The Blind Five: Drinkin’ and Dronin’ & Secret Forts
I cannot recall what first lead me to Drinkin’ and Dronin’, but its gorgeous compilation of tattoos, booze, shoes, and music have become manna — that is, divine or spiritual food. I look to DD for a certain edge that I’ll never possess. I found the head-to-toes of Secret Forts when looking for a high quality image of a Max Bill watch, and then spent the crux of an afternoon reading the posts and stashing a collection of terrific images. Through pure luck, I had the opportunity to meet Brandon Capps who authors DD and James Wilson of SF before they met each other. I felt the need to take advantage of that fact.
Since I started writing about men’s clothing in December, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many of my heroes: designers, stylists, photographers, and writers. While I began by borrowing what I loved most about sites like A Continuous Lean, The Selvedge Yard, Jake Davis, h(y)r collective, and Valet, two sites, more than any other, left me spellbound.I met James, as he documented, through Shea Parton of Apolis Activism. A quiet, mild-mannered man, James has lived in Brooklyn for several years, working for creative types, but never feeling creatively challenged himself — that is, until he built his Secret Fort. He possesses a wealth of knowledge on subjects far and wide — among them: art, bicycles, film, music, and well-constructed cocktails. He has been so kind and supportive of what I’ve done here, taking time away from his lovely wife to meet with me, allowing me to pick his brain on several occasions. We champion each others work — a fellowship, dare I say, of fashion.
When I learned from Hollister Hovey that Brandon was moving to Brooklyn, I knew I had to meet this kid with a killer eye and an ear for roots music. Our first adventure in New York on a cool March evening involved pounding Dark ‘n Stormys (ask for them with extra mermaids), escaping an awkward party thrown by a hip hop/streetwear mogul, and then packing ourselves full of meat — burgers specifically — in the Meatpacking District. By night’s end, we truly were Drinkin’ and Dronin’ and friends for life.
Via WIRED Magazine’s New Rules, we learn that meeting online friends in the real world can prove challenging. To make the transition from web to real life a little easier, I suggested these two Music City natives talk on the phone. That’s when the light bulb moment struck. The voyeur in me wanted to listen in as they spoke for the first time. Social experiments like this have always fascinated me, and this one would be no different. Through the magic of the internet, I was able to organize a conference call to record directly to an mp3 file. I provided each with five different ice-breaker questions. James called it…
The Blind Five.
SF: You still have a Nashville cell number and everything.
DD: Ha, ha. Yeah, still got the ol’ Nashville number.
SF: Yeah, 615. How you doin’ man?
DD: I’m doin’ good, man. How you doin?’
SF: Yeah, good.
Editor’s Note: Ramblin’ Men.
DD: So you wanna get started on these, or do you want me to start, or do you wanna start? (sic)
SF: Yeah. You can start.
DD: Alright, Number One. Name one thing you were obsessed with ten years ago that you’ve moved on from today. Name one thing that you were obsessed with ten years ago that you’re still obsessed with today.
SF: Damn. Ten years ago? ’99? I was much more of a reader. I was obsessed with post-war-era American art: Pollock and Rothko. I haven’t necessarily moved on from that, but at the time, it was shaping what kind of man I thought I wanted to be. It’s something that folds into your personality, and it’s not as much on the forefront. Something I haven’t moved on from? Bicycles. I moved here about ten years ago, out to Bushwick –
DD: – Oh perfect, that’s where I am now. Where did you live in Bushwick?
Editor’s Note: At this point they establish that DD lives in a building that SF lived in for a time. Nashvillians, Bushwickers.
SF: You talk about being new to the city and bikes and stuff… it truly is the best way to see the city.
DD: Ok, number 2….
SF: You wanna go one for one?
DD: Like rotate? Yeah, let’s do that.
SF: Name a real person who helped define your style. What did they do that you particularly admired?
DD: My grandfather. He was always very particular, very matter-of-fact. This is the way it should be, and there’s really nothing else to it. No question. I’ve inherited a lot of his clothes from that time, and it’s easy to see that garments used to be very meticulously manufactured. His pictures, especially pictures of a trip to Cuba with my grandmother, were mind-blowing. I remember thinking, “Wow, this is incredible. I want to do this.”
SF: … and who can forget Cary Grant.
DD: Yeah, yeah.
SF: Are you a guy of a particular uniform?
DD: As Max once asked, “Do you wear a tie all the time?” My grandfather instilled in me this sense that this is the way you do things. It really put a boot in my ass. That kind of stuff never fades. It’s not a trend, you know?… Next one for you, McQueen or Redford, and why?
SF: Oh, shit. Yeah. That’s a hard question. There’s no correct answer. I’m gonna have to say McQueen. There’s something to…. Redford, he’s still living. McQueen has a mythology that builds after someone’s passing, like James Dean. Dude was just a bad ass.
DD: The way he lived his life.
SF: Yeah. There are so many iconic photographs of Steve McQueen.
DD: It’s like he hired a photographer to walk around with him.
SF: I heard this story that once, he turned down a night out with Ali McGraw to stay in and wax his Belstaff jacket. That’s a good anecdote. It says a lot.
Ed. Note: This story, by no means a euphemism, appeared in Esquire’s Big Black Book: 2007, page 60. While he’s most often associated with the Belstaff Trialmaster, he wore a Barbour International while racing at the Six Days Trials, 1964. (Image c/o TCK)
DD: For sure.
SF: Ok, next one. Do you play a musical instrument? If no, which do you wish you played and why? If yes, what famous player of the same instrument do you most admire and why?
DD: This is a toughie. I grew up a guitar-person. Started playing when I was 12 or 13. I learned all the basics. As I got older, I fell out of it. I still kick myself. Who do I most admire? Genre-wise? The Blues. It was the starting point for American songwriting with the guitar. Which musician? Big Bill Broonzy. With his voracity and style, he made it sound so sweet, effortless. Knocking out song after song. Great ballads.
SF: Good answer.
DD: Ok, number three, what did you want to be when you were eight years old? What did you want to be when you were eighteen years old?
SF: I wanted to play basketball for the Tar Heels and become a lawyer. When I was eight years old, there were a lot of legal dramedy movies and TV shows popular at the time. L.A. Law was on at the time. J.R. Reid. I was a huge fuckin’ J.R. Reid fan. High tops. Fade. Number #34.
SF: I was expelled after fifth grade. I went to a couple other schools. I started skateboarding and listening to punk music.
DD: Sounds like the route I went down.
SF: Yeah? Ha. So, at eighteen, I probably thought I could be a pro skater. I was such a shithead when I was eighteen. I didn’t have much forethought. I dropped out of art school. I was unmotivated. In hindsight, it’s a drag to think back. At that age, I just wanted to skateboard and talk to girls.
DD: There are things I look back and think, “What a fucking idiot.” But that’s what makes this question great. Eight and eighteen are sort of milestones.
SF: Yeah, definitely. The two things I wanted to be couldn’t be more different. A lot happens in that decade…. Question number three for you. It’s comprehensive: first job, first car, first girlfriend. That’s a small novella.
DD: First job: Shoe store. Finish Line. It was a first job. My drill sergeant boss. First car: Red 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee V8 that absolutely destroyed my gas budget. I drove it until I was eighteen. 240,000 miles. Thing up and died. First girlfriend: Arianna. We still keep in touch.
SF: How old is Arianna?
DD: 25, 26.
SF: I know an Arianna from Nashville, also.
DD: It is a small world for sure…. What is today’s desert island disc and why?
SF: Something by Will Oldham. I’ve listened to him forever. Our paths have crossed in the past. My friend, Morgan, who I used to live with, is from Louisville.
DD: He’s from Louisville, right?
SF: Yeah. I’ve spent time at the Oldham’s farm there. And when Will passed through Brooklyn, he would stay with us.
DD: Any of his albums make for a perfect desert island disc.
SF: Yeah, and it’s hard to say which one. I feel like the times in my life that I started listening to him — every time something new comes out, it feels familiar to me…. Number 4 for you: If you could design one article of clothing for men, what would it be? Why?
DD: I’ve always wanted to design a pair of footwear. Brogues, canvas sneakers. That’s one aspect of fashion that can be tinkered with. You can put your personal touch on it. I know a lot of clothing brands would design clothes a lot better than I would, but it’s possible to make footwear your own…. Number 5 for you. Where are you from? How does it work its way into your life today?
Map, circa 1919
SF: Born: January 1, 1975. Nashville, Tennessee. For a long time, Nashville was the last place I wanted to be from growing up. Especially growing up skateboarding. I would watch all these videos. It’s all California and New York. When I was seventeen, I really couldn’t wait to get out of there. Over the ten years that followed, I made peace with where I was from. I began to really appreciate what Nashville meant to me and what it means to be from the South in general. As a teenager, my first significant girlfriend was Johnny Cash’s granddaughter…. My wife just asked me if I’m seriously talking about that. “Hey, be quiet I’m on the phone.” And even that, that kind of thing reminds me that Nashville is such a significant historical place for music, for whatever. I have the outline of the shape of Tennessee on my arm now. At some point I started to embrace it: being from Nashville, being from the South. I don’t know that it has any sort of everyday significance to the way I live my life now, and certainly when I return home — it’s a great thing to go home. I love spending time with my family. My wife loves it. At this point, I couldn’t see myself going back there. I’m beginning to realize, as you get older, as you mature, where you’re from, what makes you intrinsically who you are become more important to you in ways that aren’t as easily articulated.
DD: I had that moment, I couldn’t wait to leave. I moved to South Florida. I got the bug. I started to appreciate where I came from: the ways that I act, the ways that I deal with situations. When I go back for a visit, it always hits me. I remember flying in, seeing the trees, and thinking, “This is some of the most beautiful country in the world.” And even now that I’ve just moved to New York, every now and again I get that edge to go back home.
SF: Before I ask you your last question, you grew up in Nashville?
DD: Yeah. Born in ’85. We’re ten years apart. Grew up in Nashville. Left first for a while at 21. Moved back home. Did a little more school. And then I moved to Brooklyn.
SF: On a lark?
DD: Pretty much.
SF: Cool. So that brings me to my last question. When I go back to Nashville I …
DD: The first thing I would do is, one, drive a car. Two, spend time with my family, with my sister. And then, head to a bar with some of my best friends that are still there. Relax, be in my comfortable bubble.
SF: What are some of your favorite bars in Nashville?
The ceiling of Red Door East
SF: The Gold Rush?
DD: Oh, yeah! Great place for a game of pool or a bite to eat.
SF: That place really changed. Used to be, you could easily get stabbed there by some biker.
DD: Do you remember The Springwater?
SF: That was the other one I was going to ask you about.
DD: The most notorious dive bar. I’ve met some extremely interesting people there.
SF: I have a lot of terrible, funny stories from that bar.
DD: I’m looking forward to hearing about them soon and in person. This was fun!
SF: Definitely. Thanks for talking. Looking forward to finally meeting you.
Not long after, they met at a social event at Soho’s Billy Reid store. I watched with delight as they laughed and browsed the store together, occasionally clinking cans of beer. After listening to them connect over the phone and now knowing what each brings to the table, it was interesting to see the respect they had for one another: just two dudes from the same hometown with a deep admiration for clothes. Through their blogs and then their conversation, they already knew each other. It’s possible they know each other better than some close friends know one another. It’s my hope that from the Blind Five a connection was made and that the two have a better understanding not only of each other, but also of themselves.