By HWS – 28th March 2023
Team HWS went on a wee day out to research a very decent independent clothes shop with the interesting and cool resident Brett Rowden. His shop “It Started in the North” on Easter Road, Edinburgh was the perfect venue. Another conversation that was overdue and fits nicely with our music, threads, subculture and football section.
Thanks for having us Brett.
Starting here at your shop, very impressive with cool images. I like the mix of threads and vinyl like a perfect gold mine and a place to hang out in. Would you say you have a combination of a mod look and a terrace vibe?
Yes, basically a mixture of subcultures. I know that’s a title a lot of people don’t like to use but it is very retro I suppose.
So, the name of the shop interests us, I think I’ve heard the quote before. Does it relate to Northern Casuals claiming the scene as their own?
Yes, loosely, it was in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way. It was a bit of a joke until we come up with something different or better. From then, when it was mentioned people seemed to like it and with me having a southern accent and having the shop up here in Scotland it was a bit of humour; people then took to it.
I suppose it makes people curious and it could mean anything you want? The sign is very effective?
Yeah, the customers and people that come in are quite curious thinking it could even be a Northern Soul thing and yes it can mean what you want, the sign was a decent idea especially when we added Edinburgh to it.
I know you prefer to call it the mod movement but for a young age, how and when did your passion start for this?
Random really, my mum was big into Oasis I suppose it went from there so I was always looking deeper. There were also bands like Ocean Colour Scene and a bit of that Britpop thing. However, luckily where I lived there was always a kind of scene and having central London on your doorstep you have the bars, the shops and the record shops. I was buying records at a very young age and that was an image thing more than anything else as it was when CDs were in the main. I credit a lot of it to where I grew up to be honest with you.
Before I even knew what Mod was I was already interested in the ’60s at a very young age. As I say I like to call it a movement as there have been so many types of music attached to going through the decades. It keeps evolving under a loose banner.
London is probably the best city in the world for these things although I think it can be quite fickle?
Yes, 100% especially with the mod movement. It became very insular within and a lot of criticism led to one-upmanship, I didn’t like that.
How did you see Oasis when they came on the go? For us, it looked like very much a football terrace vibe at first. I’m not sure it was manufactured for them but I personally welcomed that as I was coming out of the club scene so it was good timing.
Definitely, and they took some original terrace and mod looks and evolved them. Although I like the football look a lot of it was quite baggy and that didn’t sit too well with me so I probably went more into the mod look and the knitwear. From then I was reverting back into books and magazines and seeing styles more slim cut and the cool knitwear from the ‘60s. Also, there was a lot more music attached to the mod movements I suppose.
I think I mentioned to you before that the mod revival of ’79 didn’t go down well with me. Perhaps it was just the place I was living in then, but these Mods were very much single dimensional with parkas covered in patches such as targets also boating shoes etc. I actually preferred the punks at nine years old then two-tone came.
Agree 100% clones after watching Qudadrophina. The parkas with patches was perhaps influenced by scooter clubs but I didn’t see that as stylish either.
I think when the casuals started although there may have been a crossover, it was a crossover with the original Mods of the ’60s. The link was the attention to detail.
I’ve heard you speak highly of Paul Wellers – Stanley Road album. Is that up there with your best?
I would say so yes, I think it’s like a lot of albums though where you need to be in the mood for certain ones. I think it’s certainly his best. It was like his big comeback it’s different from his early Jam stuff but shows exactly what he can do and it is very original. That’s the thing with Weller, he might split opinions but his stuff is always authentic.
From there, it’s time to give us your other four favourite albums …
Oasis – Definitely Maybe ,
Marvin Gay – What’s Going On
Artic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not
Jay Z – Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Then while we’re at it, your top favourite clothing labels?
We connect or football club as always … Celtic is your team also. Do you get to see them much these days?
Not as much as I would like to these days, I was a season ticket holder up until this season but I had to let it go as I wasn’t getting to the games. I had the ticket for a long time and it actually hurts not having it this season.
Do you expect another long period of domination?
I certainly hope so and I can’t see any reason why not. We seem to be quite financially secure and the recruitment has been spot on, Ange has had a lot to do with that. If we continue getting the correct recruitment then I don’t see why we can’t dominate and push on a bit in Europe.
How do you see the present team? Ange is the perfect fit I reckon?
Yes, 100% but I would be lying if I had said I said that at the start. I had concerns, I mean you’d heard about his personality but I didn’t know what to think. For example, he didn’t even bring his own backroom staff just his bag and just asks “what’s happening?” [laughter]. He must just be so iron-willed it’s like my way or the highway! It’s just more credit to him so yes he is the perfect fit for us. But then you always get worried that he will do a Rodger’s on us but I think Ange really does have an affection for the club. I think he really gets it and if he doesn’t then he’s certainly a genius in PR skills [laughter]. As long as he’s there I think we will be okay. Regarding recruitment you just need to look at Alister Johnston who replaced Juranovic there’s been no difference it’s basically like-for-like. The football is great to watch and the players seem to run through walls for him.
The Japanese players especially, you look how fit they are, like super-human. I mean I recall last season Ange saying Hatate was not 100% up to his level for fitness and we would see the best of him this season, I’m not sure we all believed that but it become a fact. I think he’s the best player in the league. I think the next one who will advance is Iwata, I think he won Japanese player of the year.
Returning to the threads. I have recently discussed those early Skinheads with Terry Farley and others on how smart they were in the Ivy League look and of course very mixed race, very cool. Would you agree those Skins were an off-cut Mod back then?
Again it’s that evolvement, I think it was very much working class with a smart representation of yourself. And you mention the Ivy thing, to me that will always be amazing. I mean UK working-class kids finding Ivy League shirts, I mean how cool is that. From affluent American university types. Same with the Italian knitwear the working class kids were perhaps from the polar opposite but they went after the threads. And you mention the mixed-race element, a lot of it was Jamaican music and a lot of Caribbean communities had well integrated and their styles had started filtering through such as pork pie hats and loafers.
I know, Skinheads would never have existed without its black influence.
No! And amazingly elements of it were highjacked by the far-right stuff, but yeah it certainly came from Caribbean music and style. I liked Shane Meddows’ thing – ‘This is England ’86’ it didn’t shy away from the racist element but it also put a massive negative portrayal on it at the same time.
In conversation with A State of Mind, you talked about Fred Perry and its continuous thread through subcultures. I’ve started wearing it again as I see it as a staple possibly for that reason. It’s been mentioned that the casuals dumped Fred Perry for Lacoste. This isn’t factual either. It’s always been there. Northern Casuals wore it under the name Perry Boys. I believe it’s how you wear it?
Completely agree, you get certain people trying to make out they were or are the trendsetters and style makers and because Fred Perry is popular it’s easy to think I have moved on from that. And as you say it was more Northern Casual thing. It was worn with a skinhead or a wedge haircut. But if you look at a lot of old photo books from images from the late 60s and 70s, what’s the recurring brand … it has to be Fred Perry. I mean it’s been questioned if there is such a thing as subcultures now but you look at the 100 Club in London with the bands and their influence. They actually secured the existence of the 100 Club. So, if you want to identify one brand with a subculture then it is Fred Perry.
And yes as you say it is how you wear it. Not everyone may agree but I think there are certain brands or heritage styles that do things better. For example, Fred Perry does the best polo in my opinion whereas a tracksuit I don’t think they do the best; but Sergio does a better tracksuit. Another example would be a Fred Perry hoody might be seen as less of a definition piece but a cardigan or polo more defined. The Made in England range is the best though I think, that’s the M12 polos although slightly more expensive.
Gabbici is another label you stock, this is a favourite of mine also. It also had a crossover with a few countercultures. From Mod, the early Casuals even the London Cabbies?
I associate the Gabbici knitwear with the original London casuals more. Although
Did you go much on the club scene when staying in London, was that your thing?
Yes and no, not overly. I did go but I wouldn’t say I was a clubber. I think I was more into bands and sitting in cool bars talking about this stuff. I think the best days of the club scene were probably before my time to be honest.
That brings us to the last question, did you go much on Andy Weatherall?
Absolutely, 100% yes, when we’re here chatting about clothes he was so innovative with all. What he done with Primal Scream he produced Screamadellica anyone who is innovative like that deserves credit. Then there’s the early Boys Own stuff, I think his legacy speaks for itself. The reaction when had passed away says it all. He broke down barriers.
Cheers, Brett, we could have chatted all day but thanks for having us mate.
It Started in the North can be found at 138-140 Easter Road Edinburgh. Website: https://itstartedinthenorth.co.uk/
*my purchases for the day were the Green Sergio Dallas and Gabicci Linekar long-sleeved polo.