Boys and Their Toys
Will Wiriawan, WEEKENDER | Fri, 01/06/2012 1:55 PM |
Men are often defined by their work, but they reveal their true selves in play.
It’s a fine line that separates obsession from hobby, passion and identity. We are characterized by both curiosity and habit; we are social beings who wish to create, craft and explore, regardless of gender, race or culture.
“There is no separation between male or female when it comes to hobbies and obsessions,” says Dr. Eric Santosa, a resident psychology expert at the Center for Creative Economic Studies, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia in Jakarta.
“But men have more social privileges in pursuing their toys than women have with their passions. Indonesian women are communally bound by norms and traditions whereas men are untethered, thus creating a social phenomenon of the boys’ toys, and the girl talks.”
The toys we choose are an expression of our identity, and a means to boost our feelings of security.
“Economic success builds upon one’s state of cravings and insecurity. If you are at peace with yourself, anywhere, anytime, can be home to you, you don’t need a crown to make you a king,” Eric says.
“On the other hand, many people, men especially, need their crowns to make them feel like a king of their own tiny kingdom, and his toys are the crowns.”
So where are the Indonesian men of today choosing to make their kingdoms?
During his youth in Switzerland, Marco Sutedja was on his school ski team, perhaps the only Asian to enjoy such thrills in his school’s history. Yet, despite his global travels – or perhaps because of them – he developed a fear of flying. Today, the farthest he will travel from his Jakarta home is to Belitung, where his family hails from.
Marco, 35, lives with his wife, Weni, and their two children: River, a bubbly four-year-old boy, and Zoe, a 12-month-old girl. They also have a menagerie of pets that includes tortoises and snakes.
Marco has another passion at home: Movies.
It began when he watched the Stanley Kubrick classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“That film triggered my passion for movies,” he says of a journey that began by browsing catalogues, library collections and reading movie reviews.
“My real passion is classic black-and-white films,” he says, showing shelves of neatly stacked disks and a veritable library of movie guides, reviews and articles. “I organize them by directors and releases, alphabetically ordered, so I know exactly how to find any film I want.”
For a movie geek like him, he says, Jakarta is the ideal home.
“I don’t go out much, so I can dedicate more time to watching my collections. Before I was married, there were a good few years when I didn’t go out at all and watched two to three movies in one day.”
Now, with two kids and no nanny, Marco screens about two to three movies in a week.
Film is not his only passion. He also collects electric guitars and action figures.
“I’m a big fan of obsessive details. Like movies, these guitars and action figures are made by hand with perfection in mind,” he says. “There were times where I would spend hours and days listening to music and I feel the passion flowing through myself. I feel the same joy when I observe these little action figures: they’re so detailed and carefully crafted that they are as expressive as a movie can be.”
Driven to Collect
The modern world is full of hobbies and collectibles offering men enjoyable ways to help pass the time. And fast cars, of course, are a natural fit.
General Motors began operations in Indonesia at the end of the 1920s. One of the company’s most popular products was the Chevy sedan, now considered a classic.
“Seventy-five years later, GM still produces spare parts and supplies for the Chevy classic,” says Hartawan Setjodiningrat, or Hauwke, the adviser and former president of the Association of Classic Car Owners Indonesia. “That’s how they have garnered affection from restorers and collectors across the country today.”
Hauwke developed his passion for classic cars in a roundabout way. He left Java to Australia to study, landing his first job as an engineer in a car supply manufacturer. Returning home in the mid-1970s, he met his future wife.
“My wife and I never had a honeymoon because I spent so much time hunting for old vehicles. It was difficult for her to accept my passion at the beginning.”
Things changed when Hauwke was interviewed for a newspaper article and was asked if his wife was supportive of his passion. Upon reading his joking response of “No, she is jealous of my cars”, his wife changed her view of her husband’s hobby.
With the help of his youngest son, Hauwke has opened his garage-cum-auto gallery to the public, income from which helps them maintain it. He also rents out the facility and his collection of about 100 vehicles to filmmakers, producers and photographers.
“We are not collectors, but proud restorers and drivers of these magnificent vehicles. Restoring a vehicle brings to life what was left behind, and there’s no beauty more true than a resurrected piece of art fused with engineering,” Hauwke says.
“They don’t make cars like them anymore – now it’s all mass-produced, low-cost products, but then, everything was carefully crafted, with real materials and assembled by hand even though machines were involved.”
Members of his classic car club share this view.
“There’s something about cars that never change, and that is the driver. We are drivers first, restorers second and collectors last,” says one enthusiast who asked not to be identified.
“We build and rebuild the cars to be driven, not to be prized and polished in the garage like some people would do. We build, restore and maintain these classic machines not to raise but lower our status, to keep our feet on the ground. It’s a journey of passion, not economy.”
Ronald is a newlywed working as a designer at a local bistro. His father, a career official with one of the country’s largest state-owned enterprises and now semi-retired, is the inspiration for Ronald’s passion.
For the 27-year-old, the clothes make the man.
“I was a hip-hop kid growing up with a classically stylish dad,” Ronald says. “I had a dream one night, and an image came to me strongly the next morning. That’s how Brillington came to be.”
“Brillington” is his new venture, Brillington & Brothers, an emerging label that sells classic menswear. “I never noticed it until then, but my father was my inspiration.”
He discovered treasures in his father’s closet.
“My dad still has the first suit he ever bought, and since I am now pretty much his size, I inherited some of my dad’s most prized pants, jackets, cufflinks and shoes.”
Thus began his entry to the world of men’s classic fashion.
He scouted for suppliers, tailors and leather artisans, and, to his surprise, found some of the best talent in the business not far from home.
“It is very unlikely to find a leather artisan in a place like Jakarta, but as it turned out, it is harder to find a tailor that understands the style and cut that fit our demographic,” he says.
“Thanks to the Dutch, suits and formal wear in Indonesia have been largely influenced by the early central European style, primarily identifiable from its strong use of shoulder pad and its commanding posture,” he explains.
“But since the high-end market is dominated by Italian materials, more and more modern suits are tailored to the customer’s desire of slim-looking Italian cuts, which are nearly impossible to adapt for Indonesian men. Italians are lean and slim, whereas we are wider and broad-chested by nature, rendering slim cut unsuitable for our style.”