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Homme invasion of the wardrobe
by Kezia Toh

To stem her husband's tide of new clothing purchases, Ms Suriati Sukor periodically rotates his clothing stacks in their shared closet.

"I put the clothes where he can see them, so he will stop buying new clothes," says the housewife, 45.

Her husband, Mohammad Nazri Asnawi, 34, sheepishly agrees. "If not, I will forget I have them, and when I am out and I see something that catches my eye, I'll 'top up' my collection," he says.

Mr Nazri, who runs his own recruitment business, takes up about about 80 per cent of their closet space with his jackets, shirts, jeans and football jerseys; leaving the rest for Ms Suriati's staple of jeans, blouses and baju kurung.

Their shoes also do the talking: Mr Nazri's sneakers and leather shoes take up four shoe racks, while

Ms Suriati has just one outside their three-room Housing Board flat.

He also has a fondness for sunglasses, with eight pairs of Oakley shades that cost between $140 and $280, while his wife owns a $140 pair.

It seems that the men do get it - in the fashion department, at least.

Some men are taking up more wardrobe space and dwarfing their wives' collection, saying they wish to look good and create a good impression at the workplace.

Other reasons for burgeoning closets include the male tendency to buy clothes in bulk when something fits and the popularity of male style icons, such as David Beckham and Kanye West, who strike the balance between being fashionable and macho.

Heightened vanity is all too evident with

Ms Suriati's two teenage sons, aged 16 and 19. "They look in the mirror more than I do," she says.

It seems like the wives must now keep up with their husbands' sense of fashion, says Ms Joanna Lin, 32.

The housewife is married to Mr Lambert Chen, 28, who runs his own leather manufacturing, diamonds and F&B businesses, and counts upmarket brands such as Hugo Boss and Ermenegildo Zegna among his favourite brands. The pair have a four-month-old daughter and live in a semi-detached house.

Ms Lin, who usually buys dresses from blogshops, says: "He gets more excited when he dresses up and goes out, so I may have to buck up."

Mr Chen takes up about twice as much closet space as she does, partly due to the fact that Ms Lin frequently clears out her wardrobe to pass on items to relatives or donate them to the Salvation Army, while he hoards his clothes, "hoping some would come back into fashion someday", he says.

On twice-yearly trips to Bangkok, Mr Chen also splashes about $5,000 on up to 40 shirts and 30 suits from a tailor for a bulk discount.

"My wife complains all the time about how my clothes look similar, and tells me to get rid of some," says Mr Chen. But he says he enjoys dressing up with the array of colours and patterns, such as different collars, pleats and cuffs.

Men are becoming increasingly vain as the use of social media explodes, he adds.

"Everyone is taking pictures and videos to upload, which everyone else sees, so there is an additional sense of image building," he explains.

Because of this, gone are the days when one can walk down Orchard Road in a T-shirt and slippers, he adds.

This sentiment holds true for auditor David Yang, 28, who says that, particularly when one works in the finance line, "first impressions count".

It is important for him to buy a wardrobe of corporate wear - in addition to casual staples he already owns - while his wife, packaging designer Eunice Ho, 28, makes do with casual basics that can flit from work to leisure. The couple, who are expecting their first child, live in an HDB maisonette.

Mr Yang takes up about 70 per cent of the couple's shared closet. In it, he packs 25 shirts and nine suits from his favourite brands such as Raoul and Ted Baker, while Ms Ho fills the remaining space with her tops and jeans from brands such as Massimo Dutti.

He spends about $5,000 a year on clothes and accessories, which is double her expenditure.

With his bonus each year, Mr Yang buys a luxury watch. He now owns six from brands such as Omega, Panerai and Bell & Ross, worth about $17,000 in total; while Ms Ho owns one Tissot timepiece, bought in 2011 for about $300.

Meanwhile, service executive Mohammad Suhaimi Mohammad Suadi Ong, 34, takes fashion one step further by occupying a portable canvas zip-up closet which he places in the hall, in addition to taking up half of the closet space he shares with his wife, assistant manager Nizah Hamid, 35. Mum and dad to a six-year-old girl, they live in a five-room HDB flat.

Ms Nizah says she grudgingly agreed to the spare wardrobe, so long as it was portable, so it could be kept out of sight when they have guests.

"He is very hiao, but I'm okay since it is his own money he is spending anyway," she says, using the Hokkien term for vain. He spends about $200 a month on clothes, as compared to her $150.

Competing wardrobe space seldom escalates into full-scale drama, couples say, but it could create some conflict.

Mr Nazri, for example, believes his wife dumped a vintage shirt last December, a nostalgic find from Bugis Village that caught his eye. His wife told him she could not remember where it went.

Generally, men are getting more aware of style choices, says style services manager Lani Chan of Club 21 Style Services. "Male style icons such as David Beckham, Kanye West and Jay Z are people who are into fashion but still quite macho," says Ms Chan.

As men are creatures of comfort, when they find something that fits, they will buy multiple pieces in the same style but in different colours, which may account for the increasing storage space needed, she adds.

Still, the men's love for fashion sometimes takes their wives by surprise. Says Ms Lin: "Only after we got together and when the deal was sealed, did I realise how vain he is. I was shocked the first time by how much clothes he has and how he loves to dress up.

"But he looks good, so I'm happy too, and he is my fashion consultant sometimes."

This article was first published on May 25, 2014.
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