Talking to Glenn Kitson is, quite literally, a walk in the park. We’ve been friends since 2014 and the chatter between us has always come easy. As creative Northern types with an unhealthy approach to suntanning, we bonded over a love of jackets, old magazines and moaning about politics. Fast forward to 2022 and nothing much has changed - apart from Glenn’s relatively recent status as international meme lord and celebrated menswear aficionado (not to mention his successful ‘proper’ career as a film-maker).
He’s been a loyal supporter of Studio Nicholson from the get-go. The playful silhouette suits his nature and those ever-present 1990s references sit comfortably alongside his cultural reference points. Elegance and attitude are all rolled up into one big modular wardrobe, designed for people like Glenn and myself to play pick + mix with. I maintain the belief that it’s the only thing that keeps me looking (and feeling) young. Kitson concurs.
For our walk and talk, we decided to head over to Crystal Palace Park in South London. It was one of those changeable autumn days, weather-wise, with a distinctive wintery nip in the air. As a former CP local - and with Glenn still living closeby, we thought we could skulk down to the sports centre and give photographer Genevieve a suitably gritty, modernist backdrop for the pictures.
Conversation started with me banging on about David Bowie and his Hull-born sidekick Mick Ronson. I commented about how my dad vehemently refuses to wear pink, but seems to have forgotten how Ronson and Bowie’s influence meant that him and his mates spent most of the 1970s teetering around Hull city centre in 4inch platform boots, cropped leather bomber jackets and flares (not to mention blow dries that would’ve given Farrah Fawcett a run for her money). The hypocrisy!
Glenn has his own take on flamboyance and use of colour. He kicked things off by reminding me of a time I’d made fun of him for wearing a bright yellow Gore-Tex and said, “Do you remember saying, ‘Glenn, you’ve got far too much colour in you, to be wearing a coat like that’, and you were bloody right. I wear a lot of beiges these days, with browns, blues and the odd bit of white thrown in. I tan quite easily, and actually, when I think about clothes and getting dressed, I’ve realised it’s the extremes of weather that I like the best.
I love the pure simplicity of acclimatising to summer or winter. I either want it to be boiling hot, for shorts, or totally freezing, for big coats. It’s those in-between bits that I find tricky. Spring and Autumn throw me off balance.”
Whether he’s on set directing films or on the sofa making memes, he maintains a particular Kitson dress-code. He’s one of the only blokes I know who can pull off bare legs, suede Birkenstock Bostons and chunky socks without it ever looking ‘try hard’. Saying that, he was pretty vocal about not getting his new trainers muddy when I insisted we walk across soggy grass towards the architectural genius of the Crystal Palace Bowl (affectionately nicknamed the ‘rusty laptop’). With a few snaps taken and Glenn’s new creps unscathed, we ambled back to the path, where I grilled him about his earliest style influences. As children of the 1970s and teenagers of the rave scene, we have a lot of shared reference points. Like a lot of people who (ahem) ‘experienced’ the early 1990s, being magnetically drawn to ‘baggy’ clothing is something you never quite shake off, no matter how clean living you’ve become.
Glenn explained, “I’ve always gravitated towards that late 1980s Chipie look. It was something I couldn’t afford, but that didn’t stop me trying to find bits that had a similar shape, fabric or colour. There was a Balearic dance thing going on, with bits of acid house and 1960s guitars. Bands like St. Etienne pulled all the best parts of those scenes together, like a Venn diagram of dance, guitars and psychedelia. Imagine a member of The Byrds wearing some proper outdoor gear - that’s what I was aiming for back then.
Ravers and football fans both spent a lot of time in the cold and the rain - so layers with a piece of technical outerwear on top were essential. I remember one of the Bolton’s lads saying to me that your coat is the most important part of your wardrobe, so to make sure I always wore a good one. That stuck. Even if it meant I could only buy one a year, I’d make sure I’d spend as much as I could. As well as protection from the elements, coats are the first thing people see about you, so it’s not just armour - it’s your first line of psychic defence.”
The older he’s getting, the easier it feels to get dressed in the mornings. He knows what he likes and can pull together a look in record time. He doesn’t agonise about his choices - he sticks to his tried and tested formula. As he stands for a portrait, looking pulled together, smart and polished, I glance down and notice his scallywag 10-to-2 foot stance. We laugh about it and I try and explain how he’s got one of those faces that looks like he’s kind to cats, but won’t be fucked with.
He’s flattered and tells me he reckons it’s a genetic thing. His grandad Ronnie Brewer was also from Bolton. He was a sharp dresser with a quick, sarcastic wit. Glenn remembered being in the back of Ronnie’s car one day when he was pulled over by the police. “I was only little, but I remember the copper saying, “When was the last time you looked at these tyres?” and my grandad saying, with a smirk, “This morning - when I opened my garage!”.
Fitting that an anecdote delivered with the trademark Kitson smile/scowl hybrid was how our day trip ended. The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree.