They call themselves The Pride, but are perhaps feeling more prejudice instead.
Founded last November, the local six-man collective aims to promote the idea of being a modern gentleman in Singapore by kick-starting a movement called The Gentleman's Pride.
It has gained traction online over the past few months, receiving mixed reactions.
But when a photo of The Pride, which was uploaded onto The Straits Times' Facebook page over a week ago, went viral, the negativity came in fast and furious.
The photo features the six members dressed to the nines, donning three-piece suits complete with fashionable hats, scarves and shades.
The group of self-styled "influencers" consists of strategic planning director Nicholas Cho, 36, fashion merchandiser Nick Chong, 30, singer-actor Benjamin Kheng, 24, marketing and public relations head Eugene Lim, 34, entrepreneur Kevin Ou, 36, and actor Daren Tan, 32.
Netizens reposted the photo, with some calling The Pride "pretentious", "vain" and other labels.
Others criticised that not everyone can afford to dress up the way they do and that one does not have to look good and dress well to be a gentleman.
One Facebook user mocked: "So wearing 3 layers of clothing makes you cool in Singapore? I don't think so."
Another wrote: "Why do I have to dress up like this to be a gentleman. It's not practical. I can wear comfortable clothing and still behave like a gentleman."
The Pride has over 2,600 followers on their Instagram account (@thepridesg), where it uploads group shots of themselves in fashionable outfits attending various events, including Singapore Fashion Week and ZoukOut 2014.
They also educate followers by explaining what are monk strap shoes ("they have no lacing and are closed by way of a buckle and a strap") as well as upload F&B-related posts about Heineken Extra Cold, The Glenrothes Robur Reserve, Macallan whisky and posh nosh like venison loin and truffles.
Some posts are even accompanied by inspirational quotes such as: "Anyone can be heroic from time to time but a gentleman is someone you should strive to be all the time."
People who want to be part of the movement simply need to upload photos of themselves on Instagram, with the hashtag #TheGentlemansPride.
But there are also netizens who have produced parodies using the hashtag, uploading photos of themselves dressed in singlets and flip-flops.
Mr Lim, who spearheads both the group and the movement, clarified to The New Paper over e-mail: "We do not set out to teach people how to behave, dress or act like gentlemen.
"The Pride is meant to be fun, inspirational and all about embracing yourself, and it throws in the lifestyle aspects such as style, grooming, food, drink, etiquette, behaviour etcetera."
He emphasised that the movement is "not about wearing suits or expensive outfits as not everyone, including myself, can afford it".
"It is about being appropriate for the right occasions, about being comfortable in your own style and how you choose to express it.
"We don't dress formally every day, but we dress up when the occasion calls for it, like at events and parties."
Of the recent online flak, Mr Lim said they are "overwhelmed by the responses".
"Many mistook that we dress up to the nines every day," he said.
"I think that whenever you set out to do something different, you have to be prepared for both positive and negative reactions.
"The positive ones are, of course, encouraging. With the negative ones, we take them and we ask ourselves, 'Why did this person see it this way?' and try to understand where they are coming from."
But the criticism is not going to stop The Pride from continuing to spread its message to Singaporeans.
Mr Lim said: "We embrace who we are, we believe this is a positive movement. It's also about meeting other like-minded folk."
For the second half of the year, The Pride hopes to use its reach on social media to help out in charity as well as other collaborative works.
Previously, it had been active on various charity platforms, participating in the 50 For 50 fund-raising drive as well as the Zouk CNY Reunion Lunch for the Pioneer Generation.
Mr Lim said: "As a collective, we are looking at how we can better support these causes, too."
Movement has good motive
Local fashion industry insiders The New Paper spoke to feel The Gentleman's Pride is a good initiative to encourage Singaporeans to improve on their style.
Celebrity fashion stylist Jeremy Tan said: "In general, the motive behind this movement is good. It creates awareness to get people here to dress up.
"In Singapore, some people wear shorts and slippers even to musicals and concerts. It is very unacceptable. The dressing up culture should be cultivated here."
Tan feels that the backlash from Singaporeans stems from the fact that the six-man group dress similarly in a "preppy and dandy style".
"They are starting a good movement but because they only go for a particular style, people might find it very restrictive. Readers might think that they have to dress in a preppy, dandy style in order to look good but that is not the case," he said.
"It can appear a bit too pretentious and end up looking more like a fashion spread. Perhaps if the six of them dress up in different styles, they will gain more acceptance with the public who can then relate to them."
Fashion stylist Kovit Ang said: "We always have to start somewhere for something to take off. I know the guys and my experience working with them is that they are nice and gentlemanly.
"I don't think they are trying to prove themselves or anything. They are simply trying to create more awareness for people here to dress up. Singaporeans love to criticise others but have they put in efforts in dressing up themselves?"
This article was first published on July 1, 2015.
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