Albert Hammond Jr. On Fashion: The Suitability Of Suits & The Cut Of His Jib

As he puts the finishing touches to his own range of suits, Albert Hammond Jr. tells The Quietus the sartorial lessons he's picked up over the years.

As one half of The Strokes’ whipsmart guitar attack Albert Hammond, Jr helped shape the NYC outfit’s signature metronomic, rhythm-as-lead sound, punctuated with dynamic solo bursts the likes of which hadn’t been heard since decades before Keith Richards’ disastrous date with a coconut tree, and which single-handedly helped shake the UK out of its post-Britpop malaise… for better and worse. He’s also allegedly the most influential on the band’s arresting sartorial style, typically found in early press shoots sporting a rakishly-cut three-piece suit with fag hanging out of his mouth at an outrageous angle that dared you to call him clichéd. With a fine second solo album, ¿Cómo Te Llama?, recently under his belt, Hammond is about to launch a suit line and here talks about a few lessons learnt during the band’s snap-happy ascent to near-mythical status with The Quietus.

1. Fly straight and act natural.

I thought it was cool when people kinda had The Strokes down as a fashion-led band ‘cos I understood what they were saying. Our point was always to get across that we were just being ourselves, you do whatever makes you feel comfortable you know? And it just so happened that’s what people wanted to talk about.

2. Walk the walk.

The idea of being like Roy Orbison or the Beatles dressed up in their suits always appealed to me. You know when you see someone and you’re like, they’re definitely in a band, they have that lived-in look. My whole motto was you live like you’re on stage, you know, so it’s not like this entertainment where people dress up for their character. In the sixties it kind of became like, you were always that character and the seventies took it to a different place, not so matching and crazier outfits. I just like the idea of being the person you are onstage all the time.

3. Don’t fear the paparazzi on a trip to buy milk from the shops.

If I was snapped going to the store in my pyjamas I wouldn’t care. No way man, that would go against the whole point to begin with, which is that you’re just yourself, it’s just about whatever makes you happy. I don’t give a shit about what someone else is saying about something. If I cared about that I would never be able to enjoy my own life. I don’t know how people even work for those magazines, the way they come up with stories sometimes, it’s like they’re saying something just because they don’t have anything else to say. It’s as if someone comes up with a cool headline and then they have to match it with some kind of story underneath. But that stuff doesn’t matter, I get dressed up ‘cos it makes me feel good.

4. It isn’t always about the music, man.

Time always tells the true story. You can’t really be complaining about how you’re getting attention ‘cos it’s allowing you to do what you’ve always wanted to do and have people hear your music. Some magazines, the fashion thing is what they’re about and you can’t really say it’s detracting from the music. I guess sometimes back then when we didn’t fully understand it that way it would be like, ‘oh I wish they would talk about this or that’, but I completely understand, you know? Things go hand in hand, when people see something that excites them, it kind of takes a bigger role than it actually is.

5. Smart is the new casual.

What’s funny is how the suit has almost become the rebellious thing to wear because everyone’s so goddamn casual these days, you know you’ll have the president of a major company wearing shorts. That’s something I never liked, I always thought if you worked so hard to become such a powerful person in any industry then you should take pride in yourself and have a strong presence, be well-dressed: that should be a part of it. It always worked for me, I got the attention of the right people with the way I looked.

6. Maroon get-ups don’t come easy.

I felt that if people were gonna talk to me about wearing suits I might as well be involved somehow, then I wouldn’t feel so weird about it and I’d actually have something to promote. So I’m in the middle of putting together a clothing line right now, all these rap stars are doing it so I was just like ‘wait a minute, so can I’. Am I gonna talk about the clothes in my lyrics? Nah! I just hate going to the store and trying to get a tailor to tailor things a certain way, they never wanna cut things how you want them. It shouldn’t be that way, you know often you’ll end up with something that isn’t your size but you’ll take it ‘cos you like it so much. I’m not very patient when it comes to looking for something. It might just be colour schemes which people don’t make. I used to have this amazing maroon suit with like a little tie in the back and it was so cool, you know everyone would always say something about it. And you just can’t find those colours in regular stores.

7. A waistcoat really ties a nice ensemble together.

The match is really cool, like if you’re just wearing jeans and a shirt it can add a whole new thing to it, it’s like all of a sudden you’re not just wearing jeans and a shirt. Plus you have these pockets that are good for holding cigarettes or phones or whatever. The next thing is wearing women’s clothing.

8. It’s definitely how you wear it.

I think my thing is evolving slowly over time. When I get older I wanna look really immaculate, just have all these nice cream suits and look really well. You wear suits differently at that age. When you’re young you’re aiming for that look where people might think, ‘oh he’s wearing a suit but he’s definitely not a banker or an accountant’, whereas when you’re older it’s different, it’s like William Burroughs or something, it just looks so charming.

9. ‘High school’ is not a good look.

The other guys looked different when I joined the band, except Julian, he had his own sense of what he wanted to do. But Nick, Nikolai and Fab… They found their own way, I didn’t tell them to do anything. I think it was Nick or Julian said that I was the most fashionable in the band but you know, we’d just got out of high school and I didn’t look like I’d just got out of high school, I looked like I was already in a band. But those were exciting times you know, when you’re trying these things out.

10. I wasn’t always this cool.

Between 10 and 12 when I skated [Hammond Jr is a former skateboarding champ] I wasn’t thinking of fashion at all, I’d just wear whatever. At that age I was probably just your standard kid wearing weird surfer clothes. At 14 I was still wearing really bland stuff, but then I started getting into music and once you take that risk you don’t really mind people saying shit to you at school, you just think ‘fuck it’. Acts like Elvis Costello and Talking Heads or people like Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen… It wasn’t that you had to look like them, it’s just these people had a very strong personalities and seemed kind of sure in what they were doing. It’s all about believing that you can do something that you feel, you know people are scared to be themselves so they go with the masses, it’s easier; you’re hidden when you’re going with the grain.

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