Habilitate Talks to Mark Large

Mark Large wearing Double RL

I’ll come right out and say it: There isn’t a man I know with a more striking wardrobe than Mark Large. 

Mark, who you might know from his popular Instagram profile where he goes by the name @1lrg, or from his regular appearances in an array of print and online outlets, is a unique presence in the world of menswear. When so much of personal style necessarily involves borrowing from others — be they friends, social media personalities, celebs, or figures throughout history — it is vanishingly rare to discover someone who seems to dress in a wholly singular way. While Mark himself talks about drawing style inspiration from many different sources, the final product is one that nevertheless feels entirely original. 

Mark’s wardrobe is characterised by a glut of colour, character, and a good dose of spectacle. In fact, ‘wardrobe’ doesn’t much do it justice — what he has can really only be described as a collection. His stock of Ralph Lauren pieces, in particular, is enough to make any clothing lover’s eyes water. 

I got to talk to Mark about his love of RL, among many other clothing-related subjects. He is for me — as for so many people — a bona fine style icon, so I was thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to pick his brain. 

There are so many things I want to ask you about that it’s hard to choose where to begin, but I want to start off by talking about Ralph Lauren. Do you remember what the first piece of RL you ever got was? What was it about the brand that spoke to you?

The first piece of Ralph Lauren I bought was probably a silk golf jacket with a fantastic art deco style print picture on the back. I was visiting Leeds on a shopping trip and found it in, I think, Flannels. I’d never seen anything like it before, it definitely called to me. It also helped that it was in the end of sale section at a great price. I loved the way Polo used colours and textures together, and all the references to the past and heritage. 

A lot of people in the clothing world (myself included) are kind of obsessed with Ralph Lauren.  In part, I think that’s because it manages to be so many things to so many different types of people. All of the various lines — Polo, RRL, Purple Label, etc. — definitely help with that. Do you have a favourite among the different lines? 

I’ve bought across all the labels over the years, and have had periods where certain labels are my favourite. My style is constantly changing, and with it, my preference of label too. I found Ralph Lauren through Polo, I love the Ivy inspired styles. I had a period where I was obsessed with Purple Label, especially the tailoring. Rugby also caught my attention, and when I visited the US I always tried to visit a Rugby store, because there wasn’t one in London, until one eventually opened in Covent Garden. I then became hooked on RRL, I love their take on Americana, and was lucky enough to be invited to a tour of the head office in New York, shown their design processes, future seasons’ designs and generally treated like a VIP. The team were really friendly, the VP even booked us a table at the Polo Bar. 

I’m fully green with envy, that sounds incredible. Apart from Ralph Lauren, what are the brands or clothing makers you find yourself turning to most often?

At the moment I am buying from Polo more than the other labels, but I also buy from many other brands, such as Drakes, Thomas Farthing, Brycelands, Buzz Rickson, Eastman Leather, Scott Fraser Simpson, Simon Cathcart, Jakes… the list goes on. 

It’s really rare to find someone who has a genuinely unique sense of style, but it’s definitely true in your case. I’ve heard you describe the way you dress as eclectic before. Has that always been the case? How long did it take for the eclectically-dressed Mark Large to arrive?

I guess my style really developed through my late teens. Prior to that, I was trying to keep up with the current trends, and what I was seeing guys a few years older than me wear. As I’m from a small town, I’ve made the effort to travel to cities for shopping trips from a very young age. From the age of around 16, I started to visit London more, drawn to shops such as The Duffer of St George in D’Arblay Street. On trips, I picked up some very ‘interesting’ suits there. One in particular that I remember is a red jumbo cord, double-breasted suit, which definitely turned heads and a very loud, large checked, cream double-breasted, that I especially loved. 

When you’re putting an outfit together, do you usually plan it out some time ahead of getting dressed or do you just assemble things in the moment?

Both really, it depends on the day or event. If I have a special event planned, I will probably have an idea of what I’d like to wear, but on a day to day basis, I’ll just throw something together at the last minute. A lot depends on my mood. 

Speaking for myself and I’m sure for many of the people reading this, I’ve often looked at the stuff you wear and wondered ‘Where on earth did he manage to find this and how do I get in on that?’ Can you tell us a bit about how you usually get your clothes?

Nowadays, due to Covid, I seem to shop online mostly. Hopefully, I’ll get the itch to start shopping face to face again, as it’s always nice to try the size and fabric, and of course, have that interaction with staff. If I decide there is an item I want, I search relentlessly until I find it. In the past, I have been lucky to find great items in discount outlets etc. The items which I like, tend to be deemed loud/gaudy/ugly by the majority, so end up with the biggest discounts. I also have items sent from Japan. I’m a big fan of many Japanese brands, and have made helpful contacts, who are happy to ship things to me. Over the years, I’ve had various favourite shops to visit; a holiday never passed without some shopping. I’m certainly prepared to travel to get what I need. 

On the other side of the coin, I think storage is something that probably everyone who is interested in clothes comes up against at one point or another. I know a lot of people have a one-in-one-out policy, others put things in storage or sell their old clothes online, and so on. You have assembled an enviable clothing collection, but do you spend much time getting rid of older stuff? If so, what do you usually do with them?

I ran out of space years ago, so last year we converted another spare bedroom into yet another dressing room. I never used to sell anything, but over the past couple of years I’ve sold the occasional item. I’ve tried eBay, Marrkt and selling my items on Instagram Stories. To be honest, I’m a hoarder! I have so much in storage, occasionally I think that someone else should get to enjoy these garments and sell a few of them, but it’s a rarity. I will say though, that when I’m in the mood to sell, bargains can be had!

I also wanted to ask you about your work as a painter and decorator. Firstly, what do you usually wear to work? And does your day job affect how you dress in your downtime at all?

What I wear to work depends on the day and the job. Some days I will wear overalls and company-branded T-shirts etc, other days I will be in more of a management role, so I wear my own clothes. I’ve been a decorator since leaving school, therefore, having to wear overalls and get dirty most days, I think that reinforced my need to make more of an effort with my clothes. From being young I’ve worn suits and certainly always wore one on an evening out. Nowadays my work is predominantly heritage work; museums, English Heritage, National Trust, palaces such as Eltham and Fulham, guild houses etc. The clients seem to like my dress sense/artistic statement. 

Your use of bold colours is definitely one of the key aspects of your style. Do you have any advice for someone looking to incorporate more colour in their wardrobe? Is there a shade you particularly like wearing?

I’ve always been drawn to colour, I like bright cheerful colours. Yellow is a favourite, as is pink. I’d say ‘give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen?’ I find it a positive and happy expression. I’m actually quite introverted, so I’ve been at odds sometimes with standing out in some of the garments I’ve worn over the years, but I’ve had a stronger emotion of knowing what I like, and wanting to wear it. 

As someone who follows you on Instagram, it’s always interesting seeing how you combine different elements and influences from one outfit to the next. You draw on so many different styles and wear such a variety of things, I’ve often wondered: Is there anything you feel you can’t pull off or would feel uncomfortable wearing?

There have been a few things over the years that I’ve loved, but know I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I remember RRL made a great poncho, very Clint Eastwood. As an item, it was beautiful, as always, the details were period correct etc, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable in it. You have to feel confident and happy wearing something, or it ends up wearing you. Although, one of the guys in the London store wore it and wore it well, so proved it could be done. 

Given the unique and eye-catching nature of your wardrobe, I’m curious to know: How do strangers out in the world typically respond to your outfits?

I’ve noticed strangers sniggering once or twice over the years, but on the whole, it’s been positive. In my younger years, friends would often say they couldn’t or wouldn’t wear something, but they thought I looked great. People out and about, often feel the need to comment, to both my wife and I, with lovely positive things. It’s always nice to hear. I too will always tell someone they look great if they stand out to me, it’s all about passing on the positivity. 

Lastly, I always look out for any photos you post that include your pets. Do you have any advice for taking care of your clothing as an animal lover? 

I find that if I put something on that I especially love, it is a magnet for the cats! They always want to be rubbing against me or picked up; that’s life with cats! I have a touch of OCD, so all my hanging garments are in covers, shoes are in labelled boxes, hats are in labelled boxes etc. Everything is ‘just so’, but it is guaranteed that it’s just that moment when the cats realise I’m going out that they need those cuddles! If you have pets, you have to go with the flow and cuddle them anyway, after all, it’s just clothes!

Mark Large holding a kitten

All images courtesy of Mark Large