult thing to do”

“Cannot,” he very annoyingly repeated.

As a general rule the Singaporean is a very inflexible creature. I encounter it all the time and it is terribly frustrating. For example when eating out one may order a Caesar salad and ask to hold the anchovies. Or perhaps request that a meal that comes with vegetables be served instead with a salad.

One will generally receive either a very long Singaporean stare or a resounding “cannot”.

It can be countered with an imploring “can” but it will have no effect

They are an inflexible lot.

In a rather compulsive and possibly rash moment I sacked Mr. Ting on the spot. I cancelled my order of shirts and advised him that I would seek out a tailor who would make my shirts with either girl-sided buttons or even better, alternating boy and girl sided buttons.

I will probably have to find an Indian tailor who will do this for me.

Yes I know.

It is my madness thing.

It is the incessant heat and humidity I think - and a withdrawal from cronuts.

1 comment :

  1. Don't count out the rain as the rain washes all the heat away. Less the sun comes up again with a vengeance. That's as much as variety in weather you can get in sunny Singapore.

    Don't be so hasty in firing Mr. Ting, we all know he needs another 20 years to warm his heart to some Aussie charm and warmth. Singaporeans are not well known for their courtesy & flexibility. A simple, "How's it going?" will only be met with surprise or blank stare. I learnt my lesson and just get what I need (minus the curtsies).

    I can't agree with you more on the US diet. Every portion is made for two for you. Just 14 days and I manage to bring all the bad habits back to Singapore. So remember, cronuts are bad for you!

    Such an enjoyable read Mr. Peter! Might come back again to read sometimes.