June 24, 2011 10:03 pm

When a man needs a Borat mankini

Living in boiling Singapore, should one stick to a certain standard of elegance with tie and jacket or just go for personal comfort?

Sir David Tang, founder of ICorrect, globetrotter, and the man about too many towns to mention, divides his time between homes in Hong Kong, mainland China and London. Here he invites readers’ queries for his advice on property, interiors, etiquette at home (wherever you live), parties and anything else that may be bothering you.

I am from an “old money” family. However, our financial fortune and therefore social standing has been in decline for several decades now. People with a similar predicament seem to be somewhat of a fixture in the UK, and they often seem to become highly eccentric as a result. Any advice?

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Wouldn’t anyone become highly eccentric as a result of a dwindling fortune? I am afraid that there has been a decline of the aristocracy and gentry in Britain owing to their snobbish aversion to commercialese. But the anciens pauvres have finally come to realise that the two nastiest words in the English language are “negative cashflow” – perhaps closely followed by the unpleasantest invention of our modern age, the window envelope. But it’s too late for most to appreciate that the nouveaux riches now rule the waves. Fortunes lost are seldom recovered unless you are a true refugee. The trouble with Britain is that it has never lost a war, and therefore, her DNA lacks that fighting refugee syndrome. Little wonder that they never had it so good; and now they never have it so bad!

I have arranged a surprise party for my husband’s notable birthday at Blakes Hotel. The deliberation is dress code. You recently penned an interesting article on colour and referenced the hotel. My question is, can a dress code be a colour not a formality, and would this skew the politics of the evening?

It’s pretentious and pathetic to have a colour theme as dress code. Nothing more unimaginative than to see a room full of people dressed uniformly in one colour – unless one is in Pyongyang watching Arirang, the performance of mass gymnastics. In any event, if you want your party to be a surprise for your husband, he would indeed be surprised if he turned up in clothes whose colour was distinctly different from everyone else’s. If you are taking over the restaurant at Blakes, go for black tie in order to morph with the black-and-white floor tiles, thereby not disturbing the punctuating napkins in vermilion, beloved by Lady Weinberg.

When it comes to small children in restaurants, I hear that London and Nordic countries are pretty relaxed but not Paris or New York. (In Tokyo, you cannot go to nice restaurants with small children, and if you want to rent a nice villa in Okinawa, children under 13 are not allowed but pets are OK.) The question is, should one respect these attitudes or ignore them?

I have a home in London where children, pets and loud music are banned, which is occasionally rather blissful – like reading a poem on quietude by Edward Thomas. But restaurant-goers in London or New York or Paris need to see and be seen, and the presence of children would form a distraction. I am, however, not surprised that in Nordic countries restaurants are rather relaxed about small children – since hardly anything happens in those countries, and there seems to be an urge to make up the numbers, and have something to do like pushing a pram around.

I just moved from Hong Kong to boiling Singapore a couple of weeks ago. I like dressing up when going to the office but it seems that this is not customary here. Personal comfort and practicality is preferred to dapperness, at least for men. Should I stick to a certain standard of elegance with tie and jacket or should I just forfeit and blend in with the crowd?

Singapore is the cradle of climatic tedium of boiling temperature and dripping humidity. But the worst is the freezing conditions of the interiors created by all the air-conditioners that drone on like a chorus of fishwives. So if you live on that island, you oscillate between two extreme temperate zones. The only thing I can suggest is that every morning, you should first think about whether you are going to spend more time in or out. If in, then wear a suit and a tie. But if you are out most of the time, it might be more suitable for you to put on a pair of speedos or a Borat mankini.

E-mail questions to david.tang@ft.com

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