This is an interview I did with a guy called Danny who runs Frith Street Tattoos in Soho and obsessively collects vintage Levis.
Danny McKelly first became conscious of the lure of denim from staring at the cover of a record sleeve depicting four kids leaning against a brick wall in the Bowery in the late 70’s. The leather jackets and Levi’s that the Ramones adopted became synonymous with Punk, Skinhead and Oi and have proved an enduring legacy within fashion. Having collected both Levi’s and tattoo’s for a considerable part of his life we decided to visit Danny at his Frith Street studio in Soho to ask what it was that continued to fascinate him about denim.
So what initially got you interested in denim and Levis?
I was a young kid, growing up in Clapham who was a bit lost you know? I saw that first Ramones record and that photo of Lou Reed on the front of Transformer and thought, well that’s it right there. Me and my brother went over to Lavender Hill to a place called the J-Stores where they did all the American workwear, Big Ben and Sears and that and it was in there we got our first Levi’s.
So the music heavily influenced the way you dressed?
Yes and no. Initially I suppose yes, but I soon found my own thing and that was a workwear look. DM’s, Donkey Jackets and over-sized Levi’s. When I was young I was into a lot of aggressive music, but you get older and that changes, I listen to anything from the Grails to Sunn O)) now. The way I dress has remained a constant though. I’ve been wearing and collecting Levi’s now for over eighteen years. You see things come and go but they’ll always be there, I know what I like and I’ll always dress like this, it’s part of who I am. Over the years I have built up a pretty big collection of both vintage and re-production denim while always maintaining that similar style, it’ll always be the workwear thing for me.
Have Levi’s always been the brand?
For me yes. I like how they wear, I like how they are cut and I like how they look, they also have a sense of heritage which I like. I’ve always worn ‘em oversized a 38”-40” waist and usually with a turn-up which shows the salvage. I am a collector by nature and I like feeling that I am collecting something that isn’t disposable. In this age of throwaway culture you hold what is personal to you close ‘cos it means something. I’ve stuck with Levi’s for the same reason I collect tattoos: it’s a statement, you know? This is who I am, this is what I do, it’s the industry I’ve chosen to work in, it will always be here forever and I aint going nowhere, it’s the decision I’ve made.