By Ryan Pangilinan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Flipping through fashion magazines, it’s apparent that male Asian American
models aren’t very prevalent. There are the typical stereotypes that ac-company the stigma of being a male model — a thin, muscular body and usually, white skin. When there are ethnic models, they are usually Black.
This uneven balance provided by advertisers and fashion designers can create a problem for young API men. Not only are they seldom seen as models in the American market, but the lack of visibility can create a confusing sense of identity for an Asian male.
Go into any shopping mall in Seattle and the looks will vary from someone wearing baggy clothes that emulate the Hip Hop aesthetic to someone wearing designer clothes. There are also some who have closets full of polo-styled shirts, blazers, and form-fitting pants.
“Asian Americans are forced to negotiate treacherous fashion terrain when they set out to cultivate a personal style,” wrote an unnamed writer for GoldSea.com, a Web site that addresses social issues within the API community.
This particular column spurned several comments that began with responses in finding a style that generalizes the Asian American male’s look to people writing about their individual preferences.
“Being a 25-year-old Korean male, … I agree that it is difficult to find the clothes that fit you ‘just right,’” wrote a commenter. He went on to name urban brands that he favored and encouraged other Asian men to embrace their “sleek” physique. Of course, this particular look isn’t always going to work for everyone.
James Floresca, a 26-year-old Filipino American business student at the University of Washington, does not think he would benefit from wearing shirts that have “XL” on the tag.
Floresca’s personal fashion and outlook has less to do with bridging an ethnic connection (APIs and Hip Hop) and more to do with personal interests.
“[If] you are some investor attending a Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, my thoughts are [that] you probably won’t wear your baggy jeans, oversized T-shirt, and flipped-back cap,” said Floresca.
“Instead, you’ll probably go business casual,” he continued.
On a normal school day, Floresca can be seen wearing a non-descript polo shirt paired with clean denim pants or khakis. He’s a fairly clean-cut individual and sports a look that reflects his suburban upbringing.
“Dressing ‘preppy,’ as it was conveyed to me amongst my peers, was considered to be a positive thing in that I looked nice, neat, and professional,” he explained.
Though not every man can be expected to dress like Floresca or Chinese American rapper Jin (who does don the Hip Hop urban uniform), it’s clear that APIs do have cues from which to take their ideas for fashion styles — there’s just not a whole lot out there for Asian men to feel that they’re represented, which is a whole other issue.
Floresca is able to articulate a thought that is more of a reality for men in general: “I am not out there to make any sort of fashion statement,” he said. “For some, that is their thing ,and they have to display their flashy [and] stylish repertoire, and that is fine, but it’s not so crucial in my world.” (end)
Elements of this story came from “Fashion Quandary for Asian-American Men” on GoldStar.com.
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.