Let's talk about fashion with... Martin Newell! (Cleaners from Venus)

Let's talk about fashion with… Martin Newell! Most notably known to many as the brain and heart behind The Cleaners From Venus - and through this musical vehicle the grandfather of modern DIY cassette culture. Known to me as a true blue idol and complete life inspiration. Newell’s style has transformed throughout his years round the planet, but has continued to stay so utterly cool and romantic. Read on to find out more on the life and style of someone who has been a such a pivotal leader in the DIY music scene. 

How old were you when you first remember dressing yourself?

I was 14. It was summer of 67. I had some suede Chelsea ankle boots and a flowery shirt. And a Beatle jacket which was my brother's which I borrowed sometimes.

What inspired you to get into clothing as a form of expression?

Seeing what mid 1960 English pop stars wore. I wanted that pudding basin hair. By age 15 (1968) I had a little military jacket with red collar and cuffs and yellow shoulder flashes. I'd bought some navy-blue pinstripe kick-flares. I had a shocking pink shirt with white collar and cuffs and a Brian Jones haircut. I always wore chelsea boots.

Where were you getting your glam rock garb from in the 70s?

I borrowed stuff from girls..sometimes they gave me stuff. I found a black lacy blouse in a second hand shop. Our roadie gave me some canary yellow flares, very bright, very tight. I don't think he dared to wear them himself. Sometimes one of our fans would make me shirts if I bought the material. I could sometimes squeeze into women's boots. Later I got my old chelsea boots and spray painted them with silver car paint.

Have you saved any of your clothing from previous decades?

I wore it all to death. The oldest thing I have is probably a maroon bandsman's jacket from 1983. Although until last year still had a black 1930s tail-coat that I acquired when I was 19. I was very skinny and weighed just under 140 pounds I'm 5 ft 9in tall so I was probably a bit too thin. I weigh about 160 pounds now but I can still get into and button up the maroon. jacket.

Who have been some of your biggest style influences?

Mostly historical. I like looking at 18th and early 19th century clothes. I have a number of interesting hats. I like narrow trousers and elegant / dandyish jackets. Neckwear is a big thing. I wear black silk scarves round my neck as if they were a stock. I like chiffon. Keith Richards of The Stones between about 1967 and 1972 was a sort of role model I suppose. My hair is thin and grey/ white now but I still wear it long-ish and compensate with exotic hats.

What is your personal philosophy on fashion?

If people look at me when I enter a bar or a room, especially if dully dressed men of my own age frown disapprovingly at me in a supermarket, then I'm doing the right thing. I sometimes like to look like I've come from another era.

What piece of clothing holds happy memories for you and what are they?

The bright yellow hipster loons. They weren't stretch fabric. I had to lie on the floor and breathe in to get them on. I wore them during my earliest glam rock gigs. They'd belonged to our roadie, who was skinny but not as skinny as me back then. I can’t remember what happened to them, but I don't think I wore them after about 1974.

What is your favorite piece of clothing you own currently?

Bright red tail-coat.

How has your style evolved through the decades?

It's more how I've adapted my constants. I've always worked waist-coats and tight jeans (usually black) I like nice jackets. Sometime from my mid 30s however I began to acquire a few tweed and herringbone jackets. These are for wearing in spring and autumn usually.

How would you describe your style today?

Bohemian English gent. I never wear shoes. Always Chelsea boots, or Brogini, Italian jodhpur boots, front zipping.

What motivates you when choosing an outfit for the day?

Ah haa. Well that really does depend upon my mood. Hot weather doesn't help either, because it limits what I can put on. I never wear shorts (short trousers) cut-offs, sandals, baseball caps or any type of sportswear. I consider such clothes only fit for androids, boneheads, and children. I sometimes like to really dress up to go in the local convenience store first thing in the morning. I think it's important to crack the sartorial whip early. It reminds people in conventional employment that we don’t have to dress terribly just because we're at work. I hate to see men of my age in a supermarkets, wearing an oversized short-sleeved checked shirt, terrible multi-pocketed beige trousers or cut-offs with sandals and socks. It's a look which simply says, "I've given up.” Sometimes I just think. : Homburg hat and tweed two-piece, with skinny jeans and jodhpur boots.“ Then I'll get on my bicycle dressed like that, just to collect a prescription from a pharmacy a mile up the road.

Do you ever, or have you ever, worn vintage or antique clothing?

I have a number of items: a 1968 three quarter length, houndstooth check coat, double-breasted with highwayman collar and cuffs. I have a heavy Tweed genuine 1940s jacket with 4 button cuffs. I have navy blue 1960 Edwardian style morning coat, a British Naval Officer's greatcoat. I have loads of stuff yeah. I have to be careful sometimes. I dress down in certain areas where I go, because there a some types of people who would try to injure me for daring to look like that. I was badly beaten in the street in London, once, when I was 16 because I was dressed like a pop star. I think I'm too old now, however, to be regarded as a threat. The world's moved on. There are many people far more outrageous than I am these days.

Where is your favorite place to shop for clothes?

I do go to vintage sales and fairs sometimes. Other times, older people say, "You like fine old clothes don’t you. I may have something at home which will fit you."

By Kari Koty


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