The Garmsman Dozen #8: Kris from Belgium

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Welcome to the eighth instalment of the “Garmsman Dozen” question and answer session. The response so far has been tremendous. Did you miss earlier ones? There are links at the end of the page.

This week we welcome to the Garmsman Dozen Kris from Belgium!

Who are you, where do you live and what interests you?

I’m Kris, @kapiteinzeppos on Instagram, a more-than-half-a-century-man living in Belgium. A lot of you think I live in the London Area, but I just love to hang around in the city and post a lot of photos with a London background. I spend my days in the Belgian countryside, near Antwerp, near Hasselt (if that rings a bell), near Brussels also. Well, Belgium is rather a small, but lovely, country, you see.
I’m an interior designer and have my own (small) company. These days I mostly renovate private homes. Love to travel and hope to do that a lot (more) in the future and mad about stories, whether it is in books, films, music, paintings, sculptures… I’d love to escape in them and lose myself for a while.
And I’m a runner. We have some beautiful parklands and nature reserves around, perfect for running and spotting a lot of wildlife. Since more than half a year we know there lives a wolf nearby. So if I ever suddenly disappear…

Thinking back to your childhood, what were your most memorable or favourite clothes?

I don’t think you mean the Zorro-cape, black mask and bolero hat, nor the Winnetou costume our mother made. The only other things I remember from childhood are prickly pants and strangling turtlenecks. The interest in clothing started more in our adolescence. We grew up in an era without internet, without smartphones (OK, Captain Kirk was always a bit ahead of his time) and America was still the Promised Land and lightyears away. You belonged to a group, a tribe, and that shaped your identity and your style more or less. The tunes of your tribe: punk, mod, ska, new-wave, blitz… defined your looks.
The first images of Beatlemania, or even worse: Punks, sent shockwaves through rural, Catholic Flanders. And we were triggered. We didn’t have much money, so we had to be creative. You couldn’t walk into a shop and buy your average punk-mod-whatnot-outfit. So we dug out grandfathers hat or pardessus, had old wedding suits altered by our mums, searched for old vintage ties and scavenged army-stocks (they were still very cheap in those days). We assembled that into a certain style, into unique characters. And I think I still do that. A captain and his uniforms…

How would you describe your style today, and what are your influences?

Eclectic, with serious mood swings. Influenced, on a daily basis via the Gram, by all you Dudes, or Dudenesseor, or, uh, Duders, or El Duderinos, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. But yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

When looking for clothes, what factors play into your selections?

I mostly start with what I already have. I look through the websites (mostly RRL) to see what I like. And then I try to fit it into or build an outfit around it. If that doesn’t work, I ‘ll let it go.
Forget about that shirt you like but can’t wear because the colours clash with all your other kit. (I’m sure you all have one of those). It will only make you feel sorry you’ve spent your hard-earned cash on it.

When putting together an outfit combination, do you spend a lot of time considering it?

When you buy your gear considering your other stuff, you already have a good idea of what goes with what. When you buy more pieces from the same brand, you’ll see the tones will match easily. I usually throw some matching colours on the bed and see what works best. That doesn’t take so much time. I don’t care much about so-called ‘rules’, to be honest. Maybe because I mostly don’t understand them. I love to mix different patterns or several textures into an outfit. As long as it works for you, I don’t see why you shouldn’t do so. The strength of an outfit lies in the combination,
in the interaction between colours and patterns. It ‘ll bring some depth, some tension even and it will define your style. Throw your ‘rules’ overboard and see what happens…

Most garmsmen will have a few “grail items” in their collection. Not to out you, but if your house is burning, which garments do you grab?

If my house was burning down, I don’t think I’d care much for clothes. I’d make sure everyone was out, grab some old photo’s maybe and watch it burn. I would try and see it as a new start. It’s just clothing after all.

Having a large collection of clothes can lead to changing outfit on a daily basis, but if you were going to wear a single outfit the next two weeks, what would it be?

I’m in and out outfits several times a day. I usually wear something comfy when I work at home, dress up to meet clients and change into something more workwear to go to the building sites.
When I return home I might jump into my running gear or back into a more dressed up outfit to see new clients at night. So I feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea that I should wear the same
rags for the next two weeks. I think I’d go for something more basic and passe-partout. I love my pair of selvedge jeans from Barbour International.
I bought several pairs for peanuts in the sales in an outlet store. They’re my favourites ever since and they age beautifully. So this pair of jeans, a white henley and a nice double RL chambray shirt would make a strong base. Add the buckshot Cheaney-boots in almond grain leather and complete it with my corduroy Wabash vest and that faded indigo shawl collar cardigan (both RRL).
A vintage Tootal scarf from @hunkydoryvintage to finish it. That would make an outfit, not too fancy for building sites and still sophisticated enough to meet clients.
But two weeks, seriously Nick…?

What would you never wear?

This might sound like blasphemy in a lot of ears, but I’m not so much into the whole Red Wing Thing. Sometimes it looks too much like a uniform. I think the Brits make some of the finest and nicest men’s shoes. I, for one, have a weakness for Cheaney and especially for the shop in Covent Garden. Marc @beardedbuffer is very knowledgeable and talks very passionately about his shoes. On top of that, he does one of the best shoeshines in town. The Lancaster Aviator boots are among my favourites. They’re in a softer goat-skin leather so they age beautifully and they come in a rugged copper patina. The Captain’s boots! Cheaney also refurbishes their shoes. Because of the quality materials used in the making, you can extend the life of your shoes and even
restyle them a bit (commando soles, Dainite rubber soles, leather soles…). I like the idea of giving them a second life, more than throwing them away.

What are your best tips for buying?

Try to go for quality, not quantity. Most of us already have more than enough clothes hanging around. So there is already a certain quantity. Add quality. I love the double RL brand a lot. These pieces are pricey, but they are usually made with quality material and should be built to last. OK, there is an issue with buttons, but let’s not go there. I ‘ll try to get one (or…) more pricey quality piece instead of buying bulk. And another thing, if you don’t want to spend: Don’t try it on! Don’t let the bastards make you try it on! ‘Cause you’re lost…

Do you have a dream garment you’d love to own?

I was visiting the RRL store in Williamsburg N.Y. over a year ago. The guys there saved me some pieces from the sales and I was trying them on. I noticed a rather cool and friendly guy hovering around the shop, focused on the new kit. I was blinded by the stunning grizzly-jacket he was wearing. Notice that I was in (what I think is) one of the coolest shops around @rrlwilliamsburg,
next to the most beautiful barbershop ever @ludlowblunt. I could only stare at the jacket and it haunts me ever since. I later learned that it was only Ben, Ben Lisi, mister RRL’s vice president.
So Ben, if you ever read this, get me a jacket like that, mate!

Anyone that buys clothes will have made mistakes, what is your most memorable bad buy?

Watch out for Japanese sizing. The Japanese do some crazy cool quality stuff in denim, indigo’s, workwear, army kit, motorcycle gear… But I still don’t get their sizing. Last summer I stumbled into the Blue Blue Japan store in Kyoto and I immediately fell in love with their use of a deep blue indigo. To my surprise, I had to take a size Medium (2) in jackets and T-shirts, which is my usual size. In general, a European guy has to go at least one size up, no? Watch it if you’re ordering online. You might easily get lost in translation and end up ordering a too small piece of garment.
And then you have to send it back. And try to explain…

Do you have any style icons, historic or current?

Maybe this is the ideal excuse to finally explain a bit more about Kapitein Zeppos. When I created my Instagram profile I thought it would only go as far as some friends and family. They all know about the Captain, so I never thought it would need explaining. Kapitein Zeppos was the main character in a Belgian tv youth series in the sixties. He was the gentleman – dandy on horseback or in his famous amphicar, chasing the bad guys. He lived in a ‘castle’, was great in fencing and even in some eastern martial arts (as I remember it well) and always looked very stylish in his turtleneck, jodhpurs and leather riding boots. Even the bad guys were classy in their leather motorbike suits. It was all we had in those days. (yes, the tv broadcasting stopped when the episode was finished to continue only a few hours later with the news bulletin ) We played every episode over and over. And I just never stopped playing…

Note: Captain Zeppos was dubbed into English and was screened by the BBC from October 1966. This dubbed version was shown from Australia over Canada to Jamaica. It was subtitled for broadcast in Japan, Hongkong, Egypt… The original Flemish version was aired in Belgium and the Netherlands and with subtitles in Sweden and Finland. So maybe some of you might remember it. Or remember the theme tune maybe: “Living it up” by Bert Kaempfert.

Who are your favourite Instagram profiles?

It’s difficult to pick out just a few. I risk forgetting some and might regret that later. So I suggest that you go to my Insta profile and click the “following” button. They’re all there: the London bunch who adopted me in their midst, the N.Y. gents, the Tokyo connections, mes Amis de Paris… You’ll find a lot of garment-based stories. But I”m also interested in architecture, nature and landscapes, music and arts… You’ll find the complete list of some 1500 profiles. Enjoy!

Does your interest in clothes influence other aspects of your life?

The most beautiful thing of this, especially since Instagram, is that you meet people, people with more or less the same interests, all over the world. And you can mostly skip the awkward introduction-talk because you see and follow what they do on an almost daily basis. From time to time you get to meet true gents and feel welcome all over the world. Love you guys, you know who you are!

If your clothes need repairs or alterations, do you do it yourself?

Our mum is a seamstress and worked for a bespoke tailor. She usually does the repairs still. She used to alter old (wedding)suits for us youngsters and was ahead of her time copying Belgian paratrooper cargo pants in deadstock ripstop or heavy khaki wool. And we had the coolest pants.

Do you have a good style or garment based story?

Because I was thinking back on my youth and on how I got into all this, I suddenly remembered that time when I was surrounded by Sioux. Trapped on a narrow trail between two ditches in the middle of the polders near the sea. There was no escape. Mohawks in front of me. Painted faces in tribal colours behind me. And all of a sudden all hell broke loose.
Dark and dooming clouds blocked the summer sun and heavy rain poured down. It only took a couple of minutes to turn the whole scenery into a gruesome battlefield. Mohawks collapsed and started to foam in different colours. Makeup was washed out in black streams. Long Black Frocks got stained in the mud. Red lips smeared.
By nightfall, the tribes gathered again. Headdresses carefully restored. A lot of them kept the washed out eyeliner and smeared red lips though. Siouxie Sioux was the Highpriestess in her own Gothic Mass on the festival stage. We just followed in the footsteps of her Rag Doll Dance, we were entranced.
Spellbound!

Thank you for your Garmsman Dozen Kris!

Did you miss the first Garmsman Dozens?

PS: If you have suggestions for participants, let me know. Or have your mother suggest you, if you’re a bit keen to suggest yourself. My email is WellDressedDad (@) gmail.com

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3 Comments

  • Roland Novak 08/04/2018 at 10:17

    Really enjoyed this, Kris! Especially the more sociological analysis on the tribe feeling when you meet in real life!

    Reply
  • Michael Johnson 08/04/2018 at 21:24

    Great clothing, interesting ideas and viewpoints, but why almost always with denim, and whats with the turn-ups? Is this a continental statement?
    Michael

    Reply
  • shaun brown 09/04/2018 at 16:58

    This is excellent, I’m going to see if the Kaptain is still hanging around on Youtube.
    And I love Belgium too, so much that I Honeymooned there

    Reply

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