The most amazing way to change your looks

Friday 14 January 2011, 7.58am HKT

(Or how to change your appearance with a simple flick of your stuff, but think it’s wildly pointless)

Look at this picture and tell me if that doesn’t completely change the impression you could create on others.

(Click on image to see full size: opens in a new tab/window)

Yours truly in three different guises

For the five or six days in Hong Kong, we’ve been freezing our backsides off. Daytime temperatures hovered around 11º centigrade (52ºF), going down at night to as low as 6º centigrade (43ºF) in urban areas and around 3º centigrade (37ºF) in the suburbs and countryside. Brrrr! Global warming gone haywire.

Notice how just a change of headgear or outerwear brings about a wholly different impression. I garbed myself in all three ways on different days. The reactions I got from people (even the same people) were unmistakable.

* * *


Wimpy Yuppy Wuss

The Wimpy Yuppy Wuss look got me through most doors. The camel-coloured overcoat looked prosperous or even moneyed, in comparison with the all-black ninja-like garb many Hongkongers typically wear in winter. Dark colours do not make a person look trustworthy or moneyed.

With this look, you’re chickenshit. You’re no threat even to yourself, much less others. You look like you’ve got money, so we’ll just create some drama for you and you’d probably want to just pay up to make the drama go away. The only difficulty is getting you to part with your money. Hence the better service.

Shameless self-promo/condescension: That is a Steinbock of Austria Virgin Cashmere and Wool overcoat, silk satin lining, priced £120 many, many years ago.

* * *


Tricky Irish Dockyard Tout

But to get things done, the Tricky Irish Dockyard Tout seemed to work best with foreigners and foreign-educated locals. They recognise Tricky Micky a mile away. In their mental eye, it’s as if I’m some sort of Guinness-swilling tout from Falls Road in the Shankill area of Belfast. Out-and-out locals know nothing about this, so the Tricky Irish Dockyard Tout doesn’t work on them.

The headgear is called a bakerboy cap, by the way — a.k.a. newsboy cap, Gatsby cap (popularised by the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby).


Aside: Two ways to wear a bakerboy cap. The correct way is pull the top towards the front, so that it basically looks like a flat cap. The works-but-not-quite-right way is pull the top back so that it makes you look like a Trotskyite revolutionary agitator — but Trotskyite revolutionaries didn’t especially wear bakerboy caps. They wore a budenovka or anything that came to hand.

Laurence Corner in 2008

Semi-commercial plug: I’m totally endeared to the shop where I bought the bakerboy cap. I bought the 100% woollen cap in 2005 for £3.99 at Laurence Corner in Euston, London. It’s been at the same address (62 Hampstead Road, London NW1) for over 50 years. LC’s unremarkable-looking corner shop shut down in 2007 when the owner passed away and his wife retired to Spain. She was hauled out of retirement by the original employees to respawn LC in 2010 at a new London address.

(Click on above image to see full size)

Shameless self-promo: LC was the army surplus shop where The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols used to go. LC was a place of pilgrimage when I was growing up in London, a place where I got my first pair of monkey boots, my first pair of studded parade boots, my ’58 webbing kit and practically all my funky gear. God I miss LC’s owner.

* * *


If you want to work with my associates, you need to have a little more responsibility, my giant brother. Srsly.

'Comrade brother, what did you say?'

The Ex-KGB Russian Mafia look is menacing, especially without the glasses. The smile is optional: it could mean psychopath (which might be helpful in certain times). The gloves are part of the game. And it’s gotta be with Seventies-style bell-bottoms a.k.a. flares to work (examine photo).

(So-called boot-cut denims of today are not bell-bottoms by any stretch of the definition or imagination.)

The other name is the Released On Your Own Recognizance look, which is pretty self-explanatory until the next court hearing date. It isn’t a mobster/gangster look, but it ain’t savoury, that’s for sure.

So just one change of headgear from a bakerboy cap to a knitted skullcap (BrE) / tuque (CanE) / ski cap (AmE), and you transform into something your mother probably warned you about.

This look effing gets things done, no question about it. It works on almost everyone for me. I have a longish, skinny face with a pointy chin and a high nose ridge, and the Ex-KGB Russian Mafia look makes me unfuckwithable.

With this look, walk into a McDonald’s and I almost never have a problem getting a seat. Go figure.

Shameless self-promo: The black leather coat is vintage from family. Unusually in my case, it’s Napa (or Nappa) kid calfskin (rather than the usual kid lambskin) tanned with black vegetable dye (rather than chromium salts).

Further shameless promo: I actually own a couple of REAL bell-bottoms, and they ain’t vintage (a.k.a tired, old,worn-out secondhand junk). I also own a two pairs of REAL dungarees (if you even know what they are).

* * *


Why the three looks?

C’mon, it’s wintertime. It’s cold the last couple of days. What d’you expect people to wear? Ski jackets? In downtown Hong Kong? Hurr durr…

Hong Kong being the subtropical place that it is, we don’t get much service out of our winter clothes, so we maximise their use whenever the temperatures drop. Your mother never told you this??? Blimey…

Why do you need those two nasty looks?

Sometimes, the people I work with, they’re kinda nasty ’n arrogant ’n tight-arsed ’n brain-damaged (because they’re bankers or lawyers, y’know) — kinda like they’re a combination well-educated folks and criminals, y’know… So, kinda like, y’know, gotta make myself look like I’m just another nasty, brutish and psychopathically violent type who just handles their stuff and not think for them, y’know … like, they’re kinda bone idle ’n wanna sponge off their work onto others, y’know…

I have to admit that I’m not in the traditional mould of a business owner and operator anyway, anywhere, in practice or in looks — for sure not the way the average Hongkonger thinks of a boss. I have only one life and one life is all I have, so I do things my way, or no way.

Joking aside, I’m a printbroker and financial/security printer. I work with bankers, lawyers, accountants and civil servants in my line of work. You’d expect me to look like those people, no? But if you were me, do you really think it’s professional or appropriate to dress in the same ‘uniform’ as your customers? If I looked every bit the part like my customers, they’re not going to think I’m a printer, are they? Man’s gotta stick to his own level…


Are you seriously telling us that you actually track people’s reactions to how you dress?

Yeah, I do track reactions. It’s very easy to do, if you’re not sleepwalking most of your life.

You dress in dark colours, you don’t usually get good service. You dress in lighter or brighter colours, you can usually expect a better class of service. That’s the rule of thumb.

Sometimes, that rule of thumb is unworkable. So you need some sort of backup. Every little bit helps.

So what are you actually trying to tell us with this story?

You need to have a change of clothes in the office because you just don’t know when you’ll need to have different appearance for different customers or suppliers.

Straight to the point enough for you, ducklips?


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.


  • Composite of looks of yours truly by Doug © All Rights reserved.
  • Laurence Corner by Richard DeDomenici (pilfered and used without permission)
  • Budenovka: stock photo (source unrecorded)

3 Responses to “The most amazing way to change your looks”

  1. I have been informed by a reliable source that the “Tricky Irish Dockyard Tout” look could also be the “Talent-Challenged Fake Fine Arts Gay Porn Frenchified Intellectual” look. Hmm, it does, doesn’t it?


  2. Guus said

    We are judged by the clothes we wear all the time. Pity not more people dare to play around with this like you’re doing.

    A cousin of mine was once faced with a long queue in his local bank. He went home, changed into his suit, took a slightly pretentious newspaper under his arm and reappeared … and was promptly taken out of the queue. “Yes, thanks, I am coming to pick up the new debit card for my student account”

    In Singapore, it’s black trousers and grey shirt for most men working in offices. I used to wear colourful shirts all the time, kind of treading the line, and it already made me stand out in the office environment. Now the most formal I wear is a polo… one of the treats of running your own business.


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