Truth be told, we’re not the biggest fans of National Service in the AUGUSTMAN office. Each time the letter with the coat of arms of Singapore arrives on one of the men’s tables, there is an audible groan and a few choice curse words. However, we’re digging this new militia-inspired T-shirt created by Tiger Beer and artist Mark Ong of SBTG to commemorate 50 years of National Service.

We chatted with Mark Ong to find out more about the design inspiration and his own NS experiences.

You’ve been in the streetwear scene for a long time. What are your thoughts on the streetwear scene and how it has evolved from when you first started until now?
Thank you! From what I observed, street culture has evolved from being subculture to popular culture now. Some of the streetwear brands are already past their 20 year anniversary. Having said that, its great to see more people having access to nicer gear. 

What do you think about the luxury and streetwear collaborations now?

You mean Supreme and LV? I feel that this is an inevitable mark in history where the lines between higher class and middle class are blurred. I have always felt that skateboarding and its ethos are a force to be reckoned with and it is evident with this collaboration.

Mark Ong

What are your secrets to staying continuously relevant in the scene until now?

Don’t follow trends, get better at what you love doing. 

What would you say is your favourite sneaker design or streetwear apparel you’ve created? 

My favourite sneaker design would have to be the Broken Bones series. I feel like I’ve completed the outfit for the Misfits. For clothing, it would have to be the recent embroidered flannels we did. 

What are your favourite NS moments?

It would have been the day I completed my reservist and got my medal and watch. 

How did the collaboration with Tiger Beer start? 

I started working with Tiger Beer in 2014 during its global brand re-positioning campaign, UNCAGE, where I conducted a sneaker customisation workshop for media friends. I was selected as one of the UNCAGE personalities who have broken free from societal conformity by choosing to follow my passions and dreams. Both me and my wife Sue embodied Tiger’s UNCAGE proposition that champions young adults across Asia who dare to step out of their comfort zone and blaze new trails beyond the cages of convention.

Then, Tiger Beer touched base with me again earlier this year to work on this NS50 commemorative T-shirt. I see the synergy between all three brands and felt like I could do something to honour this milestone in our nation-building history. It’s always been my dream to work with SAF actually. I’ve always wanted to design a pair of shoes that recruits would receive as standard issue, as well as NSMen on reservist duty.

What was the inspiration behind the design you did with Tiger? 

As the name NS 50 suggests, I approached it as a way of honouring our nation as veterans with the inclusion of laurel wreaths as a symbol of victory and honour. I have always pursued art forms that merge with day-to-day life, allowing interaction and an injection of my personality to be brought to life via my designs. Tiger Beer and National Service can be seen as two ‘rites of passage’ for young men in Singapore, and I am proud to create a design that combines these defining elements of Singapore life.

Stand a chance to redeem this limited-edition T-shirt (with custom-designed box) by purchasing a bucket of the recently launched Tiger Black or Tiger White at uncagetheunexpected.com. Please visit the website for pricing and availability updates. While stocks last. 

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