Shirtless Under A Suit: The Timothée Chalamet Effect

Mediacorp stars know an imitable styling idea when they see one. Applause?

Just a suit: (from left) Jarrell Huang, Desmond Tan, and Chung Kun Wah. Photos: #红星大奖2022/Instagram

By Lester Fang

It is hard to be the first. I mean to be a trend-setter. On the red carpet. At the Stars Awards. Okay, I am not going to censure what they wore last Sunday, but it is hard not to notice (or turn a blind eye to?) the trends that the clueless hosts pointed out or the fans of Mediacorp stars said they could make out. Most obvious among the guys, if you did not already detect, was going shirtless under a suit. That was so distinctly Timothée Chalamet at the Oscars last month that my first reaction—and second and third—was, “oh, no!” Could this be the reason why the annual Star Awards takes place after the Academy Awards—so that Mediacorp’s big and not-so-big names could get some sartorial ideas for their red carpet?

Local stars looking at what their Hollywood counterparts wear on the red carpet are like regular folks looking to influencers on social media to conduct their otherwise mundane lives: It happens. I am not sure, to be honest, how fashion-aware our TV stars really are (how did Elvin Ng [黄俊雄] go from last year’s Alexander McQueen to this year’s Versace is really beyond me). Or, how much they admire the style of Hollywood superstars that they feel confident enough to emulate them. Variety Tweeted shortly after the Oscars presentation, “no shirt, no problem, if your are Timothée Chalamet”. We are all aware there is no equivalent in Medicorp. There should not even be.

However, there they were: Baring their chest as Mr Chalamet did, but, reversely, in white. So excited with the prospect of seeing the barely exposed torso of everyone’s favourite actor and Bioskin Most Charismatic Artist awardee Desmond Tan (陈泂江)—shirtless under the Alexander McQueen neo-redingote with zips in front and the rear, where darts would normally be—that the highly excitable, rapid-talking co-host Seow Sin Nee (萧歆霓) squealed in delight: “我觉得你最吸引的大概是你的腹肌… 我看到了 (I feel that your most attractive [part] is probably your abdominal muscles… I see it)!” Whatever she did see, she was so gleefully pleased, it was as if she won a lottery. Unlike Mr Chalamet, Mr Tan was strategically buttoned up!

So were the other two shirtless ones: singer/songwriter Jarrell Huang (黄俊融) in a Q Menswear double-breasted, completed buttoned, and Yes 933 DJ Kenneth Chung (钟坤华) in one unnecessarily belted. They were not only covered, they were securely covered. They were in white too, as if the “colour of purity” could temper any suggestion of unwanted sexual inducement. This was, after all, family entertainment! And all of them had something in common too. Or, in common with Mr Chalamet: jewellery for the neck and sternum. Yes, if you follow suit (oops!), do so right down to the accessories. In the past, wearing a T-shirt under a blazer, as Xu Bin (徐彬) and Brandon Wong (黄炯耀) did, was considered too casual, even disrespectful. But last Sunday, just that simple extra layer was, for some, way too much.

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