Habilitate Talks to Deliberate Indifference

Deliberate Indifference menswear illustration

One of my favourite menswear writers, Jason Diamond, recently wrote a feature over at GQ about the idea of fashion illustrators acting as influencers. The article frames this as a somewhat unusual proposition — after all, you might expect most people to turn to photographs first and foremost when looking for a source of clothing-related inspiration. When I read about what Diamond refers to as the ‘cartoon-as-style-icon movement’, though, I immediately felt a welcome flash of recognition. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, specifically the ability of clothing-focused artists to use drawings to ‘remind us that getting dressed can and should be something we do to enjoy life a little more’ (that’s Diamond again).

For me, the first name that comes to mind in this regard is my friend Simon, who you might know by his Instagram handle @deliberateindifference or from his recent collaborations with brands like Everyday Garments, Jabs, and Hokhaido. I first became aware of Simon’s work on social media when I joined his sizable and ever-expanding set of followers, and for good reason. If you’ve ever seen any of his drawings, you’ll find that he fits the bill of illustrator as source of inspiration to a tee.

I’m a perennial presence on the Deliberate Indifference page, which showcases Simon’s impressive artistic output. My regular visits are chiefly down to the wide array of content that Simon manages to put out, both in substance and style. On any given day you’re likely to discover a host of original images comprising different looks, topics, and sources of inspiration. Plus, included among his many drawings, you’ll even find a nice helping of old-fashioned photographic fit pics for good measure. 

What holds such a vibrant range of sensibilities together is Simon’s singular disposition. In a word, I’d pin it down to the same sentiment cited above with reference to Jason Diamond’s artists-as-influencers: Joy. There’s a clear sense of passion and enjoyment animating everything that Simon puts out into the world, making him a constant joy to follow.

Simon was kind enough to speak to me about his process, the stuff that he’s into, and his insights into the appeal of fashion illustrations. 

Deliberate Indifference menswear drawing of Moonrise Kingdom narrator

You work under the name Deliberate Indifference. Can you tell us a little bit about how that name came about?

In truth, I was just looking for something that seemed clever when I created this account a few years ago. I didn’t post much at all for a long time, but I liked the username and decided to use the same account when I started posting outfit pics and, eventually, illustrations. I feel like Ms Krabappel maybe described Bart’s attitude as deliberately indifferent in The Simpsons once, but haven’t been able to verify it. If anyone can confirm this, please let me know! I know from Google that it is actually a legal term for intentionally disregarding a substantial risk of harm to someone. But that’s not as cool and nonchalant as I imagined it when I came up with the moniker.

How did you first learn how to draw?

I’ve been doodling and drawing since I could hold a crayon. My uncle is an artist and I looked up to him as a kid. He was always making little posters and drawings for me and my sisters. At primary school a friend and I created little characters and made our own comics with ads and everything in them. The margins of my notepads were always full of drawings in high school, and that continued into the world of work. It wasn’t something I ever really told people about as an adult, but in the last few years I’ve really got into digital illustration, and have taken a range of online courses in software such as Adobe Illustrator, Clip Studio Paint, and Procreate (which is what I use predominantly now). Posting on Instagram has been a great way to see what people like, and has given me the confidence to keep going. It’s also been a great way of meeting other illustrators, most of which are really friendly and we exchange ideas and feedback on each others’ work.

What interests you about menswear as a subject for your illustrations?

Illustrating menswear appeals to me as it allows me to combine my two passions, art and clothing. 

Drawing a piece of clothing or someone in an outfit allows you to really focus on the item or outfit, getting under the hood and seeing the smaller details that would go unnoticed at first glance, thinking about what makes it work. It also helps with understanding silhouette, and of course colour theory is highly prevalent in both art and clothing.

Deliberate Indifference fashion illustration

You have drawn everything from individual clothing items to characters from pop culture to people in the world of menswear. Can you talk a little bit about how you decide on a subject?

This is dictated purely by my mood, what I’ve been up to, thinking about or lusting after. So for example, in summer last year I drew four separate illustrations with items I was looking forward to wearing or maybe purchasing once autumn rolled around. This stemmed from being tired of only wearing shorts and tees to wanting some more layers in the mix. So I pulled the items together and drew them all.

I know you at Habilitate recently shared a drawing I did of The Narrator from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. I drew him after watching the film (for the umpteenth time) as I really love the style Anderson dresses his characters in. That bold red duffle coat and the duck boots are just amazing.

Sometimes I will just see a coat or a pair of sneakers I really like and will just sit and draw them, whether it’s online or something I own already.

I don’t like to be tethered to one specific subject or style, as I think that can lead to monotony, which stifles creativity and fun, and if you’re not having fun and loving what you do, it quickly loses its soul.

You do work in a bunch of different styles — portraits, freehand digital drawings, felt-effect illustrations — do you have a favourite medium to work in?

Haha, I do like to keep it interesting and challenging for myself by mixing it up. I really enjoy the felt-effect illustrations, as I haven’t seen much out there like them, certainly not in the realm of menswear illustrations. I have a few ideas for one or two more of those, so watch this space.

I have to say I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed the recent INSTAFOLK series I did where I drew people off Instagram in a cartoon style. That’s been very well received, and it is nice to give back to a community that has given me so much already.

Deliberate Indifference New Balance felt illustration

How long does a typical illustration take to complete from start to finish?

Very much depends on the style and the medium. Some of the really minimal ones can take as little as fifteen minutes (I did one of a guy in a Patagonia fleece a while ago like this) but then the ones with outfits and multiple items can take hours. As I’ve done more of these, I’ve tried to incorporate more textures and details where possible, while trying to maintain a clean, straightforward style. Completing lessons in the various illustration software has helped me find efficiencies in my workflow, which is always a bonus.

Are there any types of clothing that are especially difficult to draw?

Anything with a complex pattern in the fabric is always a real pain to draw. It isn’t so much difficult, as incredibly fiddly and time-consuming. Think floral prints or paisley. Just mentioning those gives me shivers.

Sneakers always take a long time as there is usually loads of detail to include. Sometimes it takes almost as long to draw laces properly as it does the rest of the person.

I mentioned that you work in a bunch of different forms and draw a whole range of people who dress in different styles. How would you describe your own style of dressing?

A very difficult question to answer. I’m influenced and inspired by so many different styles and so many different people. I’ve joked before I’m becoming a composite of everyone I follow and every cool film or TV character I see. But I guess that all of us who are interested in clothing are inspired by others. I’ve said already how I wouldn’t like to be tethered to one drawing style, and the same applies to what I wear. 

Deliberate Indifference clothing illustration

I often look to your Instagram profile for clothing inspiration, which incorporates elements of everything ranging from workwear to street style, outdoor gear to militaria, and beyond. You definitely manage to draw from a whole range of different styles in creating your own wardrobe. Given this wide-reaching scope, is there any particular piece of clothing that you think no one should go without, regardless of what they usually wear?

Thanks so much, that’s incredibly flattering. I think that a lot of clothing from different styles can be mixed and matched, and I think we are seeing that more and more with the continuing rise in popularity of GORPcore and other outdoor wear — people wearing Danner hiking boots or Salomon sneakers with slightly dressier pants etc. There was an article on Permanent Style a few years ago about wearing field jackets with formal tailoring, which of course they executed to perfection. I think as long as you understand colour combinations and silhouettes most things are fair game.

To answer your question, I suppose the easy answer would be a good quality white T-shirt that fits properly. It’s hard to think of anything that they don’t work with. Failing that, a well made pair of boots (one that can be resoled) or a good waterproof coat are great items that if looked after can last a lifetime and are just practical items to own. It’s the old adage that anything which separates you from the ground or the rain is worth investing in.

That’s sage advice, I reckon. At Habilitate I typically focus on stories of interest behind specific clothing items or brands. Is there a garment of yours that has a particularly interesting or meaningful story behind it that you can tell us about?

I’ll go for two, for very different reasons.

One is my orange Battenwear Scout Anorak. It was one of the most expensive items I bought after seeing a few people I follow on Instagram wearing them. I’m looking at you in particular, @crashtestbrummie. I always cite it as my favourite item of clothing, and think I’ll never part with it. It marked a watershed moment of realising buying fewer, better items that you’ve coveted for ages is much more rewarding than the instant, fleeting gratification of buying lots on a whim.

The second is a belt I bought when I was a student in a charity shop for £1. It’s an old brown leather belt originally from Next, but I’ve worn it more than any other belt I’ve ever owned. I’ve had it about fifteen years and it’s still going strong. It goes to show that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a useful item.

I totally agree and those are two fantastic picks, thank you. To switch gears back to your art again, I often find that the stuff I write about for this site shapes the way I dress in real life, and vice versa. I imagine that the clothes you wear influence the content of your artwork, but do you find that the things you draw also come to affect the way that you dress?

Very much so. A lot of the things I draw are items I’m naturally attracted to, whether it be when I’m looking for something in particular or if I’m just browsing. One example is from a drawing I did a few months ago, ‘outside on a rainy day’. For the drawing, I wanted to find a good waterproof cap as it is something I didn’t own but knew I’d find useful. I came across a Montbell goretex cap which I then really wanted for months. I was hoping it would be reduced in a sale at some point but it never was. I recently bought the cap and I’m really happy with it. It’s another example of wanting something for a long time, and feeling really satisfied with it when you finally get it.

Who are some of your favourite illustrators, menswear-related or otherwise?

As a child I loved the books of Roald Dahl, and I think the illustrations by Quentin Blake lent them an extra element of magic. I love his whimsical, almost scratchy style. He conveys so much with so few pen strokes. Jean Jullien is another one who conveys so much with so little. I also like the work of Julian Opie, and have had a few people mention that some of my pieces are similar.

I love the line art of Fiona Staples, who has illustrated the graphic novel series Saga, amongst others. It’s just so clean.

You have an impressive and ever-growing following on Instagram. Why do you think menswear-related art resonates with such a big audience? What is it about illustrations (as opposed to, say, photographs) that uniquely appeals to people?

I think that illustration appeals in this instance as it stands out more than photographs. There are so many people posting photos of their outfits online, which is great from an inspiration point of view, but illustrations stand out as they’re not as common. That’s not to say I’m the only one doing them, there are loads of talented people out there who deserve much larger followings than I do, and don’t. 

I also think part of it might be that it is, in a strange way, easier to imagine yourself in the clothes in an illustration. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is fed up with images of ridiculously handsome guys with V-shaped figures modelling clothes whilst leaning against their sports cars. I can’t relate to them and I find a lot of that content incredibly superficial. I’m just an average guy and I like to follow the accounts of other average guys as I can relate to them, and when I draw clothes it’s stuff I like and would or do wear, and I guess others in my position appreciate that.

You do commissions, right? Can you tell people how best to get in touch with you if they’re interested in buying some of your art?

I do indeed! Anyone interested can get in touch with me via my Instagram page, @deliberateindifference, have a look on my website deliberateindifference.me or drop me an email at simon.deliberate@gmail.com

Thanks for the questions, Theo, and thanks for reading, folks.

All images courtesy of Deliberate Indifference