“Did I want anything from my dad’s wardrobe? Only his copies of Playboy.” Paul Weller is sitting in the former offices of Hammer Horror on, appropriately, London’s Wardour Street, discussing his new range of suits for Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green label. One of the country’s best-dressed musicians, Weller has gone from Burton-suited mod revivalist with the Jam in the Seventies to Britpop’s founding father in the mid-Nineties, via the Style Council and the gloriously OTT Eighties.
Thankfully his new clothing line is inspired by the late Sixties and early Seventies and includes well-cut three-piece suits which can be worn both in and out of an office. “I wouldn’t want to be involved in anything that I wouldn’t wear myself,” says Weller. “It’s been a dream really – I brought reference pictures, graphics, sketches, vintage things I’ve collected over the years and stuff from my own wardrobe.” Here he talks to GQ.com about satin jackets, Ben Sherman shirts vs Brutus ones and highly questionable “mutant quiffs”…
My dad was very stylish when he was a young man. I’ve seen photos of him and he was a Teddy Boy. He seemed to lose interest in clothes after a certain amount of time. That’s the danger – when men get to a certain age, they let their wives pick their clothes. That’s really wrong – it’s basically saying, “I don’t care what I look like any more.” It leads to that thing when people say, “I’m comfortable,” and start wearing trainers all the time. Remember there’s a time and a place for tracksuits.
The first thing I bought that was really stylish was in 1969 when I was eleven. I saved up for a black, grey and white tie-dye grandad vest. It was too big – they weren’t catering for kids my age – and hung off me but I loved it. It was from a boutique in Woking called Flacks which was amazing. It had a lot of post-hippie clothing but also a lot of stuff that skinheads were buying as well. It wasn’t King’s Road hippies and trendies – it was for people who had been mods in the Sixties and were now doing their own thing.
The Jam went through a phase of wearing satin jackets. But that was pre-getting signed and making it, when we were still playing the pubs and clubs – around ’75. Shocking, really – what would you call them apart from “horrible”? We’d wear these white zip-up bomber jackets with black kind of loon pants and black and white shoes. That was our stage outfit. Shocking.
Have I ever had a nightmare with a bespoke suit? Cor blimey, loads of ’em. Not recently, but in the early Jam days, when we first got a little bit of money. We went to a place just behind Carnaby Street called Carnaby Cavern. We got some suits knocked up there – they were appalling, looking back on it. They were supposed to be mohair and had a slight sheen to them. They were really badly cut but you don’t know when you’re 18. We wore them every night on a really long tour – we did 40 dates and we’d sweat because we were playing these little clubs. We’d get them dry-cleaned wherever we could. By the end of the tour they’d shrunk – they looked like Norman Wisdom’s suits.
When I was a suedehead, I would wear Fred Perry. Which was pretty standard: Levi’s with the turn-ups, loafers or maybe Dr Martens and a Harrington. It was what you could afford. I always wanted a suit jacket. The older kids – I was only 16 – would be the ones you’d spend all night staring at. They’d be wearing a sheepskin, a Crombie or a tonic suit, maybe with oxblood cap-toed shoes. You’d see a few faces in there who would stand out and you’d think, ‘What the f*** are they wearing?” Weeks later, everyone would be wearing the same thing that they were.
The difference between a Ben Sherman shirt and a Brutus shirt was about a pound. Ben Sherman’s were always more expensive. They both had good points but Ben Sherman were the ones you aspired to – they were in an oxford cloth while Brutus’ were paper-thin. Having said that, Brutus did some beautiful tartan and gingham shirts.
I think Miles Kane is a very dandy young man. He’s always very nicely turned out. Liam from the Courteeners is always pretty smart as well. A lot of em are right scruffy little f***ers, really.
For me, if you were into the music of a band, you were into the way they looked as well. It used to go hand-in-hand – I don’t know whether there are the same values any more. I’ve bought clothes based on record covers. Particularly from the formative music that turned me onto it in the first place when I was a kid, with the Beatles and the Small Faces. A lot of those Sixties soul artists were in really sharp sharkskin or mohair suits and Motown artists looked amazing.
Whenever you put a suit on, it always makes you a couple of inches taller. You just feel different.
Liam and I always talk about clothes whenever we meet. I don’t see him that often but whenever we do it’s “Where’s that from?” I would never give him or anyone else advice on clothes, other to say, “Where did you get them shoes from?” You can’t tell Liam Gallagher what to wear.
You can’t really go too far wrong with a pinstripe. I own five and they’re all pretty similar really – double-breasted or three-button. A few are bespoke – a friend of mine called Mark Powell does them.
My worst haircut? I’ve had loads over the years. Not to keep Eighties-bashing but there were some pretty shocking ones then. I don’t know if anyone had a decent haircut then though. I was looking at old pictures of the Smiths the other day – Johnny Marr looks really cool now but back then we all had stupid haircuts of varying nature. Mutant quiffs and angular cuts!
Opening a clothes shop is something I’ve thought about from time to time. But I don’t know about the reality of it. It’s something that’s always interested me. I’ve been into clothes as long as I can remember. It’s great with this thing with Pretty Green – I can do my designs but I don’t have the headaches of manufacturing.
If a jacket fits you good on the shoulders, that’s a good place to start. If you’re buying your first suit, make sure it fits. It’s not necessarily their fault – most people can’t afford a bespoke suit at two and a half grand – but you can buy a decent suit for £200. Try to look for something that fits your body shape.
Whatever fashion faux pas you’ve made in the past, you’ve got to stand by them. The Eighties were a pretty rough time. There are too many in mention. I used to think I came out of the Eighties unscathed but no one did.
I would like to do a watch for Pretty Green. But that’s far off in the future.
No man should have cowboys boots in his wardrobe. That’s fair enough, isn’t it? Unless you’re a cowboy, of course.