Everything Everywhere All At Once Star Harry Shum Jr. Is Making Moves
If there’s one thing that Harry Shum Jr. knows, it’s how to move. From his dancing to his style to his opinions on cyclical fashion, movement is at the core of Shum’s world. “As someone who likes to move a lot, I feel like the clothes need to keep up with me,” Shum tells me over the phone before the 95th Academy Awards. “Every time I try clothes on, I’m always getting myself into a weird position—even though I'm never actually going to be in that position—just to find the limits of the clothes. I think functionality is slept on in a lot of clothing today.”
Speaking of positions, Shum has had a handful of them at the Oscars. From being a backup dancer for A.R. Rahman’s "Jai Ho" Slumdog Millionaire performance to assisting Adam Shankman with choreography in 2009, Shum takes a new stance each time around. This year, he's making moves because of his role in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
He’s stepping into the spotlight with a major style moment, in a half-kimono, half-tuxedo designed by Adeam and styled by Warren Alfie Baker. “I wanted to create an evening look that expressed Harry’s multicultural background,” Adeam’s creative director Hanako Maeda explains. “We took a classic tuxedo and infused it with Eastern-inspired details, such as the overlapping collar and sash-like belt. The white and navy color palette of the suit is inspired by his role in Everything Everywhere All At Once, as he plays a chef that wears a white chef’s coat with navy piping.”
Maybe you’ve been following his career since Glee, maybe you’ve been catching him in scrubs in the latest seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, or maybe you just discovered him in EEAAO. Regardless, Shum’s come a long way since his first ever red carpet (which involved a vaudeville-inspired brown vest and a lanyard). Want to know any more? Well, keep reading because we talk about everything, everywhere, all at once.
On His First Carpet
Oh, man, I know y'all can find it. My first red carpet look was for Step Up 2, and it’s just this lost look. I remember going to the store and scrambling, like I didn’t know what to buy and I didn’t have any money. I bought this brown vest to do a vaudeville type of look—I don’t know where I got that inspiration from. I didn't know anything about red carpets, so the vest had this Chinese writing, and I was like, “Oh let me pay homage to my heritage.” I still had my lanyard, so that I could get into the venue. And then I was in jeans that just didn’t fit properly.
When I did Shadowhunters, I had these four-hour fittings. Every piece of clothing was custom made to the character, so I spent hours in there learning how to fit properly and how to accentuate certain parts of my body—elements that I think a lot of men don't really ever get to experience. They just put clothes on and think that's it. I got to really learn what styles mean. Being someone who’s more of a mover, I learned a lot about silhouettes and how important they are.
There’s a lot of questioning yourself, like about how much patience is enough patience. And I think that's the hardest question to answer because you just don't know. You don't know when that time is going to hit. But there was a moment—and this was really honestly in the past two years—when I started having this Zen of just trusting this process. Coming from someone who has experienced professional dance for seven years (where you'd have eight-to-ten hour rehearsals going into midnight nonstop), that bootcamp of observing everything from afar, but also being in it, has given me a lot of appreciation for the hard work that it takes. Just like my experience with the Oscars and seeing it from different sides. It’s helped get me to the place where I have full confidence going into any environment and performing at a high level.
My favorite item in my closet, and I’ve probably bought about six of these, is the 686 Tech hoodie. It’s made to either walk the sun or keep you warm; it’s just very versatile and it just works with everything. It has these secret pockets, and it still looks high-end, but kind of not at all.
I remember Gemma Chan during Crazy Rich Asians and awards season. She had this dress and she had pockets and everyone's going nuts, like, “You have pockets” and she’s like, “Yeah, so I can put a cookie in there.” My wife does the same thing, she’ll be like, “Look at this. It has pockets.” Imagine when pockets were invented—the first time when somebody said, “Look where I can put these keys!” and put them in their pants and everybody was like, “OHHH!” So yeah, I’m a pocket guy.
Is it just my niece, or is there a lot of bringing back that whole Britney Spears era, like the early 2000s? It’s this whole rediscovery of clothing that everyone was once embarrassed about. There’s this extreme duality of going from, “I’m so cool” to, “I’m so embarrassed” and it’s a funny cycle… Crocs, right? I mean, talk about patience, weathering through the storm of like, “No, no, why would you ever!” to, “Look at these!” It comes in waves, and I really love that because it says a lot about how fashion just lives on forever. And there's this beautiful thing about that.
On Advice to His Daughter
Don’t let the clothes wear you; you wear the clothes. That speaks to everything—your environment, the people around you. And she's already eons ahead of me, so I think she’s surpassed my advice already. Soon she’s going to be giving me advice.
Photography by Storm Santos; styling by Warren Alfie Baker; grooming by Sonia Lee; groomer's assistant, Dan Perri.
From: Esquire US