What makes an Ah Beng an Ah Beng?

Mark Lee, Wang Weiliang serve up styling tips on how to look the part of this Singaporean icon

What makes an Ah Beng an Ah Beng?
What makes an Ah Beng an Ah Beng?
17 May 2016

What makes an Ah Beng an Ah Beng?

Photos: Camelia Ting, Zara Zhuang
Video: Teng Siew Eng, Kimberly Tay

Ah Bengs get a bad rap, from their unique fashion sense and bad-boy attitude to their mating call of smooching noises (watch the video below if you haven’t heard it before.) But classics never die: The beloved Ah Beng occupies a permanent spot in our hearts (and outside Orchard Cineleisure).

Certain elements of their look have evolved since the 90s — gone are the pagers, for one — so we roped in Mark Lee and Wang Weiliang, self-proclaimed second- and third-generation Ah Bengs respectively, to give us an update on what makes an Ah Beng an Ah Beng.

“The first generation were actual gangsters,” Mark says. “Those (trademark moves — the squatting, the kissing sound, etc.) have been passed down from one generation to the next, and until now there are still people doing those actions. But when these newbies appeared, they ruined the culture and traditions.”

Weiliang doesn’t agree. “What we’re doing is taking it to another level,” he says. “We’re reinventing Ah Beng culture.”

Read on to find out how Mark and Weiliang gave actor–model Kasimir Poh Cieslak a makeover on Double Trouble, transforming him into a contemporary Ah Beng.

The look: moody monochromes and clashing colours
The look: moody monochromes and clashing colours
17 May 2016

The look: moody monochromes and clashing colours

Mark called Kasimir “a young fellow with an old-fashioned taste in clothes,” so he set out to update the 25-year-old’s image with the old-school Ah Beng technique of using clashing colours, pairing blue with pumpkin to create an outfit that won Weiliang’s approval.

“In the past we had to have pink with purple or pink with blue — very striking colours — as if we were afraid people would miss us,” Mark says. “So when a group of us Ah Bengs crossed the road, (drivers) would run red lights because they couldn’t tell all the colours apart — it’s true!”

According to Weiliang, Ah Bengs these days are heavily influenced by hip-hop culture and tend to favour darker colours, a monochrome palette and a grungier look, with looser, bigger tops and skinny jeans.

The look: hairstyle
The look: hairstyle
17 May 2016

The look: hairstyle

Gone are the frosted tips, zebra stripes, Armani and gelled ‘currypok’ of yore. These days it seems the ‘in’ look is the undercut, which Kasimir gamely submitted to in the middle of the Ang Mo Kio heartlands.

Though it looked like Weiliang was about to ruin Kasimir’s hair forever when he took a stab at it with an electric shaver, a professional was on hand to step in and finish the job.

And not having to poof up a sky-high pompadour doesn’t mean no styling was involved. Replacing Good Look styling gel with pomade would bring tools into the 21st century, and the need for frequent touch-ups might keep that plastic rat-tail comb relevant.  

The look: accessories, shoes
The look: accessories, shoes
17 May 2016

The look: accessories, shoes

The slippers and sandals have been replaced with covered shoes, Weiliang says, so he picked out a pair of loafers to complement the updated Ah Beng look. Meanwhile, Mark selected chains and bracelets that he felt the youthful crowd fancied. “He looks different and much younger,” he says of the madeover Kasimir.

The body language
The body language
17 May 2016

The body language

No introduction to Ah Beng culture is complete without a segment on comportment. Mark and Weiliang explained the intricacies of squatting and demonstrated the telltale kissing sounds on an unfortunate production assistant.

“When we see pretty girls we make that ‘tzup tzup’ sound and they turn around — those are techniques we use to get their attention,” Mark says. “They’ll act annoyed, but at least we stand a chance.”

The essence
The essence
17 May 2016

The essence

In the end, it all comes down to the right attitude. “No matter what they wear, as long as they have that attitude, they’re Ah Beng,” Weiliang says.

“Everything about me is Ah Beng, down to the way I talk. Sometimes it’s not that I’m being rude, I’m more straightforward and people think I’m being an Ah Beng when I’m just being myself.”

Mark adds: “To quote an old Ah Beng from Taiwan, (television host and singer) Jacky Wu, ‘Wherever I stand, that’s where the centre is.’ So it doesn’t matter what we wear.”

Find out more about Double Trouble here.

Catch a new episode of Double Trouble for free every Monday to Friday here or binge-watch the entire series by subscribing to Toggle Prime.

Catch up on previous Toggle Originals series A Selfie’s Tale and Run Rachael Run.

WATCH: 
Ah Bengs then vs. now: Mark Lee, Wang Weiliang explain

Related:
Mark Lee and Kumar: Double the trouble, double the fun
METHOD ACTING: Stepping into another’s shoes 

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