CLOSERThanMOST – Interview („bad“ English)

Here we go! We proudly present our first Interview for our young blog. It´s our pleasure to start with CLOSERThanMOST. Our English isn´t very good, so that´s why we noted „Bad“ English in the headline. We don´t want to present only a brand with their products. We want to meet the people behind it and the loads of stories they can tell. And yes Craig did it! Honestly, open and direct works as we like it over here in Frankfurt. The interview is a bit long and complex but it´s never be boring. 

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Hello Craig, thanks for the opportunity to do an interview with you. Please introduce yourself to our reader.

Hello there! I’m Craig and i’m the founder/owner of CLOSERThanMOST. I’m a 30 Something Northerner who still hasnt grown-up and doesnt like being told what to do. I have a healthy obsession with vintage jackets, illustration and old Industrial buildings (weird!) oh, and English Bulldogs.

If we follow the notes and slogans on your homepage you´re from Manchester. A city with a big influence to the English culture and music. How was it to grow up there and how do you characterize the city?

I grew up in a fairly small Town in the suburbs of Manchester, around 10 miles from the City centre. From an early age Manchester was always the place to head on Saturdays, living in a smaller town on the outskirts didnt hold the same appeal as the big city so to speak. I was a teen in the Nineties and ‚Town‘ was still in a pretty cool era with the likes of the Hacienda and Afflecks palace still going strong, then came Oasis and Britpop. I know nostalgia can be a bastard at times so i’m not going to start whinging about how the internet has wrecked things but there was definitley more fun in heading out on a Saturday in hunt of some vintage Adi or rare vinyl for the ever growing collection and there was no shortage of hidden gems and cool stores around that time in Manc to source that kind of thing. The City still had a bit of an edge to it back then which kind of added to the mistique, around the same time it was dubbed by the Media as ‚Gunchester‘ and at one point was suppossedly the most violent city in Europe. There were loads of Gang wars going on in the nineties and an early memory whilst on a Saturday visit with some school pals was seeing a bloke get stabbed in broad daylight. Modern Manchester is a different place, especially parts of the Northern Quarter that still has some nice little stores tucked away and some great buildings but it has changed alot & probably for the better in some cases….(there i go through the rose tinted spectacles again!)

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•The Eighties brought us a lot of different subcultures and trends (Skinheads, Punks, Mods, etc). Which one was fascinating you and do you was a member of one subculture?

I was born in 81′ so i can’t really claim to be an original in any of the above. The mod/skin/casual are all part of a crossover and you can still see that influence in the Modern day football movement as it stands. I dont like to catagorise myself really as i love the original 60’s mod dresscode, i own a scooter(Vespa) and listen to Ska and Punk so i guess theres a little of bit of all of the subcultures in me!

Which team did you follow and do you are still going to the ground to watch the matches at home or away?

I probably do around 3-4 games a year these days, mainly aways with Bolton, for years i followed my local non-league outfit after really falling out of love with the topflight modern game. I have of also travelled with England in the past.

What was the reason to stop following your team and which point exactly was it that you have lost the love for the beautiful game?

I havent fallen out of love with the beautiful game, i could still watch football until my eyes bled 🙂 but what i have lost love for is the complete commercial take over of our National sport. For me and many other males of England the football was much more than just 90 minutes, it was a whole social life away from the norm. A place where you could mix with other lads who were into the same stuff, liked the same clohtes, had similar music tastes , it was almost like having a second family. Now we have grounds with no atmosphere and tickets the working classes cant afford. If your really desparate you can watch it down the pub,that is just as long as you support a top flight club that gets the tv airtime. Its the same, maybe even worse with the National team, the barmy boozers have been replaced with painted faces, the England band and twats dressed up as St.George, people like us arnt wanted at the football anymore, theyve rubbed us out. The non-league team i followed also fell victim to the perils of the greedy corporates and went bust in 2010.

Were you part of a so called firm or did you travel as a free wolf?

The biggest part of the scene for me was clothing, looking the part and of course the good friends i have made through going to the match, the rest is transitional and although ive never labelled myself as the member of a ‚firm‘ it pretty much comes with the territory. Ive been in groups of 30 to mobs of 300 there is no denying that the aggro often used to be an exciting part of my life, something you would often anticipate for weeks prior to the match.

The English scene had their high times in the 80s (this excludes of course Heysel and Hillsborough). What was your personally highlight match for you?

There are loads! Bolton-Wigan 05′ was a great day out, Wigan had just gained promotion to the Prem that season so both of us had pulled pretty big numbers and it was cat and mouse all day. The Police where the best mob on the day but its just one of those memories that makes me laugh. After a day of trying to get at each other we decided to head to one of their boozers in the evening to really grab their attention, the day ended by the pub being stormed by some of the biggest riot coppers ive ever seen and one of the lads practically cleared two benches head first after being thrown over by them . Another great day was watching a local non-league outfit Leigh take on Fulham, just for the sheer athomosphere and the fact it was played at Hilton Park which was an old ground with one side all terracing and rammed to the rafters, a great day.

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Few crews of the German scene had built in the 80s and 90s their own style. One city worn darkblue bomberjackets with reebook classics. Others wear adidas Torsions and Chevignon Jackets. What was the style of your crew / scene?

Throughout the nineties the look became a little uniform and loads of lads were decked out in the house check stuff like Burberry and Aqua and of course SI was a front runner and this was pretty much the standard up until the early to mid noughties. The way i always saw it you got those who just wanted the Hooligan image and others who were more deeply involved and were trying take a more oneupmanship approach like that of the 80’s dresser. I always considered myself a slightly more flamboyant dresser and would try to stand out apposed to the more paranoid approach of alot of the lads who pretty much always wore darker colours. Almost every time i would come to regret it and a police section 60 later i would normally be begging a mate to swap jackets with me after the match so i didnt get pulled up again.

Was their any special style in the football scene which was your favourite one?

Personally my favourite style is what i would consider a slightly smarter casual, dont get me wrong i love the whole Northern look of Cagoules and cords but for me you cant go wrong with straight legged jeans & vintage trainers, a button down shirt under a knitted jumper finished off with a nice vintage jacket, by todays standards it may be a bit of a cliche but does it really matter(especially as you age). The real beauty of the football scene is that there are many variations of styles and as long as you can pull it off you can swap and change as you please.

What do you think which firm or scene had the biggest influence to the casuals in England?

From a commercial point of view the likes of Chelsea, West Ham and Millwall sold the whole English hoolie-brand overseas but internally with the North/South divide debate aside there can be no denying that the scousers were responsible for brining in loads of unknown labels to the masses of lads at the footy. Although music has never been the main driving force for the casual movement you can thank Bowie for the wedge and the rudeboys for the skinheads that would play part in what would become a crossover of terrace fashions. I’d say its a mix of influences that formed the modern scene and its a scene that unlike any other has always adpated and evolved with every era.

How do you describe the scene in England in 2014? Is it still alive or are the soundful names like ICF, Blades Business Crew, Saturday Service Crew, etc only memories of the 80s and 90s and did Old Bill with CCTV take over the scene?

From my experience the proper mobs turn out from time to time, there are lots of game younger lads but probabaly an equal number of hangers on due to the reasons mentioned ealier in the interview. In one sense its sad to see alot of the older lads disapear but in another its great to see younger lads keeping a British movement alive rather than dress how birds want them to dress or attach themselves to mainstream scenes. Again, the England away travel isnt what it was but alot of it is down to bans and expense. The CCTV aspect has been there for a long time and it is a deterrent but it hasn’t and never will stop it completely. Some of the police evidence gathering and tactics ive witnessed are not far from those used in anti terror operations.

Let´s talk about closerthanmost now. Please tell us how did you get the idea to design tees with lads in casual clobber to print on casual clobber?

Ive been trying my hand at printing since the late nineties but to be honest before the internet boom i never really thought it could go anywhere, at least not without a good financial backing. With the rise in social media i sold my first tees through Myspace around 2005 and prior to that i had a few mates at the football who would would have me do casual inspired illsutrations and put them on tees. Around the early to mid noughties various tee brands sprung up with 2006 apparantly being a boomyear for new t-shirt labels springing up all over the web. I had already built up an interest in some of my work through freelancing as an illsutrator/graphic designer so i just thought why not have a go at taking it to the next level.

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What does the label name closer than most mean?

I wish i could say that the Brand name has a great philosophy behind it but i’d be lying if i did. CLOSERThanMOST was a moniker that was initially used for the name of a store that i had in Afflecks Palace, the idea was to stock vintage clothing plus a few other brands as well as some of my own stuff but when i released a few of my own ideas they really took off and the brand name just stuck from there. I have had various self-confessed market experts who say i need to change the brand name and to a point I can see where they are coming from especially from a search engine point of view, but on the other hand i personally think that by having something with ‚Casual‘ in the company title is a little corny and to an extent it typecasts your brand and maybe even narrows down the customer base. Afterall it isnt just ‚Casuals‘ who wear CTM and not unlike many other lifestyle brands i like venture off on side projects taking inspiration from various places & experiences.

We introduce only labels which we do wear and like a lot. Especially closer than most is fascinating us with the motives and logos. From where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration comes from different avenues but a large part is oviously from British Subcultures. Like many other Northerners i’m extremely proud of where i come from and there is a lot to be taken from the bleak skylines of the decying Mills and factories that are dotted about in the Cities suburbs, to some it may seem depressing but to me its a reminder of our Industrial past and that plays a big part in the companies blueprint & logo. The above isnt just about me romanticising either, up until 2012 i still worked in the Factories and warehouses and im very proud to be working-class, afterall its working-class England who have always been front runners when it comes to street style.

One of our personal highlights is of course Adifreaks and Adifreaks Summer „Dassler Inn“. Do you draw your motives on your own or do you have an artist who take care about it?

Funnily enough the Adifreaks tee was one of the first illustrations i did back in 2004 on a sheet of paper then onto Microsoft Paint! Its a design i really believed in even back then and to date its perhaps one of our most popular designs, its even formed its very own hashtag that now gets used globally. Most of the designs you see are drawn and designed by me and on occasion i have used illustrators to get new and varied styles.

There is a other motive named the „Crucified Casual“. We guess you insinuate on the „crucified Skinhead“. A lot of reader don´t know the background. Please explain why you did choose this motive and what should it says?

I suppose its a modernised version of the „Crucified Skin“ artwork which was a response to the media stereotype given to the Skinhead scene that claimed that it was linked to facism when in fact it was quite the opposite & original Skins were massively inspired by the Jamaican Rudeboys, from parts of their dresscode to their love of black Ska music. The Casual was also villified by in very similar ways and thus „Crucified“ by the mainstream media.

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We see in the English scene a lot of local patriotism of the north and that a lot of brands are coming from there. You made also a collabo with the fanzine „Northern Afficionado“. Please explain us what makes the north of England so special?

Where to start…. firstly, i am sure you are aware of the North/South divide in England? Its not a hatred but more a rivalry and lets just say i’m proud to be from the North as i’m sure any of our Southern counterparts are to be from the South. The North of England has a rich past , from the Industrial revolution to the vast amounts of music and bands that have come from the region, it has always been a very inventive & creative part of the Country & we havent just been an inspiration to the people of England but globally. There has always been the claim by some that ‚Its Grim Up North‘ and in some parts i wouldnt diasgree but thats the same for any part of the country. In fact we have some of the nicest countryside in England.

You are since 2012 in the game. Who is the target group of your clothing brand?

There is no sole target group so to speak, of course its obvious that those with a football casual outlook are currently our biggest customer but overall the brand is a celebration of British Working-class subcultures with the odd side project thrown in.

You are using many logos of factories, skinheads and slogans of the working class. Please describe us which spirit and mentaltiy to you want to signal with your clothes.

The main slogan is simple but powerful „We are the Working-class“, it sums up CLOSERThanMOST in one sentence, its who i was, who i still am and what i’m proud of. Lets face it it has never been the self-confessed style gurus or middle to upper class fashionitas who set the street trends but us, the working-classes who maybe even sometimes by mistake come up with these movements that develop and evolve to unintentionally become the subcultures that we know today.

As everybody can see you´re like us Adifreaks. What is for you the fascination for Adi Dassler and the creations of adidas?

Nowadays i dont jump all over the re-issues like i did up until the mid noughties, prior to then aside from the Gazelle explosion around the time of Britpop and the Sambas for 5-a-side you seldom saw lads away from the match in Adi OG, and this was part of the pull. I even had a doorman once taking the piss out of my Spezials and Lacoste Izod colour co-ordination combo and other chavs/normals would often sarcastically ask why you was wearing coloured or suede trainers whilst they sported a hidious pair of Nikes with shock absorbers on the sole or a pair of Reebok Classics that you’d worn 10 years prior to them. Now every man and his dog are wearing them without knowing or caring for the history, they are the same idiots who were mocking others for wearing them when it wasnt the ‚in‘ thing to be doing, but thats what casual should be all about, being one step ahead. Having said that i think that vintage Adidas will always be the trainer of choice for the lad at the match, from the simplicity of the designs which you only get from vintage clothing to the long history and love affair that the casuals have had with this shoe, its impossible to fall out of love with them.

What is your adidas all-time favourite trainer and how many trainer to do you have?

Another very hard question, can i have more than one?! This has changed from time to time but 3 trainers that have always stuck with me are the Boston Super, San Francisco and Indoor Super but if i had to choose one i’d prbabaly go with the Gazelle, a cliche i know but it was one the first Adi OG that i owned, a kind of coming of age thing. I was always one of those seller/swap types so i never had more than 30 pairs at a time which is nothing compared to some. I dont go for all that collecting either, everything i buy is going to be worn no matter how much they are worth or whose grail they are part of. Ive got just 12 pairs of Adi at present, and various NB’s, Saucony and Nikes.

Was there any feedback by adidas, stone island, nike reebok or asked differently, was there any problem using the label logos.

Not Yet! As the brand becomes more and more established it will probably be something that will have to be swayed away from. I never use the logos directly and try not to put too much focus on a brand, in hindsight the Adifreaks perhaps should have been named differently and i have even considered changing it to OG Addicts or something of that ilk. The designs are all created with an appreciation of the brands and are always personally nostalgic, its not a case of trying to cash in using other companies, that’d just be wrong.

Your actual collection contains the anti stuss tee with the profile of Sherlock Holmes. The on the continent so called Sherlock Holmes hat is for us very strange. Why is famous in England and loved by the british Casuals?

The Deerstalker hat came about in the Anti-suss era that is sometimes also called the ‚Geography Teacher Look‘. It was alleged that in order to swerve the police, who by now had sussed out that the lads decked out in sportswear were the hoooligans, groups of lads switched to wearing „Anti-suss“ clobber which included items like tweed jackets, cords, cagoules and of course the famous Deerstalker hat. Sherlock Holmes was famous for donning this nifty bit of headwear so from then on was granted fame in Casual circles.

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We see of course on your shirts also the well known logo of Stone Island. Where does comes the big love of the English lads for this Italien sportswear brand? Why does Stone Island was so important and leaves other big labels like Burberry, Lacoste in the shadow?

Not unlike Adidas Stone Island has a long history on the terraces of England,it was definitley the brand of choice for the 90’s casual but was pretty much unknown to the everyday man on the street. In fact you’d often get stopped out and about by other lads who’d ask you what team you were or where you’d bought it from (There was no Google then), the negative element was that the police also knew what you was about if you wore the compass and then come the early noughties lots of bars and pubs banned groups of lads entering wearing SI. The main pull of this brand was Osti’s designs and of course the high end quality and fabrics used for some garments, there was nothing like it on the market and it was largely nautical/military inspired. In fact i dont buy any new SI these days, the newest peice i own is a Cypher Fibre from around 2004 and all the other garms i have feature the vintage green edged patch. I still like to source out vintage Stone Island from time to time.

Which labels beside adidas and Stone Island do you like?

This list could go and go… I of course like the classics, Lacoste, Fred Perry, Ralph Lauren & CP aswell as mod/skin classics such as Brutus, vintage Ben Sherman, Mikel Rude & Barracuta. As for other brands i wear then theres Fjallraven, Penfield, Edwin, Levis ,YMC, Albam, Barbour, Garbstore, Carhartt, Norse Projects, Victorinox ,Universal Works, Marshall Artist, Folk, Filson,Heritage Research and last but not least abit of CTM 😉

I’m not so much a brand whore these days and the internet has opened the door to lots of cool independents so its not uncommon for me to look at the attention to detail long before ive even checked the labels/tags, so the above list continues to grow.

If you can choose with which brand do you like to start a collabo and which clobber do you will choose for it?

Looking forwards there are various brands who i’d love to work with so its really hard to narrow down, i really love Workwear inspired garments so perhaps one of the top players in that, think your Garbstores and YMC’s. A pipedream now but you never do know.

Keyword: „smart but hard“. Are the casuals the heirs of the Mods?

I’d say the Casuals were a mash-up of Mod and Skinhead but a modernised version with new outside influences. The early Casual was probabaly closer to Mod, perhaps more affeminate in appearance and then the 90’s casual seemed to have a more hard, uniformed look not unlike the Skinhead but this could have been due to the casuals getting older, balder 🙂 and the fact that it was a subculture that was being driven back underground.

Beside the clohting is music an important part of a subculture. If your clothes have ears, what kind of music and band they would hear?

I’d say more so in other Subcultures as the main focus of Casual is of course the football and the fact that it is an ever evolving cult has meant that there are many eras of music that can be linked with the casuals.

I have a pretty eclectic taste in music so heres an example of what you might hear…

New Order, Joy Division, Ultravox, David Bowie, Booker T and the MG’s, The Specials, The Beat, Oasis, Black Grape, Happy Mondays, The Jam, The Beastie Boys, N.W.A, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses, Northside, Madness, The Smiths, The Charlatans, James, The Farm,The Libertines, The Verve, British Sea Power, Buzzcocks, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Crass, Stiff Little Fingers, Angelic Upstarts, The Stranglers, Bad Manners, The Selecter, The White Stripes and not to forget a healthy dose of Northern Soul…shall i continue?

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Do you have a shop in Manchester or do you sell your clothesonly in your onlineshop?

Initially i had a store in the famous Afflecks Palace building which is situated in the Northern Quarter of the city, just around the corner from Oi Polloi and some other cool little stores that are often nicely tucked away in this area. Sadly, Afflecks isnt the place it used to be in terms of the right type of clientele and a combination of this, the lack of visitors and the ability to balance out the time needed to work in the office i had to let that ship sail.

As already told closer than most is since 2012 a part of the Casual clothing market. What is your summary after two years, negative and positive?

I try not to see things from a negative point of view as its wasted energy but in terms of hardships i’d say the toughest thing so far has been the sacrifices i initially had to make like no longer having a steady wage and as a result of that i often dont have the same little luxuries that i may have taken for granted in the past. People tend to just see the shiny, polished finished product of your work which of course is what you want but what they dont see are the hours you have had to put in to get to that stage and of course how much you have to go without whilst the business is built and Closer Than Most is still in those early stages with l lots of buidling still to do. We do get our fair share of haters too, with the occasional onslaught over on Twitter but again i see this as a positive as its proof that the brand isnt going unnoticed and to be honest its often quite ammusing, i’m pretty thick skinned anyway but i suppose you have to be to survive in any business. In terms of positives they well outweigh the negatives but don’t they always? Lets see, theres the flexibitly, very little commuting and of course the fact that i’m doing something that i love for a living. In the beginning never would i have imagined that this would spread so far so quickly and not only are we seeing CTM all over Europe but Globally with the Russia being a popular customer aswell as more recently Malaysia and Australia. You never really tire of seeing people wearing and loving to wear your clothing and its always great to hear from people who want to really get invloved. It would also be great to add the bank balance as one of the many perks but i’m not quite there yet!

What are your targets for the future?

The main targets are of course to keep progressing as we go. I’d really love to work on some outerwear and its something i have considered for a while but i want to make sure i get it right first time. I am also working on a lookbook to press on with more stockists and hopefully push the brand into to more countries and more exclusive stores. To be honest i am in no rush, i am enjoying what i’m doing and people like it, so hopefully things will continue to gradually progress.

Let´s come to the end of our interview. What we can expect from you in the next months? Which new projects do you have in your pipeline?

You will see the samples for the overshirt land fairly soon and we are also sourcing more materials for a fresh batch of L/S shirts. Expect to see more tees land and a whole lotta sweatshirts are planned for the autum/winter range so keep posted and if you havent already, get involved!

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