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Partake in a five-minute chat with Thread stylist Toby Standing, and it'll become clear that for him, style goes well beyond throwing a look together. The self-proclaimed goth has an affinity for ‘70s subcultures and a reverence for rock n’ roll icons, and it's not uncommon to see these influences seep into his own style. And when he's not styling, you'll find him dabbling in bespoke jewellery, revisiting classic films, or practicing his guitar. (Suddenly feeling inspired to pick up a few more creative hobbies? Yeah, us too.) We chatted with the culture enthusiast about how he got his start in styling, the time he helped style a rock n’ roll band, and why he’s leaving skinny-fitting clothes in his past.

How did you initially get into styling?

I’ve worked in menswear retail since I was 16 and really found my way into styling through that: helping customers find the items they were after and suggesting things that would look good worn with it. From there, I got into more of the visual merchandising of stores I worked in while also just playing around with styling for shoots with friends. It was a natural exploration of my love of clothing and putting together looks for myself. 

Tell us a little about your experience before Thread?

Like I said, I started at Topman in the south-west, where I grew up, at 16 years old. I was wide-eyed and totally in awe that I got paid to be there. From there I moved to a job in East London after finishing school, and in an effort to show naysaying teachers that not going to university was a good idea, I worked every day that I could. 

After working for Topman I moved over to the brand Whistles when they launched their menswear range, and after a couple of years found myself back in East London in the first standalone menswear store they opened. I had applied to work at Thread about a year into moving to London, and actually got asked for an interview the day I started with Whistles, so I declined the offer as I wanted to commit to my new role. But when I saw the same job had opened up just at the same time that I was looking to leave the shop floor, I applied and got through the interview process in what I think still the fastest anyone has (from the first interview to accepting the job was I think three days). 

How would you describe your personal style?

Hmm... eclectic? I draw a lot of influence from ‘70s subcultures. There’s lots of punk and goth references in my wardrobe. I have a huge love of vintage clothing, as I find it super gratifying to find the actual items designers are taking and making versions of. I’m really into big silhouettes too, flares, wide-leg, oversized coats – basically if David Byrne wore it, I’m into it. 

(Check out @passedgarments if you want to see some of my collection #plug)

Who are your biggest style icons?

Young Mick Jagger, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, and Thread stylist Millie Rich. 

Do you have a style uniform you wear most days?

I think the things I usually reach for are a pair of good vintage Levi’s 501s, and some variation of a vintage graphic t-shirt. 

Has your style changed at all since lockdown?

I’ve been wearing a lot of shorts. I’ve got this amazing pair of vintage American gym shorts that are just the comfiest things ever. However, my partner does often say I look like I’m getting ready for P.E. 

What’s the most sentimental piece in your wardrobe?

It’s kind of hard to have sentiment around clothes when most of them are vintage or second hand. I’ve got this amazing leather jacket that my dad handed down to me; it’s probably the oldest item in my wardrobe. It was second hand when he got it (in NYC I think?), and I don’t think I’ve ever felt cooler than when I put that on. Either that or my pair of seven-year-old Dr Martens that I bought my second week after moving to London. Those puppies are still going strong. 

What’s the most worn item in your wardrobe?

Black Levi’s 501s. Best jeans ever. 

What’s the most stylish film or TV show you’ve seen recently? Why?

I recently watched the show “Mrs America”, which has some great costumes and really fits into my whole ‘70s obsession right now. I also revisited the Scorsese classic “Taxi Driver” and am hunting down the kind of shirts Robert De Niro wears in that film.

Any style rules you tend to break the most?

I love black and brown as a colour combo, but I’m not even sure if that counts as a rule anymore. 

Tell us about one of your favourite brands?

Our Legacy – it’s an incredible Swedish brand that makes every item of clothing I want, before I know that I want it. Amazing knitwear that isn’t like anything else on the market, it’s just a brand that is so cool. 

Photographed: Our Legacy Linen Shirt (£135)

Best piece of style advice you’ve ever received?

Dress for yourself, not for others. 

What’s one style or trend you’d like to see go out of style?

Skinny fit everything. I’m really not a fan of a super-skinny silhouette – I wore a lot of it in the heady days of my teenage years so maybe I’m burned out on the look, but after wearing straight and wide-legged shapes for the last few years, I can never go back, and I think it’s time we all moved to the more comfortable world of relaxed cuts. 

What’s been your most memorable Thread photoshoot thus far?

I assisted fellow Thread stylist Millie Rich on a shoot with the band The Amazons last year, which was wild. It was like the idealised version of being a stylist is – we were dressing a rock band in great clothes while Led Zep blared over the speakers. It was sick. 

What style or trend are you most looking forward to wearing this autumn?

I love coats. And big coats are a big trend this autumn and I’m so ready to pull mine out of the wardrobe and get layering again. This goth isn’t made for summer. 

What are some of your favourite types of questions you get from clients?

I love getting clients who want to work together to build a new look for them. Navigating where we can push the boundaries and where their comfort zone is really is a great dialogue. 

What do you like to do outside of styling? 

I’m a huge movie buff, so the drought of films this summer has been a real bummer. I try and see as much as I can and also revisit a lot of old favourites. I also play my guitar for at least a couple of hours a day, usually trying to emulate Nick Cave and or Nick Drake. 

Over lockdown I also got really stuck into making jewellery through a process called ‘lost wax casting’. It’s probably the most gratifying and fun experience I’ve had in recent years.  I used a kit from the company CAST, based in Sheffield if anyone is interested in trying it out.

Words: Allison Pavlick
Styling: Toby Standing