When I was a child my mum was a Tom Jones fan, and that was my first impression of a man wearing bling. Of course, the term bling wasn't familiar to me at the time, but the idea of it and my opinion were very clear. At high school, I experimented with 80s hairdos, but I made a point of staying away from ghastly plastic bling. Then in college there were rappers (and people who wanted to be them) with their bling. So I completely understand the ambivalence people have about man-bling. But can men bling in style or is the notion oxymoronic?
As someone who owns a sequinned camouflage wallet, I have obviously gone to the pro side of the debate. But as a columnist I take it upon myself to convert others, to spread the message that men can bling in style as long as they know what they are doing. First, stop thinking hip hop, Las Vegas or drag shows. You don't have to go to that extent and it doesn't have to mean piling on jewellery and looking like a Christmas tree. Just a touch of sparkle and glitter can go a long way.
One recent evening I was coerced into a karaoke night out in one of those upstairs places in Causeway Bay. While I didn't consider it an occasion worth dressing up for, I at least had the decency to wear shoes. The same couldn't be said about many of boys - yes, boys - at the karaoke bar. In beat-up, wrinkly shorts and dirty flip-flops, they seemed to have just rolled out of bed or a hammock at the beach.
If you must wear flip-flops in the middle of town, at least get a pair of Havaianas with crystals. The off-the-rack styles that come with the stones are for women, but you can have the crystals added to your choice of style at NovoConcept for HK$85 each. Yes, flip-flops are flip-flops and they are best avoided other than at the beach or on a junk. But if you have to, some sparkle will at least provide some much needed distraction. And besides, the crystals will look just as good at the beach anyway. At NovoConcept, I also spotted some bling baseball caps. I don't usually wear caps, because my head is usually a bit too big for them. But if I were to wear one, I wouldn't mind one by Lids with a black sequinned cat motif (above). From there on, you can bling as much as you want, all the way to an all gold glittery number. But as with everything else, modesty is key - even when it comes to bling.
Another fashion item with a humble beginning that can use a bit of sparkle is the T-shirt. At MegaBox, I went to Extravaganza and spotted a studded T-shirt by Double Shock, apparently a Japanese brand. The picture on the front is a figure that resembles Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god, with five crystals - four white and one red - surrounding it. The glitter adds extra finesse to this otherwise simple item. I have had a few bling T-shirts over the years, and one of my favourite places to find them is a cheap and cheerful metrosexual shop in Causeway Bay unoriginally named Fashion Statement. Not everything there is to my taste, but every now and again, there are great finds. My last purchase there was a stretchy black T-shirt with an abstract pattern in silver sequins on the front, which goes perfectly with a groove-pattern biker jacket that I bought from a little shop on Electric Road in North Point.
Speaking of stylish man-bling, one local designer who does it really well is Henry Lau. I recently spotted a fabulous pair of jeans at his Spy SoHo shop, covered in transparent sequins. At a glance they look like just another pair of well-tailored, light blue jeans, but as the wearer moves, the glitter shows.
People who know me will know how much I hate men trekking around town in sneakers. But I am more forgiving if they are, say, Nizza Bling numbers from Adidas (below left). No, you don't wear them to cocktail parties, but as everyday city shoes, they are fun, eye-catching and cheerful.
I also like studded accessories, such as belts and bags. They are a quick and easy way to add the extra zing to a look. On the runway, Mihara Yasuhiro has showcased a few looks that hark back to the hippie days. Personally I am not a big fan of tribal looks, but I can certainly use one of the studded holdalls (far left) to go with a suave velvet jacket that I found at the vintage market in Lyon.
Adidas Originals Concept Store, Kingston St, Causeway Bay, tel: 2504 2186
Extravaganza, MegaBox, 38 Wang Chiu Rd, Kowloon Bay, tel: 2796 6771
Fashion Statement, 526 Jaffe Rd, Causeway Bay, tel: 2573 2735
Mihara Yasuhiro available from Joyce, Queen's Rd Central, tel: 2810 1120
NovoConcept, MegaBox, 38 Wang Chiu Rd, Kowloon Bay, tel: 3121 6600
Spy SoHo, 21 Staunton St, SoHo, tel: 2530 3128