Undercover: A Day Being a H.A.M. (a Hot Ass Mess) | By Louis Nguyen

Most of my friends know me as a very trendy and fashionable guy. I would never dress down even if my life depended on it. I guess when you respect yourself, the world respects you back. A few days ago, a random thought went through my head: “What if I dress like a sloppy mess today?” And so, I carried my plan out just to see how significantly my world changed.

Waking up in the morning, I proceed with my morning ritual of showering, brushing my teeth and getting ready. The first exception is that I will not put on my nauseously strong Hermes cologne today. Then, I hastily dry off my hair without putting the daily essential Moroccan oil or curling it into my usual wavy style. I grab an old cap that looks like it was probably made during World War II to tuck my salon-quality platinum hair in. I want people to assume that I am a typical Asian nerd with no life. Clothing choice is simple: first, I pick a plain black shirt and cover it with an old green fleece hoodie that my dad had ditched in 2005. Then, I throw on an old pair of faded straight-legged jeans that I bought at a local thrift store for 5 dollars just for this purpose (the jeans now have been donated to a nearby clothing bank). Next I put on a black pair of no-name leather walking shoes borrowed from my grand-uncle that look like they have no business on non-retired people. I also have to leave my yellow diamond ring, stud earing, and my fancy watches at home; “got to look very nerdy,” I remind myself. I even have to trade my designer glasses for some contacts. FYI, I hate them!

“I look so re-damn-diculous,” I think to myself, “What the fuck am I doing?” However, I convince myself to follow through and just like that, I’m heading to the U of A.

I sneak into a random class in CCIS at 11:55 am. The class has not yet started but most of the students are there. I walk sheepishly to the front where a row of young, beautiful girls are chatting and laughing. Seeing an unoccupied chair, I ask one of them awkwardly: “May I sit here, Miss?” She stares at me, rolls her eyes like a cinnamon twist, puts her bags on the empty chair and replies: “No”. Others stare me down with absolutely no compassion. In their mind, it must have been: “What a freak!” Mind you, I normally always sit in the front row of any classes. The difference: I just walk in and throw my exclusive-New York-collection-Coach-duffle-bag-that-you-can’t-find-anywhere and most people just drift away giving me the space I want. Disappointedly, I retreat to the back of the class. Fifty minutes pass like torture in this random 200-level Biology class, in which I even answer a few questions just to kill time.

When it’s over, I head to CAB’s Starbucks to grab a coffee. I need my daily “grande half-sweet, extra hot, extra foam, caramel latte with a shot of espresso and soy milk” after this tough morning. Normally, the staff would be very attentive to me, telling me jokes or being extra friendly mostly because their big boss is my next-door neighbor. But today is different. I do not think they even recognize me at all. The employees are cold as ice and a bit annoyed with my usual order. They actually pour in 2% milk instead of soy and even scold me with some attitudes when I complain. Let me tell you, it is so not easy for me to get the right order at all. I pull my Louis Vuitton Porte Valeurs Organizer wallet out to pay for my drink and I instantly realize the wallet sticks out as a sore thumb in comparison to my entire get-up. I can tell some folks are surprised and the words “fake shit” must have been floating around in their heads.

With my coffee in hand, I head to Rutherford South to study. I never really study in there. Mostly, it is either too crowded or too quiet and I hate those uncomfortable wooden chairs. I know I can’t go to SUB because my friends would blow my cover away and probably be confused as fuck by what I’m wearing. Managing to find a table in the common space, I sit down and begin to pull out my notes for an upcoming mid-term. As I study for 15 minutes, I begin to feel uneasy. I look up and many eyes are on me. Frankly, I am used to this because I normally do wear over-priced stuff and people often stare at me with either admiration or jealousy. Today, it is filled with some sort of condescending attitudes like “what a geek!” or “did he get that fleece hoodie from his grandfather?” or “who dresses him? The 19th century?”

And surprisingly, most of those eyes belong to “my own people” if you know what I mean. I then just pack up and leave, having enough of my time there.

As I walk back to my car, I also feel very weird. Normally when I walk around campus, people give me some sincere, heart-warming smiles for no damn reason. When people look at me in the eyes, I look back at them, and they tend to look away. Today, they seem to glance at me viciously and I am the one constantly looking on the ground to avoid them. I feel as if I am starring in college-edition of a 2012 Mean Girls and no, I did not have lunch in a toilet stall.

Am I just being too sensitive because I do not look my normal self? Are those behaviors I observed real or just the products of my active imagination due to low self-esteem? Am I just really an asshole when I dress nice and exude an overconfident attitude that either makes people avoid me or be nice to me? I really do not know! But what I do know is that when I’m walking around with my shades, designer bags and shoes in my fancy clothes and hair, people definitely seem to be nicer. I guess life is indeed all about being H.A.M, either: Hard As a Motherfucker or a Hot Ass Mess. Honestly, I prefer the former than the latter. Call me a narcissist if you will but it is just what it is!

Note from the admin: A few comments have been unapproved at the moderator’s discretion as they detail personal information.

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  • Sydney

    This IS conceited, but in the best way possible.
    See, normal Louis puts on his fly-ass clothes and feels fabulous, acts fantastic, and his positive and strong attitude towards himself is reflected back to him in the way others treat him. He looks good, he feels good, and people respond to this. Take the man out of his element, and he doesn’t feel so good and the world around him changes.

    For Louis its designer duds, for someone else it might be good hair, or the perfect cup of coffee, or getting 8 hrs of sleep!

    • Jessica Macumber

      I totally get what you are saying Sydney and it’s a really positive way to interpret this article. Unfortunately for the students who read this that can’t afford all his “fly-ass clothes” it is a pretty blatant statement that people are judging them and that Louis is one of the people doing that judging.

      This isn’t the first elitist sounding article from the Wanderer and it is really unfortunate that such a great platform for student expression is being used to confirm the fears people have about being criticized by their peers.

      Maybe I am knee-jerk reacting to this. I do understand the intention wasn’t bad but it was a bit ignorant and I think that needs to be said.

  • Louis McQueen

    People judge an no matter who you are. If you say you don’t, you lie!
    Also, this was not written with the purpose of being offensive but to be opinionated, honest, and real.
    It does not have to be about clothes, shoes or just get-ups. It’s about everything you do in life. Others will try to look down on you and you will also try to look down others.
    This is my experiment about how people treating others who they are perceived as inferiors and this is just one of the scenarios.

    Maybe next time, I’ll go undercover as the dumbest guy possible in the bed dress up an post story and about being dumb for a day. Go on over-heard at the U, people are merciless when it comes to that.

    • Jessica Macumber

      This could have been a really interesting and positive article about self esteem, social anxiety, or the embodiment of societal pressures. Consider Foucault’s theory of panopticism, which is really well represented in your discomfort and feeling of being watched by everyone. I don’t know if writing articles trying to prove that people are judgemental is what you are intending to do but I think your experiments could be explored a bit deeper if you wanted to and you could write a really substantial article.

  • Franklin

    Leather shoes, jeans, and layers is about as put together as most people get. Your feelings of being judged are all in your head. If you want to look like the real Hypothetical Ancestral Mollusc you’d need to break out the sweats, sneakers, and t-shirts. Your standard of a hot mess is at best wrong and at worst offensive to a lot of people. And who would have cared enough to judge the “nobody” that you were trying to be?

    You set out to find out how people treat others based on looks but I think you failed at that. What you ended up doing was realizing your own insecurities. If that was your intention from the beginning I would have actually appreciated this article.

    • Alfie

      Here here! Insecure to the max. I’m pretty sure by the time you’re out of high school and a few years into uni you should recognize that a person should not be judged solely by what they wear, unless that’s the only thing they bring to the table.

      Also, your cologne is “nauseatingly strong” not “nauseously strong. ” You should have someone edit your work before it is posted.

  • Longbow

    ahh…and your point?

  • Louis McQueen

    My point… I’m comfortable being who I am.

    Also, the world is a cruel, cruel place, sometimes you just have to be cruel. As superficial as it may be, it proves that nice people end up last in the society. I’m very arrogant, calculated and even cut-throat when it comes to living life an my article is exactly the way I feel.

    As much as I appreciate the comments, I know the article is really intense but I would never change it any other way. I guess this is why I write for theWand, I want to showcase my own take in life on my article.

    But thank you for all the constructive criticism. I appreciate them all.

  • Nancy K.

    I think this is a very interesting read. It is certainly opinionated and yes, it is extremely arrogant. However, I really don’t think it is ignorant though. I do agree with some of what being said here. I think people all have insecurities and it is not that any one can shine a light on that. People tend to treat those who are not as polished as they are as being inferior. I’m sure many of us may have seen and experienced that in our own lives before. And it took real work and time to do what he did: went out, dressed up and all that. But to be doing all that at the same time is very extreme though.

    With all that being said, I can tell if I meet Louis in real life, he probably would make feel really intimidating to talk to. Like one of those Upper East Siders in Gossip Girl who is so rich and fabulous, it’s scary! Now it sounds like I’m being judgmental.

  • BK


    I absolutely loved the narrative here, if I didn’t know you better I would think you were an English student. Very creative and flamboyant article, and I would expect nothing less from yourself. I really appreciate that The Wand has you on board as one of their writers as you have a perspective I don’t get to read very often, even if I don’t always neccessarily agree with you. I like how compared to the articles of your colleaugues in The Wand, your articles stand out in that they read like fictional narratives.

    This article had me laughing off of my chair keep coming out with the good work! I want to inform any of your readers who have not had the pleasure of meeting you that you are in fact just as larger than life and eccentric as this article implies. Can’t wait for the next article!


    • Alfie

      An english major with the grammatical sense and spelling ability of a high school dropout?

  • Anon

    I must admit, the first paragraph vaguely reminded me of the chapter-long descriptions of Bateman’s grooming routine in American Psycho. Hope that wasn’t what you were going for, Louis…

    • Anon

      Sorry, *second paragraph.

  • Pee K

    Dearest Louis Nguyen:

    I understand the terms and conditions of divulging any personal information. So, this is my re-hash of what was previously stated, which now conforms to the rules.

    Please take this comment seriously and personally, as it is undoubtedly constructive for both your sense of fashion and your sense of who you are as a person.

    I will begin to break your article down paragraph by paragraph, so you may be able to see my infallible logic as to why this article needs to be taken down from the Wanderer; for it puts our university (and respective students) at risk for being labeled superficial, vain, and condescending. I have never commented on any article on the Wanderer previously, but this article is so full of what is wrong with the world that I just had to break my silence.

    Ok, the breakdown:

    1st and 2nd paragraph-

    You wake up one day and decided to yourself that you would dress to look like, well, any REGULAR archetypical student who attends any university: black shirt, green hoodie, jeans, leather shoes (you should have gone with regular sneakers), and no jewelry.
    Think about that. This is what the majority of students wear, and within the first few hundred words, you’ve managed to make it sound like they are sub-human savages who have no business walking around in public. Yes, clothing choice may be simple, but it is more than appropriate for an institution of learning.

    Let me pull out a quote:
    “I look so re-damn-diculous,” I think to myself, “What the fuck am I doing?”

    Do you look ridiculous (you spelled “rediculous” wrong, by the way)? What do you mean here? Are you insinuating that anyone who chooses to dress like this out of choice or financial pressure is deserving of ridicule? Take a moment to empathize with a poor international student who had to buy a new black shirt from GoodWill for the sake of having enough money to feed himself during the coming week. Does the way his wardrobe is empty for the sake of something in the pantry bring up a humorous feeling?

    4th paragraph-

    You sneak into a random class to play out your experiment (which now, to me, is Louis’s attempt at walking in someone else’s shoes). You ask a girl whether you can sit beside her. By the simple act of asking, you are acknowledging that you would like her permission to sit beside her. She has two legitimate options: yes or no. Choosing the latter does not necessarily mean that she hates you or the way you look, it just entertains the possibility that she may have been saving that seat for a friend. Maybe even a boyfriend, for which her eye-rolling and less-than-compassionate “No” would have been understandable. Other people were probably looking at you with no compassion because, well, quite frankly, you needed no compassion. Being turned down from sitting beside a random person is quite a common occurrence. It’s not like she slapped you in the face and called you fat, right?

    More differences could have been that maybe when you walked into a class wearing the fashionable stuff you usually wear, you felt so entitled to a seat at the front of the classroom that you would never bother to ask anyone’s permission to sit.

    Good experimentation parameters would have dictated that you ask the next person along the front row for a seat. Maybe he/she would have gladly obliged, don’t you think?

    Sadly, here’s where we peer into your psyche. It concerns me that after one failed try, you feel that people think you’re a freak and retreat to the back. Given that we’ve established that they really didn’t care, it was you who thought of yourself as a freak and you who sent yourself to the back of the room, solely based on the way you look. It’s scary to think of the person you might become if you had no access to the clothes you love so much, isn’t it?

    5th paragraph-

    Ah, yes, coffee. Caffeine necessity is a vice students never take lightly, I understand. However, with your experiment, you failed to take into account all the different variables that could’ve determined your server’s predisposition to chit-chat and rapport with customers. Was it the same server that you usually see? Was it the same time of day that you get your coffee?

    Again, let us experiment with empathy. You’re a Starbucks worker. There’s a giant line of caffeine addicts waiting to sip that black elixir of life, while you haven’t even had the chance to get caffeinated yourself. Also, you’re slotted to take out the trash, pull a double-shift, fix the broken bean grinder, and carry in the new shipment of coffee from the back of the building. And then, right in front of you is this customer who says:

    “Yeah, can I get a grande half-sweet, extra hot, extra foam, caramel latte with a shot of espresso and soy milk?”

    What would you think, Mr. Nguyen? “What an asshole. Goddamn complicated order again holding up the line.” Probably something along those lines, right? Maybe throw in some more profanity and expletives.

    And when you get the wrong drink, you are somehow surprised at this? You said it yourself:

    “Let me tell you, it is so not easy for me to get the right order at all.”

    Maybe if you just ordered a “goddamn cup of coffee”, this would have gone over with no incident, don’t you think?

    Furthermore, do you really think other people would have been surprised you flashed a designer wallet out? I think not. That’s even assuming that they noticed it in the first place. But let’s give you the benefit of the doubt that they did. I mean, it could have been a gift from a rich uncle. Maybe you won it through an online Louis Vuitton survey. Possibilities are endless. A rational person would then conclude that the surprise is probably from an external locus. My hunch is that it’s from this guy who’s holding up the employees from serving other people their coffee because they somehow got his complicated drink wrong. It’s all about parsimony, and people being surprised that some guy has a LV wallet is a longshot.

    6th, 7th, and 8th paragraph-

    On to studying at Rutherford. Poor experimentation methodology. If you don’t usually study here, how would you know whether this reaction you got was novel and not routine? How did you know you were being singled out? Was everyone else wearing over-priced designer clothes which would have warranted the assumptions you had over their thoughts? Probably not. Another question is what does being Asian have to do with the people who made you feel uncomfortable?

    From an outsider’s point of view, they could have been looking because they were concerned about this anxious person sitting alone, clearly in mental distress for no reason whatsoever. If you were showing signs of anxiety over “looking normal”, they could have been thinking anything from “Is that man alright?” to “Who cares?” to “Is he going to shoot us down and kill us?”.

    Taking the obvious fact that people look at people, and people sometimes look at you, the only thing that changed is your perception of the way they looked at you when you were over-dressed against when you were dressed normally. Did you ever stop to think that even when you were over-dressed, people who looked at you just didn’t give a fuck and smiled out of courtesy and not admiration? God forbid, maybe they were smiling to hold back a laugh upon witnessing a blonde Asian man wearing something from Christina Aguilera’s closet. Again, empathy is key.

    So, there you have it. Your final questions are very valid, and they are up to you to answer, even though a thorough read of your article has already established yourself as to what type of person you are.

    However, the lesson I hope to get across here is that there’s nothing inherently wrong in dressing like a normal run-of-the-mill student. And to any readers, Mr. Nguyen’s portrayal of the students at the U of A is quite detrimental to the image we really want to show the world. At U of A, we don’t care how you look or whether you have the money to peacock yourself in designer clothing. None of this matters because as U of A students, we accept the mosaic of people we encounter regardless of physical, visual or financial stature.

    Yours sincerely,

    A concerned friend.

    • Louis McQueen

      You are still here? I thought you were busy lining up for your welfare check or fighting for your eviction notice for overdue rent.

      Nonetheless, I don’t give a damn what you gotta say. You are just a loser hiding behind the initial P.K. which belongs to someone who is 4-times of a man than you ever are. A concerned friend would approach me and talk to me like a real man and not pulling a childish move you are doing. The reason why I am responding back you because I want you o know that I’m onto your game. If you continue to play, prepare to lose.

      You are the kind of people in this world who bully others till the point of suicide like the Amanda Todd incident but you are dealing with me. Not only I am arrogant but also I am rich, vindictive and dirrty (like that Xtina song).

      And as much you claim to know me, you are being such a joke for changing details in your article like Lady Gaga from Christina Aguilera. (The rest of your stuffs is kinda irrelevant). And yes, I own several pairs of Christian Louboutin dress shoes which sit at 1000 dollars and up/pair and Christina love the brand.


      The one and only

      Louis Long Nguyen

      • Jessica Macumber

        I really hope it is made clear to you that in writing this article you are representing both The Wanderer and yourself with your comments Louis. If you feel as though Pee K. personally attacked you there are much more constructive ways of dealing with it than attacking back and threatening. It would be nice to see those responsible for The Wanderer distance themselves from you at this point.

        You claim that this article was not intended to be offensive and yet refuse to acknowledge that many people are clearly offended. You are being a bully. You have shown you are unapologetically writing only for yourself and not in the best interest of the student body. You are welcome to your opinions but I believe that you are using this forum as an inappropriate outlet.

      • B. Eff Eff

        From now on, I’ll drop my initials, PK or KP. Just call me BFF!
        Bee Eff Eff!

        Why is it that your first correlation to me writing an article that spoke against yours is that I’m poor? Are you saying that poor people have nothing better to do than be disrespectful to the rich and vain? That the poor have no manners and are total assholes?

        If you read the article carefully, I never personally attacked you, Louis. I simply wanted to debate your ideas. Calling me out as a loser is quite offensive. That’s what the bullies of Amanda Todd did to her. So, you bringing her name up in association to what you stand for is a huge insult to her grieving family.

        If you don’t care about what I say, why do you want to hunt me down and make me suffer? I just don’t get it.

        It’s great that you have shoes that cost $1000/pair. Because, you know, the average student at UofA would spend $30 on shoes, and the $970 on textbooks and food.

        I feel that the more you talk, the more you are alienating yourself from your readers. As Ms. Macumber said, you need to remember that you are representing the UofA and the Wanderer. With what you’re doing, you are not using this forum as an appropriate outlet for your hatred and vanity.

        I do agree that it would be nice to see those responsible for the Wanderer’s reputation to distance themselves from you.

  • Radical Rationalist


    Wow, Louis. How enlightened of you to walk a mile in the shoes of the peasants you seem to be surrounded by!

    I really enjoyed the part where you mentioned the expensive items you own, as if somehow debt-burdened students would be able to relate. I also really enjoyed the part where you made vaguely offensive racial statements like “typical Asian nerd with no life” and ““my own people” if you know what I mean.”

    I don’t think I know what you mean by your own people, Louis. Do you mean, like, disgustingly wealthy people who gloat about the expensive shit they have and then can’t understand why everyone hates them?

    Anyway, sad to see that the folks over at the Wand seem to be exploiting poor Louis for their benefit. The Wand folks may be trying to emulate the News of the World/Fox News model of selling controversial yet meaningless/unethical information. Poor Louis probably doesn’t even realize how elitist and arrogant his writing is, so in a way we really can’t blame him.

    Instead, we should be blaming the people who encourage/allow the publishing of things like this from Louis. Did the editors not realize how disgustingly elitist this article was before they allowed it to be published? If so, they are purposefully exploiting Louis for controversy (and hits on their website). If not, they’re simply incompetent. So, which is it?

    • Ditto

      Well, I’ve disagreed with much of what you have written on here before, but I basically agree with this entire post.

    • Boo Cocky

      Well put, Rad! I totally agree!

  • Couldn’t have written a better article myself!

  • Buddy, first of all, “she rolls her eyes like cinnamon twist” and “who dresses him, the 19th century.” Those are classics, my friend.

    Anyway I wanted to say that you forgot to take the bus….

  • i made this up

    pretty much sums up what i think about this article.