The Garmsman Dozen #16: Pete from Australia

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Welcome to the 16th 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 Pete from Australia!

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

My name’s Pete, age about 40, from Scotland, but living in the countryside south of Sydney, Australia. Find me on Instagram as @kurtzclothiers, which gives away my job: making garms at my company Kurtz Clothiers (www.kurtzclothiers.com).

Hobbies: When I’m not sewing I’m usually in the garden growing and tending veggies, living as sustainably and self-sufficiently as possible. Reading old and new books, obscure Japanese films, George Jones, Ernest Tubb.


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

When I was about ten my mother knitted me this sweater with a giant hedgehog on the front. I never went anywhere in winter without that sweater, and since it’s winter in Scotland nine months of the year, well, it got a lot of wear. Looking back I must’ve been the laughing stock of the school. Definitely not cool. My most memorable piece of clothing though is a pair of swimming trunks that were I think hand-me-downs from my brother, so too big. I got knocked over by a wave, the trunks were washed away, and my father thought it so hilarious to take a photograph which was then presented to my wife on our wedding day. Ain’t families lovely?

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

Eclectic, Eccentric: “Eclentric”. Just as likely to be wearing a Mickey Mouse tee as a lavishly embroidered vintage cowboy shirt, or something military surplus. I quite often look like my wardrobe exploded and some random pieces of clothing attached themselves to me. But it’s really all very considered, and I’m good enough with colour to not make too many bad mistakes. Would you pair a 1940s Swedish army undershirt with a 1960s beach shirt?

I’ve been influenced by many things at different times, and I’m a terrible bore when it comes to fashion history, but those that endure are 1) The sheer ruggedness of old photographs of workmen. The series of books of Sydney criminals in my bookshelves are very well-thumbed. I love the mismatched jackets, threadbare sweaters and smashed hats. It’s in those photographs that one gets a true picture of how men really lived and dressed, not some Hollywood romanticised version. 2) I love the ideas put forth by the futurists, especially as they relate to functionality and shedding the extraneous. I am a total packrat/magpie/collector and I have to fight against the urge to hold on to stuff I don’t need. Must try harder.

4. How do you think others would describe your style and garments, do you get any reaction from friends and random strangers?

Lots and lots of reaction. I think my friends (outside fashion circles) just roll their eyes these days. A guy I used to drink with used to sing “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” at me, which really pissed me off. There could be no greater insult, though his heart was in the right place, bless him. Many people shout at me from their car windows, sometimes positive, sometimes aggressive. My friends in the industry and those who are interested in menswear seem to enjoy my outfits.

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

As a maker, what I’m mostly looking for is someone who’s done something really unique, an idea (perhaps crazy) that they’ve followed through to completion. The Japanese brand Adjustable Costume made a reproduction of Churchill’s Siren Suit, for example. I was hooked and had to have one. I am also obsessed by button choice. For me, there’s no greater sin than going through the hard process of producing an interesting garment and bringing it to market with cheap shit generic factory buttons.

As a consumer, I’m interested in the ethical side of the business. I’m not interested in buying from sweatshops. And making sure there are no artificial fibres in the cloth or trimmings. I can’t stand the fact that cotton fabric is considered a premium product. You certainly won’t find any synthetics in a Kurtz product! Also, I’m looking for stuff that’s built to last, whether it’s work trousers or underwear. I want to get years of wear out of anything I own.

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

Not any more. I used to when I was really developing my eye for outfit aesthetics. I’ve been known to change ten or more times before hitting on the right combo. Now I mainly have a few basics that I build around, and interchange the bits to build on top of those.

7. 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?

Our house is like a museum of vintage clothing. So hard to narrow down what I would save. But if you press me, my 1930s Levis stuff and my vintage western shirts. I would be the most stylish tent-dweller in history. [edit] Our neighbouring suburb was literally on fire last week, and in considering what to pack in my escape bag, all my vintage khaki drill trousers made it into the bag.

8. Are you budget-conscious or spendthrift? Are you a single-shot shopper, or go large and buy bulk? Where are you on slow-fashion and buying less?

I’m a budget conscious spendthrift. I’m bloody terrible with money when it comes to clothes. If I see an astonishing limited edition piece, and I’ve got enough money in my pocket, I’ll buy it and deal with the budget deficit later. I’m usually a single-shot shopper, but since I discovered Lee Kung Man and their Cicada Brand underwear when I lived in Hong Kong, it only really makes sense to buy that stuff in bulk. Perfect fit, fantastic fabric. Hong Kong’s last knitting factory.

Slow fashion has to be the future. We can’t survive much longer with the current levels of waste. How we go about convincing people to reject the current fast-fashion model is the conundrum. Find your style, buy the best you can afford that will last for as long as possible, mend it when it needs mending. It should be a no-brainer, but that magpie/collector/hoarder gene is pretty damn strong. Also, these ideas don’t fit very nicely into capitalist ideology, so there’s no way you’re going to get political buy-in, whatever the myriad benefits.

9. 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 for the next two weeks, what would it be?

Levis Vintage Clothing duck cotton pants, vintage Swedish Army long sleeve undershirt, 1950s US Army cap. One of my shirts for layering. Hmmm, probably some 1950s work boots.

10. What would you never wear?

Ooo, dangerous question. Never say never, and all that. I used to say I’d never wear a blue blazer with gold buttons, but as I approach 40, I find such a garment mysteriously in my closet. Hmmm!

But I’ll never again wear synthetic fabrics. Of that I am sure. Synthetics are so antithetical to the way I view life, the universe and everything. I’ve been living synthetic-free for about ten years. Underwear is tough to find.

11. What are your best tips for buying?

For the collector in me, this is a tough one, giving away my secrets! If you’re shopping for vintage, without a doubt: if you don’t ask you don’t get. Ask the shop owner or stallholder what else they might have lurking behind the counter or under the stall table. Many of my best vintage finds have come this way, either a seller didn’t think the market was the right place to display a particular item, or they were holding it back for whatever reason.

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

Ugh, where to start! Seriously I’ve fulfilled most of my desires, but a 1940s western stage suit from Nudie Cohn or Nathan Turk or Rodeo Ben. They’re so massively out of my budget, but one can dream.

15. Who are your favourite Instagram profiles?

Enoch @e_nucky and M.L. @wilhelmzeppelin display such remarkable individual style. They’re much imitated, which I guess is the highest form of fashion flattery. Another fellow is @lico234. Again, completely unique, riotous fashion concoctions. @originalindianajeans is just vintage denim pornography: just amazing.

20. How do you think trends such as denim and heritage style will evolve and survive? What will be the next big thing?

I’m afraid I’m a bit of a doom and gloom monger. I’d love to say that the future was bright for heritage style, but I can’t say I believe that. Rose-tinted glasses on, and the coming climate and environmental disaster will needs-must drive production back closer to consumers.  This is a good thing. We can’t retain our current distribution and waste model and simultaneously retain our environment. However, with the combined problems of ever decreasing yield per acre of essentially every foodstuff, and ever-increasing population, more land will need to be dedicated to food production and less to growing natural fibres – cotton, flax, etc – and consequent ever increasing prices (and so ever-reducing market) for heritage menswear.

I am hopeful that more people will transition to buying less, buying higher quality, and repairing what they have. There are many brands producing interesting clothes that will last, and more entrants to this market can only be a good thing. Price is the only hurdle for the consumer to surmount. The consumer fantasy that quality can be had cheap is … persistent.

As a brand, I have targeted old cloth as my primary raw material. I think most people would be stunned by how much cloth is sitting around forgotten in warehouses, the unloved detritus of our obsession with novelty. The trend towards reducing waste might eventually drive fashion people towards using up this wasted cloth, but don’t expect it to happen to any great extent any time soon.

Thank you, Pete!
You can find Pete’s Instagram at @kurtzclothiers and his business at Kurtz Clothiers (www.kurtzclothiers.com).

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

Liked it? Take a second to support nick on Patreon!

No Comments

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.