I could start by apologising for my lack of blog love just recently however I’m not, I have been far too busy walking dogs… genuinely. Since you have all been patient I thought that I would give you a treat and present to you another Can’t Use Scissors interview.
This time I have had a chat with a brand that although has only been in operation since 2006 it has had a profound way on how I look at us Northerners like our clothing and more important than that it has shown me the power of the internet. Influenced by football, Northern England, The Casual Subculture and media culture, Casual Connoisseur managed to blend all of these elements into a cohesive brand. They have recently made the move into cut and sewn garments and let me tell you they are pretty smashing! So rather than me harp on about how much I like them, I will let you read for yourself. Please bear in mind Dan from Casual Connoisseur is a pretty passionate guy so if you take offence to swearing and anti-modern football discussion you should probably get back to your Enid Blyton book.
Can’t Use Scissors: Hello Casual Connoisseur how the devil are you?
Casual Connoisseur: Super, just super, you?
CUS: I couldn’t be better thank you. Just in case people don’t know anything about you (I suppose this is why we are conducting an interview…) tell us who you are and what you do.
CC: I’m Dan, one-third of the Connoisseur brand, all of Oneupmanship, jack of all trades, designer, photographer, airbrusher, tea maker, dog walker, beer taster, obsessive clothing hoarder.
CUS: It is fairly clear that you chaps are influenced by all things casual. What brought you to the lifestyle?
CC: Well, supporting a team in the lower echelons of the football league who rose to prominence (well to us we did) in the 1990’s, culminating in four trips to Wembley, numerous cup runs, two promotions, twice as many near misses and being just two wins away from the glory of Europe in 1997 – thanks Middlesbrough for pissing all over our chips.
Looking back, I’m good at that and I apologise if I talk in past-tense but I don’t really do it these days, it really was about coming of age over that great period which was a very lucky time, if you see what the kids have to put up with now, the consistent God awful soap opera off the pitch, the consistent crap on it. I was blessed really, I have real fond memories and got into the whole casual thing kind of accidentally on purpose, I wanted in on it, I can remember watching the World Cup in France and just wishing I was there, I watch that back and cringe now, but as an eighteen year old it grabbed my attention like nothing else I wanted to go in the garden and rearrange the chairs. I was only a boy!
With us it’s a small club, if you go in a hat, rattle and thermos and rush home after the match for tea and X Factor then fair do’s. But if you become part of that drinking culture pre and post match, the game becomes a day out, you eventually mix with like-minded folk, garner the same interests, that’s the lifestyle right there. Working all week to have a blow out at the weekend, you build up rivalries with other clubs, friendships with one or two others and of course occasionally a clash of cultures with others. Wearing gear and wasting loads of money on it went hand in hand with all that malarkey as far as I’m concerned, often it was about outdoing your pals, outdoing your opponents, which all sounds very dubious to anyone outside looking in, but totally the norm for us, as I’m sure 90% of people would agree. I’d buy a new jacket, shirt, jumper or hat just for a certain, specific game, to be honest I wince when I think back to what I spent money on with a more disposable income then, but I’m glad I did it. Let’s just say I went regularly for many years, home and away so saw a fair bit, enjoyed myself, sometimes didn’t, made lots of friends, weathered myself and grew up fairly quickly.
Going to the pub dead early on a match day was often better than the match itself, that’s how it ended up, I’d go all the way to London and conveniently forget to go to the game as it was a better day out sometimes too, terrible I know.
With this forged a love (then) of designer clothing and footwear which has all but evaporated now, it was of its time though and thoroughly enjoyable then, if anything it’s certainly kept a burgeoning interest with clothing forever, nowadays I’m happier in a mix of new and classic clobber and whilst in hindsight I would have maybe looked like a casual-by-numbers back then I still maintained to be the odd one out, I always got picked out or laughed at by the masses, which was always no bad thing in my eyes, people used to ask me why I always wore shoes, it’s hard to imagine that now with everyone swapping their trainers for hiking boots and moccasins now.
CUS: One Up Manship is one of our favourite websites here at Can’t Use Scissors, so what made you take the plunge from Casual Blogger to Casual Connoisseur / Blogger?
CC: I’ve been doing that one for years (in other guises) I just kind of fell into it, wanted a daily/weekly/monthly feed on my site which can be bloody hard to maintain sometimes. I didn’t know if anyone else would really care, but they did, the feedback and response was great, not to mention what it’s since spawned. The main site has kind of been left to peter out though, I’ve taken that as far as I can it’s been over ten years and millions of hits, but I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for spreading the casual gospel, I’ve grown out of it really. We all move on.
There’s been a massive influx in bloggers over the last year or so, a chunk of it is good, some not so, I guess one thing about the internet is that anyone can have a voice now, which I guess was always going to happen and I think by and large it’s a good thing in general, but there’s plenty of repetitive and at times highly pretentious dross out there too, there’s more bandwagon jumpers and clothes bores than is there is genuine passionate people. I get fed up of it sometimes, for example if you’ve ever tried to buy something online but can’t seem to get an actual store selling it, you can bet you’ll find a million different blogs going on about it.
I certainly wasn’t the first to do what I’m doing but I was ahead of the masses on that front, it’s crazy how it’s all escalated now though, it makes the world seem a tiny place.
CUS: Do you think being from the North-West of England affects your outlook on design?
CC: In a way, yeah, but we don’t know too different, it’s always been about foul weather for us, it really does piss down an awful lot around here, so cagoules, parkas and technical wear became a big thing up north, especially in Manchester and I guess the likes of Leeds and Liverpool too. I think the weather is always given careful consideration when trying to come up with something. It’s a funny one, a lot of northern folk will prefer this time of the year to summer I’m sure, all the budding amateur mountain men come out to play then. I think there is still a sort of divide too, we are more gritty, dry and gobshitey than our southern counterparts. One thing for sure is, there’s always an assumption everyone comes from London, I’m always getting invited to shows, press days and the like down in the smoke, there is life up the M1. I’d love to move there one day though, it’s a very hip and happening place.
CUS:Has anyone there at CC got any design qualifications?
CC: It was always my intention to go through college, possibly University but it didn’t work out that way, hindsight is a wonderful thing eh? I just wanted to earn money as soon as I could, I had mates who went straight from school to having money in their pocket and driving around cars, I was walking to college in my jogging pants poor as fuck on an art course I really didn’t enjoy with a fishing tackle box full of pens, pastels and paints, they really put me off my plans. That said it was nothing like it is now, there are loads more choice with graphics, photography etc these days, I’m pretty sure Photoshop wasn’t around then either. So in a word no, few GCSE’s, GNVQ’s, but it’s all self-taught really. I often still consider being a mature student one day, I don’t mind admitting I’ve still got a lot to learn and still want to. I’m driven by a desire within that they wouldn’t encourage at school.
CUS: You have recently made the move to cut and sewn garments. Was it hard work?
CC: It was a very interesting chapter in the Connoisseur story, only early stages too if we go the way we intend to, the shirts are great, it was a tough one to get right, but we worked with good people, they got them bang on really. I’d say these are probably the best thing we have done thus far and I’m pretty proud of how it worked out. It’s a great feeling to be able to go out in a shirt you’ve designed yourself, from little scribbles on a post it note to the final detailed drawn up block, I put each and every detail in there myself and took from lots of aspects, be it mountain parkas for the cuffs, trousers for the jetted pocket, suits, old classic work-wear, there’s a bit of everything in the Union shirt. The hard part was getting it right in the fit, there’s plenty of shirts I’ve had that have been not quite right personally, so the fit had to be exactly as I wanted, we are not a big brand and if we got something like this wrong it would maybe put paid to doing it again, that’s the sort of thing you have to take into account.
It’s always a gamble, it didn’t come cheap either. There may be one or two tiny things I would change if I was to do it again but in the main I’m more than chuffed at how they went, we sold pretty big numbers of these totally independently too, not relying on any stockists. I think over a hundred units went in the first few hours which is pretty incredible if you ask me. The quality and craftsmanship were spot on, and the feedback we have had from them from those who bought them made it all worthwhile. It’s only the start of the way we intend to go though, it’s all about progression.
CUS: It seems like there are lots of brands out there at the moment taking advantage of the current popularity of 80s football terrace culture, I was just wondering if you had any feelings on that?
CC: I don’t think there are as many right now as there within the last year. I think the 80’s revival and sportswear was big business in the last few years due to a couple of films, and musically too, to a certain extent. We had the likes of the Firm and the Business on the big screen which re-introduced a new generation to all that 80’s sportswear, I missed that the first time and was too old for it the second time it came around, it never really flicked my switch. I don’t mind odds and sods from it but all that prancing around in full tracksuits looked ridiculous and too contrived, I much preferred what came after it really, dressing down, mixing and matching. Everyone looks the same and stands out a mile in the colourful sportswear, its better to blend in and keep people guessing, especially going to the match, anti-suss we used to call it. It went all ‘Paninaro’ at the back-end of last year with anoraks, deck shoes and cuffed denim, we skipped towards a more nineties thing I thought then. But, yeah people involved in the clothing industry are often critical of heritage, but it’s a constant seller for sure, and all that certainly comes into it. I like more refined stuff, classic stuff that’s still cool the next time around and can hold it’s value in years to come and still look cool.
CUS: What other brands are you fan of? Be they past, present or future?
CC: 6876, Garbstore, Universal Works are all decent brands, we do have some good folk in Britain, I love Engineered Garments these days, that really floats my boat. I like most of what they release, even the weirder shit, the subtle branding, the New York factor it’s all cool. Ralph Lauren is always around and of course many vintage labels for me too. Norse Projects is decent too. A newer one on me and I’d imagine not many will have heard of is John Lofgren over in Sendai Japan, he makes lots of classic traditional work-wear garments and they really are very nice. I’d like to see more from Dominic Stansfield too, for the same reason.
CUS: What advice would you give to new brands?
CC: Not a lot because nobody gives us any! Joking aside, I’d say to stick at it, keep it up, with fresh ideas and be creative, take a gamble or two, use your imitative if you have it and don’t tread on any toes!
CUS: I shan’t dwell on this next question as it depresses me beyond belief, however, what are your feelings on English football at the moment?
CC: A rant is sure to follow…I feel pretty shit to be honest, all the clubs who I grew up watching on an equal footing with us (or worse) are currently or have been, in the Premiership in recent years, the likes of Wigan, Stoke, Burnley, Blackpool and Swansea??! I grew up watching us always beating the latter two and they always had smaller crowds than we did. Swings and roundabouts for sure, I may sound bitter, we almost got there at the end of the 90’s, but for me personally since then it’s gone on a downward slope, now that’s not to say I’m fickle though, I’ve been going religiously for twenty years and my interest hasn’t solely waned due us being crap, there’s a lot more to it than that. We’ve lost the cool factor we had, we lost our heart and soul, that was largely due to an out-of-town rugby club moving in, I’ve been there too many times to go into it again and several thousand people despise what has happened there, they removed our biggest asset, our ground, without that we have nothing, we make nothing from games, add to that as a consequence some absolutely terrible decisions and people way out of their depth trying to run the club and making a right fist of it. We now have to sit back and watch our smaller local neighbours like Bury and Rochdale riding high on half the crowds we’d be getting in the division we were always in, but fair play, you run your club properly you reap the rewards.
My tolerance for football now is at an all time low, I hate the re-arranged fixtures for telly, even in the non league the few games I might have bothered with like Cambridge is now on a Thursday night. The needless bigging up of substandard games on Sky, subscribe only channels like Sky Sports News and ‘Soccer Saturday’, people actually plan their Saturday to watch other men watch games they cannot see. Big screen football in the pub, in 3D? what? Soccer AM? do fuck off.
The money in football is obscene aswell, the early signs suggest a two-horse race between United and City, who’d ever have imagined that? it’s like Scotland, it’s boring and they should curb the spending really, but you know they won’t, they can’t. For a working class sport I’m surprised anyone still goes, it’s ridiculous, we pay over £15 a match ticket and look where we are. It’s simply not value for money, people would argue it still is, it’s still fun, but you go to watch us and there’s no atmosphere, it’s not our fault though, there’s a rule for everything, there’s always a jobsworth wanker in an orange coat ready to pounce, don’t stand, don’t obstruct, don’t encroach, don’t shout, don’t swear, don’t smoke, it’s a joke really, when I was younger people didn’t even bother venturing to the toilet for a piss on the old terraces!
You’d expect that sort of stewardship at the cinema, not at a football ground, I dread to think what it’s like in the greedy league. At least the cinema gives you good value for money and you can still get a buzz out of your two hours. Though for every club that’s been dealt a shitty blow there are others who have escaped the mire and bounced right back, I know Brighton fans must be loving live right about now, and whilst it pains me to say it I’m sure it’s the best time ever to be a Man City fan, there’s hope for everyone I guess.
CUS: Who is going to win the Premier League? Do you care?
CC: I don’t care a jot to be honest, if it’s Man City then football has well and truly consumed itself and I hope it gets terrible indigestion.
CUS: Here come the world-famous Can’t Use Scissors quick fire questions… The Smiths or Stone Roses?
CC: Tough one, but it’s The Smiths.
CUS: Seeing as all of us are massively into trainers / footwear what is your favourite shoe of all time? I won’t take ‘I don’t know’ as an answer.
CC: You won’t get ‘I don’t know’ from me I could give Ms Marcos a run for her money in that department, I’m always getting shoes, which I’d love to try and put the brakes on because I’ve actually only got two feet! Shoes run in the family, that’s my excuse, my Grandad was a cobbler and his records from WW2 stated he was responsible for the boots of his whole battalion, he was at the top of his game post war and was actually mithered by a certain leading British footwear brand down in Somerset to go and work for them. My older brother works in the same industry in a different field and I spent five years solely responsible for fourteen thousand pairs of shoes in a shop in town, which is where I forged a long-term love affair with suede footwear.
Anyway, I’d often answer that question with the Wallabee or original Polyveldt from Clarks, love them, but they reintroduced the latter last year, big fan of it for sure but so is everyone else which kind of dumbs it down a bit for me, predictable answer but they have always been on my trotters as far as I can remember. I enjoy some of the newer breed, the top end handmade moccs like Quoddy, Yuketen and Native Craftworks, I’m always a bit scepitcal when something is so expensive though, but you don’t know until you try really. Then there’s the funky, hippyish Euro comfort shoes, ‘special’ shoes to some, aceness to me. Sorry, I know you said quick fire.
CUS: Who is your Sporting Hero and why?
CC: Being from Stockport it would be so easy for me to say Fred Perry, as a sporting icon – he’s world renowned and that’s pretty cool for this place, his legacy also left a clothing label which is also a world renowned brand, as famous for it’s lasting appeal amongst old British subcultures too. He went from Portwood to Hollywood and that really is living the dream, however, I personally think tennis is a bit shit, so it’s got to be Danny Bergara for me, who? the first overseas manager to lead a British football team out at Wembley that’s who. A little Uruguayan who gave my team some of the greatest times during my formative years. On the pitch it was ‘Big’ Kevin Francis, he was my hero, he’s now a Canadian copper.
CUS: What websites / blogs would you recommend us checking out?
CC: Our Culture, Proper Magazine, Little White Lies, Sabotage Times, plenty on my blogroll actually.
CUS: Top 3 things you don’t leave the house without?
CC: My keys otherwise I’d be snookered. Nah, I usually always take a camera out with me, it’s a G12 so just a little too clunky for a coat pocket, so then I need a little ‘man bag’ I have a couple of smaller old satchels which are good for that. I’ve got more hats than a motherfucker too, so hardly ever go out with bare hair. Often I go out on my bike, it’s an old Falcon produced Eddy Merckx racing bike, it’s older than me, I’ve had it done up a bit but I’d still love to pimp it up a bit more, I must remember to stop going up in the hills on it though, always come home with a puncture and aching shins like a fat five-a-side footballer .
CUS: What is your favourite piece that you have designed?
CC: Arguably the shirts, I put lots of different aspects into the Union shirt especially, little details which we got just right. I like the way the cagoule came out too, it’s a very basic jacket but we did it the right way, the manufacturers were passed on to me with the blessing of the originators so in that respect it’s a nice tribute to what I think is a classic garment everyone can wear. To answer you question though that may well just be around the corner, wink-wink.
CUS: Tell us an interesting fact about the brand that we didn’t know.
CC: Great question, a difficult one to answer, the famous explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley who muttered the words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”, is a relative.
CUS: When can we expect more bobble hats? My head is fighting a losing battle against the Lancashire elements.
CC: There’s going to be two releases of three of the Weirs this autumn, all new colours again, and another different variation of it once again as we did last year, in fact it’s more like eight. We also have a woolen ‘watch cap’ being made by a company in the East Midlands at the moment, this will be known as the ‘McMurphy’ cap, though it’s not a cap to me, it’s a wooly hat, looking good – ribbed wool with lots of speckly bits yarned in. And we also have a small run of our own five panel cap made in New York.
CUS: Top 3 places for a quiet pint in the UK.
CC: The Uxbridge Arms in Notting Hill, if you’ve ever seen how manic Notting Hill Gate is on a Saturday this place is a haven, it’s like a village pub that has no right to be where it is.
The Waters Green Hotel in Macclesfield, a proper old man pub, arguably the best choice of beers I’ve ever seen, deliberately all pale/golden ales and dead easy to sup too.
The Baltic Fleet in Liverpool, nice pub set out like a ship stranded on the main Wapping road, great home brewed ales and nice pies.
CUS: Final question, Country Walks, Away night Matches or Buying trainers. Which is your favourite?
CC: Well, it’s a long time since I bought any trainers actually, and as much as I once adored the football scene I don’t really do it these days so I’ll opt for the first option but only if there’s a pub at the end of it. Though a decent away under floodights on a wet midweek going in your favour is a joy to behold.
Thanks Dan and make sure you go and check the lads out they make quality clobber and make some interesting blog posts too.