I’ve been in menswear for a good thirty years, since I left school. I started in retail, but I’ve done everything – buying, developing, marketing, styling, and designing footwear and accessories, mainly casual clothing and denim. I’m from Manchester originally, but I’ve been in New York for the past four years, living in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, working with Schott on reinvigorating their motorcycle-jacket heritage, and relaunching a brand called HW Carter & Sons, which is the oldest overall company in America. The heritage-history thing has been a huge menswear story over the past few years. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve been in this game long enough now to see things come around more than once. But the heritage-workwear thing is actually a style I always liked and that I adopted for myself back in the 90s, getting into the Japanese brands that were inspired by all the old American brands. I’m a big fan of Americana – I got into that in the mid-80s, probably, with the relaunch of Levi 501s, with Nick Kamen in the launderette. I’ve also spent time travelling across America sourcing old sneakers from college towns, buying vintage dead stock – Nikes, Adidas, Converse – and reselling them to old-school-sneaker-obsessives across the world – Japan, the UK, everywhere. Then I went to work at Browns in London, and got into importing new sneakers like Nike Rifts and Mocs from the US, that weren’t being marketed in the UK but which they couldn’t sell in the US because people thought these split-toed ninja sneakers were too weird. So we’d get 100 pairs into Browns Focus and they’d all go in a day. I then relaunched Fred Perry footwear, where we did collaborations with the likes of Comme des Garcons, and went to Urban Outfitters as head of menswear, but it didn’t really agree with me – I don’t like a corporate environment. At all. So I’ve been a freelance creative director ever since.
I met Tim via a guy called Gary Bott, the creative director at Globetrotter. I always knew his name, but I’d also just got to that age – my mid-40s – where I was a lot more receptive to the idea of tailoring. Up to then, I’d always worn casual clothes, and tailoring was an area I’d never really explored. Maybe it’s to do with getting older, and really understanding and appreciating it. Tim and I also have a lot of shared interests – cycling, music - which I suppose made my entree into his world a little bit smoother. I’ve also known Fred for many years, and I love the house at Elder Street, because it presses all my buttons – history, authenticity, that slightly underground, clubby vibe. Plus, I knew my own fields – sneakers, workwear – inside out, and here was a whole new area to explore, perhaps the ultimate when it comes to male attire, the premier league of menswear. It’s also a kind of reaction to the fact that I’ve lived such a casual life up to now, and I thought: yeah, I can take a little more pride in my appearance, grooming, beard trimming etc, and having a beautiful bespoke suit is the ultimate, even now, when dress codes have turned upside down. Didn’t Picasso say you have to know the rules in order to break them? Well, to me, rule number one is: respect. Oh my God, I love watching the guys and girls in Elder Street sewing everything by hand. I’m a detail man and always have been, and I now get quite fetishistic about the bespoke detailing. There’s also the not irrelevant detail that nothing off the peg fits me because of my unique shape – broad shoulders, squat torso, etc.
My grandfather and father were my style icons. My father was a haulage contractor, but he was also a World war 2 veteran – he’d fought against Rommel in North Africa with the Desert Rats, and from the 50s through the 70s his trucks were out building Britain’s motorway network. But he always went to work in a full boilersuit, with a tie and shirt underneath that my mum would press every single day, and he wore a Harris Tweed jacket over his workwear, with a fedora or a cloth cap – always immaculate, with the mirror shine on his boots. In fact, I talked to Daiki Suzuki at Engineered Garments about my dad’s look, and we created a whole collection around it, with boilersuits and shirts and ties, and when I saw it, I was like, holy s**t. My grandfather was an engineer, and he always wore double-breasted suits and little round glasses. He had one particular chalkstripe suit in the 30s, with huge wide lapels, and the minute Tim and Lee asked me what kind of suit I wanted, I was like: I want my f**king granddad’s suit. I never met him – he passed away before I was born – but we had this one picture of him, in the suit, a three-piece, with a pocket watch. So that’s what I went for. It’s a kind of homage. I mean, that whole 30s thing suits me, because I can’t do any skinny s**t. So sitting with Fred and Lee and Tim, and talking about the extra military stitches, and the loop behind the lapel buttonhole to hold a flower in place, and the infrastructure to accommodate a pocketwatch, and the exact width of the lapels – I was in geek heaven. I’m actually getting married in December, and I’ll be wearing the suit then. It’s inspired me to learn more about Savile Row and all its traditions. It’s always been there, obviously, but it’s a league I never thought I’d be in. Now I’m like, s**t, what an expensive habit to get into. This is totally Class A. But it’s worth it. I never thought I was a suit kind of guy, but now it’s any excuse to wear one. I also like the kind of mixed messages I’m sending out – I have a lot of tattoos, around my neck and my arms, and to have them peeking out from under a beautifully-crafted suit – well, let’s just say the whole package subverts people’s expectations and gets me a lot of attention. And nice attention! I mean, I knew I wanted to work with clothes since I was six years old and I made a little apron for my mum out of chambray and lace. And bespoke is the ultimate sort of up-close-and-personal experience you can have with clothes. It’s also given me a whole new dimension in the way I present myself to the world. Just as I’ve been doing with workwear, I can reference history while at the same time creating something that’s totally relevant and very personal to me. Yes, you can definitely say I’m officially hooked.