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One half of the creative force behind Mono Media Films, the prolific film company that brought us the John Simons: A Modernist documentary, as well as an established author in his own right, Mark Baxter is a familiar face to customers of John Simons. A proud South London native, known simply as ‘Bax’ to friends and family, he has successfully carved a career for himself writing on and documenting the topics closest to his heart, namely: clothes, music and of course, football. In this customer spotlight, we took the opportunity to discuss with Bax the importance of keeping it stylish and simple, the enduring appeal of Steve McQueen and the harmony in Miles Davis’ style and sound during his ‘Kind of Blue’ era.
1. Can you remember the first piece of clothing you purchased with your first pay check? What was it and where was this purchase made?
I can’t actually remember the very first purchase, but the most significant one was my first bespoke suit. I worked in ‘The Print’ around 1982 in Fleet Street and after a couple of years, I was earning decent dough. I’d always wanted a handmade suit, as I had been brought up by a mum and dad who were very fussy about clothes and that was obviously passed down in my genes. Anyway, this particular suit was a chocolate brown hopsack whistle, with emerald-green silk lining. It was styled as a three button ‘mod’ suit and I wore it to death until it ‘shrunk’ on me as I got older. The suit cost me £250, and I purchased it from Ron Martin, who was an established tailor on Walworth Road. It was a thing of beauty.
2. When was your first visit to the shop and what were your first impressions?
My first visit to J. Simons, as it was then called when the store was located on Russell Street, took place around 1983 or 1984. A few weeks before the visit, I had seen a fella wearing a pair of black Bass Weejuns in the street and I instantly fell in love with them. I had to ask where they were from and the guy replied, “John’s in Covent Garden”, which I somehow managed to track down. My first and most vivid impressions of the shop were of the smell of leather coming from the various shoes on display, the sound of jazz playing on the shop stereo and the vast collection of fantastic clothes that I had never seen before. I was soon a regular and got to know the staff, who at the time were Kenny, Jeff and of course, John, pretty well! The queues on the sale weekends were legendary with fifty to sixty people, if not more, waiting for the shop to open and to grab a bargain. Magical days.
3. What item of clothing could you not live without?
That is a tough question! I have a large, darkish green and white spotted square that I wear as a scarf, and which I’m told belonged to my paternal grandad, Fred, who died in 1958, four years before I was born in 1962. I inherited it from my dad when he died in 2000. I wear it with a lot of pride. I would be truly inconsolable if I lost that. I also picked up a vintage N. Peal white cashmere cardigan from John a few years back. You don’t see many white cardigans around and this is a real ‘keeper.’ I mainly wear that on holiday in Italy, where it fits in nicely.
4. What is your number one style tip for the readers at home?
To keep it simple and pared down. I see so many people ‘over dressing’ and being covered in logos, labels, and garish colours. Keep it classic I say. I once saw a girl in her early 20’s at the old Burberry’s shop on Haymarket Street. This has got to be 35 years ago now and I have never forgotten her ‘look’. She had a great ‘wedge’ type haircut and was wearing a black crew neck Merino wool top, nice Levi’s with a turn up, black socks and black penny loafer Bass Weejuns. She looked effortlessly crisp, clean & smart and I’ve been trying to look as good as she did that day, ever since then if truth be told.
5. Do you have a sartorial hero?
It has got to be the mid 1960’s Steve McQueen, especially in The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt. In The Thomas Crown Affair he wears a well-cut suit perfectly, but also has a range of fantastic ‘day’ wear, such as a navy Baracuta G9 which he dons whilst flying his glider. In Bullitt he doesn’t put a foot wrong sartorially. Shawl collar knitwear, brown herringbone Ivy jacket with brown suede elbow patches and of course the iconic ‘Playboy’ chukka boots. So very influential and he certainly wore it all extremely well. He wasn’t called the ‘King of Cool’ for nothing!
6. If you could choose to attend a concert from any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you wear?
I’d go and see Miles Davis around 1959, whilst he was very much in his ‘Kind of Blue’ era and I would hope to see him onstage with saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist Bill Evans in the line-up. Miles had a great eye for clothes, especially around that time and of course his music at the time was off the scale. That would very much be an example of music and style in perfect unison. I’d turn up carrying a decent bottle of red wine, in my Isles Green John Simons herringbone Ivy jacket, a navy knitted merino wool shirt, navy chinos and black John Simons x Rancourt loafers. I’d like to think even Miles would nod my way in recognition of a fellow ‘dresser.’
7. Do you feel that your profession has impacted your style? Or do you feel as if your sense of style has impacted your choice of profession?
Good question. Thinking about it, they’ve always gone hand in hand. I fell in love with the ‘Modernist’ look around 1979 and that gradually morphed into a Mod/Suedehead/Ivy League/Football Casual hybrid that I have been into that ever since. I took up writing in 2002, going full time in 2008, and all my books and films have focused on the aspects of style, music, football, social history and art, that I have picked up on since being a part of that ‘scene.’ I am very lucky to be able to earn a living from writing about the things I love.
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