We chat with one of Australia’s most stylish menswear Instagrammers, Nami Man.
Looking at his Instagram, you’d never guess that behind the brooding stares, tattoos, and veil of high saturation filters, Namha “Nami Man” Nguyen is pretty chill.
For his 23K followers, Nami’s appeal lies in the way he expresses his life through style: from his custom charcoal jackets, to his Vans that pay homage to his love for skating. And lets not even get started on the tattoos created by his close friend Alison Manners.
Despite his stylistic pedigree, in the graffiti-covered room of Easey’s with rap rolling through the speakers and cheese burgers dripping onto paper plates, Nami slouches with casual ease as he takes us through his early forays in fashion – from high school skater boy to modern menswear icon.
Sharon: So how did you get into menswear?
Nami: I’ve really been into menswear since Brisbane. Growing up, I’ve always had this thing where you know, guys are wanting to look for something fresh; look for something different to really express themselves. And it’s how you show it and express it. For example, I was really into tennis and skating back then and everything I do, everywhere I am, I’m trying to express it in who I am.
Naturally, when you start exploring the sartorial side of fashion, it comes across like there are so many boundaries, there’s so many things you can’t do; you can’t this, you can’t do that. It’s cool when you’re first getting into that world, learning about why certain things are the way they are. But coming out of that, you just go, ‘You know what, I’m going to fuck with this.’
So rules are made to be broken?
Yeah exactly; you just do your own thing; you just interpret it. In Brisbane, I was wearing things that still expressed myself, but they didn’t quite feel ‘me’ yet, you know? They still felt good and stuff, but I think Melbourne really lets you try. When you’re walking around town, everyone just does their own thing, the biggest thing is when you can see that personality in just their whole vibe. Once you find that sweet spot of yours, you just kill it.
Aaron [Cheung] and I were just talking about basketball yesterday, maybe we should have a shoot. You’d be like the OG in the corner, smoking, like ‘I don’t want to play.’
My mum’s actually called me, like ‘Why you gotta keep smoking in your photos?’ When I was younger, Mum was hammering into my head that when you go out, people are going to put labels on you. So you can’t dress a certain way. I didn’t tell her about my tattoos till about two years ago, and she only saw because I accidentally forgot to put my Facebook profile pics on private!
There’s that appeal, you know what I mean? Bringing back the old smoking jacket idea. Would you say you’ve incorporated skating culture into how you dress?
From an early age, I was BMX-ing a lot, I was skating a lot, and at that time, we were living out at Ipswich. I was the only Asian in my school, so I was really heavy into grunge and skating, and the music I was listening to was Slipknot and things like that.
Did you experience a lot of racism back then?
A little bit. But thankfully, I just don’t feel like I bring much trouble. I just embraced what it was, and let people decide whether they want to stir trouble or not.
I was skating a lot in my early stages at school, I was never really an academic sort. I’d skate at one school, catch a train to another school, and slip in during closing time, and go to skate parks at night. It was just being free. Doing what you like, and I think that’s why I’ve always been really drawn to the skate culture.
I’m a very different person now, but skating will always be an important part of me, and I’ll always love that. That’s why I’ll always do it on my days off, letting me think and just digest everything around me. I love putting it into something tangible.
Why did you move down from Brisbane to Melbourne?
Just a change. I was born in Brisbane – been there my whole life, but I travelled around and I’ve always come down to Melbourne, just as an easy getaway sort of thing you know. So I quit my job; I was just desperate to get to Melbourne. Melbourne is just really inspiring for me, [it’s] got those little pockets everywhere, you can jump suburbs and get a different vibe, with different people.
Do you miss Brisbane now that you’re here?
I guess I just needed something different, something to spark, and do something. So that’s what brought me here. During my first week, I ran into Christian Kimber at Harrolds, looking for some loafers. Christian was working with Henry Bucks doing creative and things like that. But he said ‘Hey, you look like you’re into menswear, did you want to grab a coffee?’ And just like that we became good friends.
Would you say this is your personal approach to suiting?
I like to look at someone’s general vibe, posture, their stance, in addition to their general build, to find their right style. Aaron [Cheung], for example, holds himself in a certain way – Homie [Yang] is very similar; they have this sort of slouch, and a relaxed feel about them. But Steve [Calder] does more of a polished look; you think of him more in a tuxedo. He’s got that presence about him. That stance.
And that’s what I really love about fashion, [the rules are] not easily written down on paper that you can just read. It’s about the eye, it’s about the lifestyle. And you know if you wear something, the best thing is when I don’t even know what it is, but I’m just like, ‘That’s freaking mad.’ It’s the thing that you’ve done that no one else can pick up.
Brands don’t seem to be such a big thing for you. Would you say that’s another philosophy on style that you’ve continued to believe in?
Absolutely, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love luxury items.
[laughs] But for me, it’s not all about that. I like pieces that do something special for me. I buy Vans, which are sometimes just forty bucks, but it’ll make me feel the same way as when I wear my Margielas, you know? It’s the same thing. It’s about how it makes me feel. I like being able to mix and match things I think it has influenced me a lot, and things like that have kept me a little more grounded instead of flying off and being so consumed with luxury items, high ticket prices, and going, ‘Okay, if I’m wearing this $5000 jacket, then I must present well.’ But it’s not like that at all, you can get a $10,000 jacket, and it’ll still look like shit. I don’t appreciate that at all, I’ll appreciate a $50 jacket more if you rocked it.
In trying to ground yourself through your clothing and expression, do you think that you’ve really found your style?
I don’t think I ever will; it’s an ongoing thing, and the more I head into another area of my life, there’s more I’ll need to understand as well. And I’m looking forward to going grey and things like that! Another thing I can go, ‘Yea, I’ll have a go and try to work a new look.’ It’s really nice when you look at someone who just has this cool about them that you can’t replicate.
Charcoal Jacket — Grandpa
Shirt — Strateas Carlucci
Cap — Vans
Sneakers — Vans
(additional photo credits: Karen Woo)
Special Thanks to the crew at Easey’s, Collingwood for the space and the burgers.