If you’ve been with us since the early days of ProperTop.com you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Turbonegro. I will never forget the awe inspiring sight of thousands of grown men in sailor hats (AKA Turbojugend) running towards me and the band, creating a huge dust cloud in the process at Denmark’s Roskilde festival about ten years ago or the time I got covered in dolphin blood at another of their more ‘intimate’ gigs. The Great Divide are fans too and have chosen Turbonegro’s lead singer Sylvester for the third instalment of their ace Body & Sole interviews, check it…
1 – Tell us a little bit about yourself…
39 year old collector / clothes horse / obsessive. Beard, baritone.
2 – How has life changed since joining Turbonegro? What do you spend your time doing when you’re back in London and not off doing that?
Immeasurably so. Have to balance travelling for the band with working with Southern Records on their group of labels, writing, and then a few other schemes and irons in the fire. Never a dull moment.
3 – Are the fans as hardcore as they seem?
Very much so – the Turbojugend is a pretty unique phenomenon, and works on a much more peer-to-peer level than most bands and their fanbase – it’s somewhere between a cult and a biker gang, with thousands of chapters worldwide . It means that anywhere on Earth we go there are die hard fans poised and ready. It’s quite an honour and not something we take lightly.
4 – Like most of us at TGD you grew up on a steady diet of punk and hardcore and all that came with it. At what stage/age did you start paying more attention to fashion/menswear?
Style and culture have been inexplicably fused for me since I was a nipper. I grew up on my older sisters’ record collections and seeing the context of their friends and peer groups – one was an art student and one was a skinhead. So from an early age I was pretty exposed to both the music and tribal aspects of what went along with that . Like everyone my age, the first thing I saw unfolding before me was the Casual/Dresser era and that’s had a really profound effect on me, despite the fact i was only ever on the periphery of it – too young to actually involve myself. The first thing that resonated with me, and felt like ‘mine’ was the second wave of skating in the mid 80s and the Hardcore seemed to come tied together with that. I listened to pretty much everything I could get my hands on from age 10 onwards: the aforementioned sisters’ records, parents’ records, tapes from friends alongside whatever I could afford to buy and that age you’re just taking it all in and processing it all, attempting to find what ‘fits’.
The late 80’s NYHC scene that I stumbled upon aged 14 or so had this real appealing aesthetic: elements of skating, hip hop, skinhead, punk all mashed together but with this other prevailing Ivy League/Varsity influence that seemed the most alien to me. About the same time I saw the film Dead Poet’s Society, and here was a lot of the same influence – flat tops, letterman jackets and of course bona fide 50’s / 60’s traditional preppyisms. It was definitely the clean, neat look of the US hardcore kids that appealed to me over the sloppiness and peacockism of the British punks. Soon, we were seeking out such exotic items as Champion reverse weaves, mixing that up with chinos and cardigans and then Converse, Vans, Stussy and Fred Perry. The tiny London straight edge crew had a bit of a rep with the Northern kids for being a little too concerned with style and clothes. Nothing’s really changed for me. A few years ago when I bought an original Japanese copy of Take Ivy, it was reassuring to see how much of the classic Collegiate look wouldnt have looked out of place on a Slapshot or Youth Of Today sleeve.
5 – We know you’re a big fan of vintage pieces. Do you have a favourite and where did you find it?
I’m pretty fortunate in that I travel a lot and have friends or dealers all over the place looking out for me. I recently picked up a WWII era British Army issue Barbour International in brown as opposed to the civilian black. No lining, no branding, except a beautiful label on the inside and a tiny Lightning zip. Fits me perfect. That’s the sort of piece you know you’re never gonna see again, so you gotta get it.
6 – In addition to the above question, we understand you are quite the fan of Navy-ism. Tell us about your favourite collectors item and wear did you find it?
Well, the gold standard of Navyism for me has to be the WWII N1 Deck Jacket – and I’m lucky enough to own one of the blue hook versions from ’43. An earlier centre zip one would be nice too, of course.
7 – How important do you think the Navy’s influence on men’s clothing has been and how relevant is this in 2013?
I have no idea what relevance anything has to anything in a broad sense. It’s really about what resonates with your own aesthetics and history. My dad, uncle and granddad were all in the Royal Navy so I grew up with the photos and ephemera. One of the first vintage pieces I had was my Dad’s Pusser’s Grip issued to him in 1955.
8 – You must get to travel a fair bit with Turbonegro. Do you find yourself taking the opportunity to go and check out different stores and go on the hunt for vintage gems whilst out on the road?
Absolutely – that’s one of the boons of finding myself travelling so much. I’m off to the States in two weeks and already have some things lined up to pick up while I’m there… Also, looking forward to hitting up some towns I’ve never visited before.
9 – There’s a lot of double denim going on in Turbonegro – Who makes your favourite jeans?
I like raw selvedge denim that fades down and softens naturally, so I’m nearly always in LVC Cone Mills – nothing fancy or too heavy either. None of that 21 oz nonsense. I have some Japanese produced Lee 101s that have faded down to a pleasing green too.
10 – When out with the band, do you find yourself toning down the dandyism or rather upping the ante? I seem to remember you telling me about donning some short shorts at a metal festival last summer?!
I dunno – I’m pretty lucky that the band put such an emphasis on dressing up, even if it’s at the OTT end of the scale. For the most part, my looks are things straight out of my wardrobe: an old bespoke tweed suit by Gresham Blake, a vintage Lock & Co bowler hat, Goldtop Trophy motorbike cop boots, LVC denim and RRL bits – I just put it together a little more cartoonishly for the stage.
Sometimes I think my ‘civvies’ can be a little confusing to fans. I remember some very crestfallen Turbojugend informing me “I was not expecting you to be wearing those shoes” when he met me in a bar in New York. Cordovan Penny loafers aint very rock & roll apparently.
11 – What is your all time favourite item of clothing and why?
My Made In The USA Champion Reverse Weave hoody, which I bought in 1989. Still fits, despite wear and tear.
12 – Favourite shoes/boots on current rotation?
Spring is here so pennies, Playboy boots and saddles – Mostly Sanders and Alden.
13 – Do you have a favourite designer and/or brand and why?
I like the brands who do one style or even one item expertly well and stick to it, so those tend to be old, established brands – you know the ones: Woolrich, Trickers, Pendleton, Filson, Alden J Press, Barbour etc etc. Those are also the companies that tend to make clothes that fit me too – a pretty important aspect to appreciation. On the smarter end of the spectrum, Mark Powell has made me a few things over the years, and am really excited about some stuff that Against Nature in New York are working on for me at the moment.
But in terms of modern designers, Daiki Suzuki stands above all else for me. Engineered Garments and his tenure at WWM are some of my favourite contemporary items. Also, a huge fan of Anatomica in Paris. Was there in April, and they’re currently pursuing this totally pattern free tonal look of natural cotton through to dark brown. Completely against the grain of the current vogue for pattern on pattern on pattern, and really striking as a result.
14 – Who are you style icons?
James Robertson Justice, the cast of Jaws and Doug Bihlmaier.
15 – What one record could you not live without? We do appreciate how hard this question is.
Cro Mags “Age Of Quarrel”. First press.
1 – What records are you currently listening to?
Renewed interest in Big Star as I’ve been watching the upcoming documentary, Arbouretum, as always, and a lot of stuff on the L.I.E.S. label – esp. Delroy Edwards
2 – What are you currently reading?
“The Pike” A biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio that just came out.
3 – Favourite city to shop in?
4 – Favourite City to visit if different from above?
Paris, and Detroit: The Paris of The Midwest
5 – Favourite place to hangout in London town?
My gaff. I’m away so much that nothing beats it. Or with the gents in Present.
Finally – Please put an outfit together from the shop for us.