When I open my Instagram account and look at the people I follow, the name that appears right at the top of the list is that of Liam Jefferies. While I don’t know for sure why this is the case, it feels entirely apropos. See, I click through the list of people I follow more often than most. It’s an occupational hazard of sorts — I’m constantly looking for posts and themes that might be relevant to what I’m writing about in a given week. I’ll then share relevant images to my Stories: pictures of jeans, say, if denim is the theme of the day or photos of people wearing Ralph Lauren if that’s the brand I’ve been writing about.
Liam being at the top of that oft-consulted list is fitting because his page is easily the one I have returned to most often. It is a constant source of inspiration and has been for nearly the entirety of my tenure in menswear. If there’s a particular item, style, or brand I’m interested in, the chances are Liam’s already on it and has been for ages. His wardrobe has, as a result, always had a unique quality in my estimation. It is a trove of vestiary enthusiasm, like some unusually well-dressed magpie’s collection of everything you could want in a wardrobe.
This is not to say it doesn’t exhibit a distinct point of view or personality. Quite the opposite. As we discuss below, Liam has always had specific interests and tastes that have shaped his sense of style. These same sensibilities have informed his work as a writer, most recently for Drake’s. When I learned that Liam had started working there, it immediately seemed like a perfect fit. Drake’s is the kind of brand people look to in order to learn how to dress well; what better workplace could there be for a man whose wardrobe has for so long helped me do the same?
I’m grateful to Liam for taking the time to answer my questions with his typical wit and charm. I hope you enjoy our exchange as much as I did.
It’s often the case that people’s interest in clothing begins at home when they are children. Was that the case for you? What did your parents dress like?
My dad was a die-hard mod; Sta-Prest, Ben Sherman, Bass Weejuns, you name it, he even had a beautiful yellow and white Lambretta GT200, until he wrote it off skidding through a patch of horse muck in the road, suffice to say his style took a hit there. Mum’s always been a fan of scarves, so that’s definitely played a part, too.
I’ve heard you describe yourself as having a kind Anglo-American trad aesthetic. How did you get interested in this kind of clothing and what is it about it that appealed to you?
I followed in Dad’s footsteps and went down the (albeit retro-retroactively) modernist path, at college I saved for so long to get a two-tone tonic suit with three covered buttons, slim lapels, the whole lot. My very first pay check was spent on a genuine US military surplus M65 fishtail parka. I remember delving deep into the history of 1950s and 60s modernism, and really being surprised that this style movement was borne of stateside influence — obvious now I think about it.
Being from Northern England, this wasn’t quite the first foray into individuality it may appear; mod was and is the archetypical model of ‘acceptable male vanity’, throw a stone in a northern working men’s club and you’ll hit a Fred Perry, a pair of 501s, and if you’re in Harrogate, a Baracuta G9.
I suppose that’s why I sought something further, something beyond the Ocean Colour Scene, moody desert boots and sideburns starter pack. Enter Ivy Style.
So much of Ivy style as we think of it comes from British clothing filtered through an American lens, which was itself reinterpreted via Japan, and now in any number of ways by various brands, social media, pop culture, etc. Do you have any theory as to why Ivy style has proven such an appealing aesthetic for such a diverse set of people?
To take a simplistic view, I think what is so permeating about the style is its ability to evolve and adapt to differing hosts; in England we like to wear the US influence, 3-roll-2, seersucker, white bucks, whereas in the states it seems to be the all rugby shirts, tweed and cricket whites — British stuff. As ever, the Japanese combine them both with aplomb and throw in an extra shot of rugged workwear for good measure.
That’s wonderfully put. Am I right in saying that you once apprenticed at the shirtmakers T. M. Lewin? Was there anything you learned from that experience that has stuck with you?
I worked on the shop floor of TM Lewin in Meadowhall, Sheffield while I was at college. As I was still firmly in my mod phase I perhaps didn’t quite appreciate spread collars, double cuffs and the importance of a good bit of pleating, but I certainly discovered that there is something that sets apart a Jermyn Street shirt from its contemporaries.
You work as a writer for Drake’s. I once heard you in an interview describe all of the people who work there as feeling like the cool, fun kids everyone wants to hang out with, which has always stuck with me as an apt description of the vibe at Drake’s. How do you feel now being part of that cool group yourself?
When I first got word about the job I remembered that interview, it’s crazy how stuff can materialise, at the time I was working freelance after being given the heave-go during COVID at another Jermyn Street shirtmakers (who shall remain nameless) so I feel lucky to have landed on my loafers on the parquet floors or No. 9 Savile Row.
The chaps at Drake’s (@moteen_, @george.anderson98, @liam_mc, @claudiupg, @ryan.guinn and @jilliamweffery to name but a few) are whatever the opposite of toxic masculinity is. Ever walked into work or somewhere and you just know that you’re going to get rinsed out for something you’re wearing? No chance with these fellas, nothing but love.
Apart from using what I assume is an enviable employee discount at Drake’s, where are the places you typically go to buy your clothes?
I used to get ninety percent of my stuff from eBay, I used Graham Marsh’s The Ivy Look basically as a wish list on there. Nowadays, other than the obvious, I’ll save up for something I really like that is made properly and fairly. Working at Drake’s has renewed my appreciation for the manufacturing chain, and how important it is for things to be made the right way.
You and me both. One of the things that has always struck me about your collection of clothing is how well you seem to have all of your bases covered. You have an extremely practical and versatile wardrobe. It contains great examples of all of the basics someone might need in addition to a good helping of more idiosyncratic items. Do you have any advice on how someone might go about building a wardrobe like that? Are there any absolute essentials to start with?
Trousers. Or jeans, whatever, get a pair that sit properly where they should and fit right, then wear them with everything. For me, style starts with comfort; the things you wear when it is convenient — invest in well made versions of these, then you can build around that. In my experience, trousers are the way you can tell if someone is fooling themselves, so when yours fit properly, you’ll stand different.
At Habilitate I usually 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 have my dad’s original Bass Weejuns, purchased sometime in the 80s, they’ve been resoled many times but are still in great condition. I also have his 1893 Sovereign ring — he’s alive and well, just very generous.
Not mine, but I did purchase a Navajo pattern car coat for my girlfriend soon after we met that she still loves 12 years later, that’s longer than anything has ever fit me!
Those are all great shouts. I also know you’re an avid cyclist and I was wondering if you’ve figured out a way to keep nice clothes in good nick while on a bike because I definitely haven’t.
Haha! There’s nothing you can do, so many of my khakis (always the lighter coloured ones) have grease on the left ankle, I’ve tried clips, cuffs, short of tucking into your sock, nothing does the trick. I’ve learned to live with it, but if you find anything, let me know.
Will do, although I don’t have much faith either at this point. Finally, as a man perennially sporting some of the best facial hair in the business, do you have any tips on growing and maintaining a moustache?
I started my moustache at University, and just never shaved it. I’ve had a beard around it, but came back to my attempt at the ‘Selleck’. As many other moustachioed types may attest, I’m never happy with my ‘tache, and trim it probably every other day. For this I use a Kent A81T and scissors.
All images courtesy of Liam Jefferies