Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Native Shoes - The hip solution to Crocs?

It's summer again in Taiwan! So it's super hot and extremely humid, meaning it will rain, a lot.  Which is not great for my sneakers and moccasins.  Actually one of my moccasins got drenched in the rain and is pretty ruined to my great sadness, since I really love that pair.  Therefore, I needed a pair of shoes that is resilient to water and is easy to wear without looking like a clown.  Naturally this means Crocs are miles away from my options.  Of course, living in Tainan, I could have just chosen to wear flip flops, but wearing that to work is just dread and is certainly not a feasible option.

By chance, I noticed a student of mine, wearing a pair of seemingly stylish deck shoes, without the laces, and in a material that resembled those of the dreaded Crocs.  What luck! I thought. Exactly what I needed, so I asked him about them.  It would seem they were a pair of Native Shoes, from a Canadian company.  The concept of Native Shoes is to produce a selection of classic casual shoe silhouettes, such as deck shoes, sneakers or boots, but using a lightweight water-resistant material.  Intrigued, I bought a pair of Native 'Howards' and was eager to try them on.
Native Shoes - Regatta Blue Howards

At first glance, there was a lot of holes around the shoe, which for some reason, conjured up images of someone shooting their own foot. However, I assumed this was for ventilation and for water drainage, in case I stepped into some deep puddles.  I tried them on, and they were initially quite tight, and not particularly comfortable, to be honest.  During this time I was quite skeptical about the comfort of the material and whether this was a decent alternative to Crocs.

However, after a few weeks, the material loosened up somewhat, as they finally broke in.  Now, it is far more comfortable and funnily enough, the shoe I select the most during the day.  For good reason, I suppose, since it has weathered a good deal of torrential rains, construction sites, beaches and tarmac, and I never have to worry about it getting dirty, wet or damaged.  While it's not the most comfortable pair of shoes I own, it is certainly one of the most practical and cheapest.  No wonder, more and more people are wearing them now.  So, is it a great alternative to Crocs?  Absolutely!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Jewelry for Men - Cufflinks

Personally, I have never been a big fan of jewelry.  It does not interest me.  I really do find people who adorn themselves with so much sparkle and 'bling' to be downright ostentatious. Vulgar. It is as if they become a walking disco ball, screaming for people to gaze upon them.  While we do take notice, it is not in admiration, but rather in disdain, and for the conservatives, it is in disgust. After all, we live in an era where it is not necessary to carry your wealth with you.
However, there are certain pieces of jewelry, more specifically male jewelry, that even the most conservative would approve of.  These would be the timepiece, the wedding ring, tie clips, collar pins and cufflinks.  All of these serve some functional purpose and the cufflink is no different.
Essentially, cufflinks are ornaments meant to keep the cuffs of shirt sleeves together.  These cuffs will need 'button' holes on both sides for the cufflinks to be inserted through.  Cufflinks are usually worn with shirts that have French cuffs, where the cuffs of the shirt sleeve are folded back, producing four layers of cuffs on the ends of each shirt sleeve.  This is quite different to the buttoned shirt cuffs that we see on most shirts today, which have become the most prevalent way to fasten cuffs. Alternatively, there are convertible cuffs which come with buttons, but also allow the use of cufflinks.

Many friends prefer cuffs with buttons as it is more convenient, as it allows them the option to roll up their sleeves and there is no need to keep cufflinks around.  In addition, putting cufflinks on and removing them has been considered a hassle by some. Far too tedious they say.

While these are valid points, I still feel that cufflinks and French cuffs present an image of formality and class, with the exception of novelty cufflinks of course.  While I believe that men should dress in relatively simple outfits, it is the accessories that allow us to express ourselves and to have a bit of colour and fun.  Cufflinks come in a number of materials, but usually it is in steel, silver, gold, wood or enamel, but I suggest you fork out some money for a quality pair of cufflinks as these ornaments can last for a lifetime, unless you lose things easily.  Most shops that sell suits and shirts will usually have cufflinks available as well as brands that largely cater towards the male market such as Montblanc or Dunhill.

Cufflinks certainly have a place in the male wardrobe, especially on important occasions.Such accessories provide the finer details to a dapper outfit, thereby adding sophistication and presence to your look. which can certainly be advantageous to you at formal functions and in business, since it may provide the extra edge of professionalism to put clients at ease or to intrigue the ladies. Thus my fellow gentlemen, I highly recommend wearing a pair of stylish cufflinks the next time you suit up!  

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Riding around Tainan Part 2

After my dissatisfaction with just cycling, it seemed inevitable that I required a scooter, despite the notion of how dangerous it is. This is especially so due to the appalling road manners of motorists in Taiwan, but this is a topic for another discussion. So, before even buying a scooter, I had to get a motorcycle license in order to avoid the hassles of getting caught riding without a license and also ineligible for insurance. Yes, I am risk averse in this case.  You should be too.

So to get a motorcycle license in Taiwan, you can either convert your international driver’s license to a Taiwanese driving permit or undergo the local driver’s license tests. The international driver’s license must first be obtained from your home country, and if your country has an agreement with Taiwan, the international driver’s license will be valid for 30 days.  This international driving license can be used to obtain a driving permit that is valid for the duration of your Alien Resident Certificate (ARC). However, there is a caveat, foreigners must have lived in Taiwan for at least one year to acquire any kind of Taiwanese license. In addition, if you only have a license for driving a car, you are only permitted to ride a 50cc scooter or moped, which does not go very fast.

On the other hand, if you do not have an international driver’s licence, have stayed in Taiwan for a year and plan to stay longer, it would be best to go through the drivers tests.  This entails a theory assessment, on a computer, thereafter a ‘road’ test in the yard.  This can be done at the Tainan Motor Vehicles Office, but you need to bring the necessary documentation. They are situated on Lin Sen Road Section 1, next to Da Dong Night Market.  More information can be found at:

Once you pass the tests, you will get receive a Taiwanese driver’s licence, which doesn’t look particularly impressive in my opinion.  Thereafter, I faced the matter of buying a scooter, and due to budgetary constraints, I had to look for a used one.  There are a number of used scooter shops along Gong Yuan Road, opposite the Tainan Zhong Shan Park, but a number of people I have spoken to have complained about them.  Alternatively, you could try one of the many local mechanic shops scattered throughout the city, where some are them do sell new and used scooters for better prices and conditions. And yes, you should use your charm and bargaining skills if you want to save some cash.

If you would rather rent a scooter, there are a few rental shops available.  Most of them are next to the Rear Entrance of Tainan Train Station, along Qian Feng Road and renting a 100-125cc scooter costs roughly NT$ 600 for 24 hours.  For 50cc scooters, they cost roughly NT$ 350-400, but not all shops carry 50cc scooters.  You will need your Taiwanese driver’s license, as more shops are becoming stricter with their policies.

Once I bought my scooter, the freedom to travel all over Tainan was worth the effort and hassles.  Just be careful on the road and remember to wear a helmet.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pic of the Day - 3 Jan 2013


Casual Business Outfit

If you want to be look casual, yet well dressed, while also remaining low-key, this is a great example.

Black and white gingham shirt mixed with a grey peak-lapel jacket and white pocket square. A gingham shirt is considered casual, but contrast that with a grey suit jacket to add a layer of sophisticated formality.

The pocket square is folded in an almost haphazard manner to convey a relaxed nonchalance. This is further emphasized by the unbuttoned collar button and loosened tie.  The striped grey, dark green and navy blue tie balances the look, thereby minimizing the contrast to express one's refinement in subtlety.

However, due to the lack of visually appealing colours, one may run the risk of becoming so bland through this monochromatic layering, thus the entire look is balanced and completed with a pair of medium khaki chinos.