How To Wear Jeans: Informalising an Outfit

Men's fashion pea coat

   In a recent post I wrote about my love for my new Tokyo studio New Balance kicks. Penning my admiration for their versatility I mentioned how, theoretically, the shoes could be used to enliven the most sober and understated of outfits. Today, because I love you so dear readers, I've taken it upon myself to provide photo accompaniment to my thesis - behold my splendor and my words.

   For the benefit of this post I've taken to wearing appropriately seasonal and somber-hued shades - in this instance a Pea Coat from Super Dry and a Fred Perry jumper teamed with the aforementioned sneaks and an item which could surprisingly be the key to the whole ensemble - a pair of jeans from Jacamo. (In another recent post, I wrote of my conversion to denim, and have become even more of a proponent of the trouser-style after being sent this pair by the brand. Although they're primarily known for catering to larger men, the brand's ranges also provides an array of options for smaller gents such as I).  

Fred Perry Logo

   Here, in this outfit post, I've selected dark jeans paired with the New Balance lace-ups to provide an informal edge to the outfit whilst not sacrificing any of the smartness brought by the top half of the sartorial composition. If the mullet haircut was "business-at-the-sides, party-at-the-back" then this is a (hopefully more aesthetically pleasing) style which blends a spruce and dapper top-half with a more modish and vivacious lower one. "Hey guys," says the outfit. "I take pride in my appearance but I'm not afraid to have fun either. Wanna take the party to the kitchen and talk about the big soccer game?"

   Whilst a pair of pin-stripe trousers would have no doubt complimented the outfit, it would have also stripped it of the easy-going nature that jeans provide and would have multiplied the solemnity on display. To use a simile - if my outfit was Take That then the Pea Coat would be Gary Barlow, the jumper Mark Owen and the trainers would be Jason Orange. In this instance, a pair of pin-stripes would be Gary Barlow yet again - would the world be ready for such a thing? Instead, the jeans here are Howard Donald - at first you don't notice them but the more you think about the situation, the more you realise just how integral his/their down-to-earthness and gravitas is/are to the entire set-up. Somebody needs to play drums during covers of Smells Like Teen Spirit, right?

   Yet, whilst I've tried to answer my own question on how best to style trainers, I've simultaneously accidentally posed a plethora of new ones: what am I looking at to my left in these pictures? How is one supposed to pose naturally in the most contrived set-up imaginable? What is my hair doing on this windy, windy day? How did I get side-tracked talking about Take That?

   The world is full of mysteries.

Men's fashion blog photo

Asia House Film Festival Preview: The Monk

The Monk Myanmar movie
   Outside of the details of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest and the occasional broadsheet column inch dedicated to murmurings of up-risings against the military dictatorship which governed the nation, the goings-on in Myanmar (formerly Burma) were previously largely unknown to the outside world.

   In recent years, however, the secretive nation has begun to liberalise (and democratise) itself allowing for open elections to take place. Finally, we outsiders are being given a chance to look into the country too: Asia House Film Festival, with their screening of The Monk, present a rare chance for us to study the cinema of one of the most guarded countries on Earth.

   Directed by Burmese poet and film-maker Maw Naing, The Monk is a fascinating movie which looks at the role of Buddhism in a secular society and, in doing so, draws parallels between it's narrative and a nation looking to find an identity in a hyper-modern, gloablised world too.

   The feature presents us with a young monk, Zawana (Kyaw Nyi Thu), rescued from the streets as a boy and raised in a monastery in the Burmese countryside. His ailing superior, U Dahma, struggles to keep the institution open as financial burdens rain down upon it and Zawana begins to question his own faith; temptation arises in the form of one of the local girls. As the bright lights of Yangon, the appeal of MP3 players, and the lure of a potential suitor beckon him, the young monk is left with the decision as to whether or not to abandon his spiritual upbringing in favour of pursuing the pleasures of flesh and consumption. The imperatives of the physical, of the secular, battle against the sacred and divine.

   Clocking in at a succinct 90 minutes, The Monk is a movie which boasts a grand, national narrative told metonymically through a languid and intimate tale. Featuring documentary-esque aesthetics and a sense of realism in the way the camera frames the action, Naing's synecdoche feature sits comfortably alongside Asia House Film Festival's opening movie, Zhat, as a powerful state of the nation addresses.

   Zawana procrastinates on what to do as his life hits a fork in the road - as part of his past dies, the young monk's destiny opens up in front of him. Zawana is young, free and liberated just like Myanmar may be as it casts off the shackles of dictatorial military governance. The coming of age of man and of a nation, and perhaps of the Burmese film industry, are found in parallel in Naing's rewarding and poetic The Monk.

The Monk
makes its UK Premiere at Regent Street Cinema on February 28 2016. Tickets are available here.

Official Coverage Credit: ASIA HOUSE FILM FESTIVAL takes place from 22 February to 5 March at London venues -

Missoula Bar and Grill, York (sort of) Review

Missoula York
   Like Homer Simpson, I've had many life long dreams. Whilst I've never particularly fancied eating the world's largest hoagie (nor do I know what one is) or being the next Thomas Edison, I certainly wouldn't mind managing a beautiful country-western singer like our favourite cartoon patriarch - if you're reading this Jenny Lewis, please do contact me.

   More than this, though, since I was a child I've continually desired to be a cowboy: swigging whiskey at saloons, toasting marshmallows under starry skies, riding wild stallions and drinking coke floats through straws. Perhaps the latter option may not be appropriate to a genuine rancher lifestyle but the soda-pop/ice cream combos are among my favourite treats - gladly, too, they're available at the York-based Western themed restaurant Missoula. Anywhere that allows to me feel (somewhat) like a cowboy whilst serving delicious sugary concoctions is good in my book.

Ice cream and Coca-cola float

   Whilst I've previously written (at an inappropriate length) about the folly of expecting anything approaching authenticity at themed restaurants, Missoula (named after a city in the state of Montana), describes itself as "casual dining at its best served with warmth of ‘The Big Sky Country’ feel" - this is a humble description I can certainly get on board with, nodding at the accuracy of the mission statement. Were it to describe itself as more "authentically Western", I'd have to question not only the presence of coke floats on Missoula's menu but, pedantically, the inclusion of credit card readers and the omission of references to attempted genocide of the Native American people by way of the gifting of intentionally smallpox-infested blankets. Those cowboys certainly didn't all wear white hats, so to speak.

   Located on Bridge Street, and thus featuring a spectacular view of York's famous River Ouse, the restaurant has a pleasant, laid-back aura upon entrance - this certainly isn't a place to rush you in and out of your seat to make way for the next group of paying consumers. A serene atmosphere is certainly one of the most overlooked aspects of a successful dining experience but, thankfully, Missoula is certainly no slouch in the culinary department either - I defy you to not look at the T-bone steak (pictured below) and not drool like Pavlov's dog.

Missoula steak and chicken

   An impressively quick delivery time was duly noted and, upon arrival, it was almost impossible to not avariciously tuck into the tender meat before taking these photographs - I had to show the restraint of Saint Simeon Stylites (please let me know if you believe the stoicism of my self-denial or references to obscure Syriac ascetic saints was the more impressive feat).

   So, could a meal which looks as good as this, served in a quasi-psuedo-Western themed eatery be as good as that sounds on paper? The short answer, pleasingly, is yes. The meal itself gave me, perhaps, even more joy than composing articles replete with obscure references to twenty five year old episodes of The Simpsons, red-headed indie singers, debated historical mass-murders and saints who lived upon raised pillars for 37 years. These may seem like distraction methods to account for the fact that I will, inevitably, struggle to conjure the appropriate superlatives for this review. That's because they are indeed.

   My best attempt to describe the (massive) steak I ordered can be summed up best as thus: Take the deflated, crushed feeling you experience at the end of Lars Von Trier's Dancer In The Dark and imagine the exact opposite sensation. As the meat melts on one's tongue, shut one's eyes and savour the taste - imagine you are under a star-lit sky like a cool cowboy. If, like Homer and I, you have a list of life long dreams then you really should add trying Missoula's steak to that.

Missoula by River Ouse

The Re-imagining of Pamela Anderson: A Review of Connected

Pamela Anderson still - underwear

   If Instagram was invented to present to the world the unrealistic, impossibly glamorous versions of ourselves and the make-believe dream lives we wish to present to the world, Connected exists on the opposite side of the looking glass - this a movie about decay and how we hope to mask it.

   The bizarre short film, which premiered on Vice, presents us with an uncanny face - this is Pamela Anderson, but presented in a manner in which we have not witnessed her in before. To speak the words "Pamela Anderson" is to conjure images of a barbie doll brought to life, air-brushed beyond human recognition. Yet, in Luke Gilford's short sci-fi, Anderson is dowdy, weathered and bereft of make-up; a "real" version of a character we've only experienced at the height of glamour. This is also the most human, and most talented, the former Baywatch actress has ever appeared on-screen.

   Connected tells the tale of Jackie (Anderson), an online fitness instructor whose value in life is measured by the followers she achieves on-line. Inevitably, these recede as she ages under the golden glow of an omnipresent screen. What can she do find a meaning in her life? To find a connection?

   The austere short is an interesting genesis of an idea which cleverly satirises our utopian beliefs in the power of the internet - a coda showing new age worship of a "connected" world wittily mocks the hippie/libertarian ideals upon which the world wide web was formed and its failed objectives to unite each of us under machines of loving grace. With Anderson as an aging beauty queen trapped in a cyber nightmare, the short feels very much like a character from Mulholland Drive transplanted into Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.

    The ploy for attracting an audience to the short - to witness the reinvention of Pamela Anderson - is also the most successful aspect of Connected.  Here, Anderson displays a complete lack of vanity: as she studies herself in the mirror, trying to understand the body which homes her mind, she prods at the wrinkles on her face and the loose skin around her stomach. This isn't the air-brushed version of Anderson from magazine covers - this, in a world of machines and superfice, is a real person and a reminder of how we are each slowly wasting away regardless of how we try to hide the fact. None of us will live forever, not even in machinery.

Asia House Film Festival Preview: Seoul Searching

Seoul Searching Movie Still
   This week was a particularly galling one for me as a Bradfordian, a movie lover and a supporter of all things cultural.

   A news report - which began with the announcement of my beloved National Media Museum voluntarily surrendering at least 400'000 historic photographs to a London-based institution (one without a specific remit to care for such treasures and one which had previously been caught dumping invaluable photographic archives in a skip) - soon spiraled into a tsunami of further upsetting developments.

   The former National Museum of Film, Photography and Television, we learnt, was potentially going to be re-branded with the new name of Science Museum North - an act of cultural vandalism and intellectual philistinism which highlighted the low regard the institution was held in by a board of trustees who largely considered it beneath them to visit "the regions".

   On a personal note, however, the most discouraging and disheartening acquiescence of the Media Museum came with the acknowledgement that Bradford International Film Festival had officially folded after what had initially been labelled as a year's sabbatical. As a local lad, one who had the pleasure of working on the final BIFF and discovering the joys of cinema at the festival for over a decade as an attendee, this was a cruel blow.

   Thankfully, however, the UK is currently in a golden period for film and festival programming - there are numerous institutions and individuals across the land who understand the cultural, educational, community and even commercial value in curating events around the moving image. Asia House are one great example of this.

    This year's Asia House Film Festival, show-casing a plethora of pan-Asian delights, shines spotlights on movies, and cultures we may otherwise never discover - this is invaluable. These films, however, don't just ask us to peer outwards, but to look inwards too. Whilst the pastoral opening gala movie Stranger (Zhat) confronted us with questions on what it is to be human, to be civilised, Seoul Searching - a John Hughes-esque comedy directed by Benson Lee - ponders the very nature of identity. As with all great teen films this is a movie about belonging, about coming to understand and accept one's self, and one which is smartly told as both a knockabout comedy and as a transnational meditation.

   Seoul Searching is partially based on a very true series of events. During the 1980s, the South Korean government created a summer camp programme for foreign born, ethnic Korean teenagers to return to the "motherland" in order to learn more about the nation's culture, heritage and Korean identity; perhaps they can discover a thing or two about themselves too over their stay? The initiative, we learn, was abandoned after two years due to the rowdiness and raucousness of the incoming teens.

   We meet the first camp class during the course of the film - the characters includes a straight-laced Berliner, a Madonna copycat, a racist military kid, a swaggering rebel who names himself after Sid Vicious and a Mexican womaniser. As we witness the group of teens interact with each other, loosening their social shyness with the help of Korean intoxicant soju, we begin to empathise both with the government who will halt the summer camp and, crucially, with each of the adolescents who populate the narrative. They may have been born all over the globe but the camp attendees are, ultimately, united by the hopes, fears and insecurities we all have as teens - their circumstances may be specific but their concerns are universal. Who hasn't struggled to express their romantic desires coherently during our younger years? Who hasn't done something embarrassing we may come to regret?

   Whilst the film may, superficially, initially appear to be not much more than an (admittedly highly enjoyable) culture-clash comedy in which decadent Westernised youths collide with their more conservative Korean seniors, Seoul Searching soon presents itself to be an incredibly smart and nuanced study of globalisation. That the film may may appear to be something of a simulacrum of American cinema (recalling fare such as Meatballs) is an intentional decision - this is a movie which highlights how ideas, culture, and even love, flow freely ignoring the constraints of nation-states' borders. As the youth learn more about their forefathers, and the Koreans who tend them begin to understand more about the wider world, the differences and similarities between the two cultures are highlighted and the two groups learn to co-exist in harmony. This is fitting for a hybrid film which appropriates American genre conventions whilst filling them with localised Korean concerns and issues - toxic masculinity, physical abuse and alcoholic dependency are recurring tropes in South Korean cinema and represented here too.

   During the early 1990s, Korean auteur Im Kwon-taek made his masterpiece Seopyeonje - an atmospheric movie about a traditional folk music form known as pansori. To the surprise of many, the movie became an unexpected smash and broke all South Korean cinema records. The reason why, scholars ultimately concluded, is that people like to discover themselves on-screen - this was a hyper-local production rooted in the Korean emotion of Han and dealing very much with Korean suffering. Yet, surprisingly, Seoul Searching fulfills a similar role for audiences as Im's film but does so in a completely different formal manner - here, American pop music replaces the melancholic vocalising of pansori, and questions of the Korean identity are addressed in context to their place in a globalised world rather than in isolation.

   The more one knows about Korean culture and history, the more one will understand and appreciate many of the references and occurrences within Seoul Searching - Claus the studious German-Korean, for example, draws parallels between his homeland's division with that of Korea's separation into two distinct countries. However, such knowledge is not a pre-requisite to enjoy a sweet coming-of-age feature - anybody who has ever faced the insecurity of teenage years will recognise themselves on-screen.


Official Coverage Credit: ASIA HOUSE FILM FESTIVAL takes place from 22 February to 5 March at London venues - 

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