Text by Richard Carroll / Mark Cho / Photo by Mark Cho
Richard hails from Australia, full of talent for style and art. He spent his formative years with his uncle at Strand Hatters, one of the most famous hat stores in Australia, and is The Armoury’s resident hat expert. Richard is also a skilled illustrator and regularly draws for our website and our shop windows. He is a pleasure to work with, always enthusiastic, with a smile and ready for beers at the end of the day.
Could you give us a brief history of your career?
After highschool I went and studied Art and printmaking in Canberra but I dropped out after a couple of years. During that time and for a few years after that I had a lot of different jobs. I was a cook at a cafe, a barrista, I worked in bars and then I started DJing at nights with some friends. Eventually I got burnt out in Canberra and moved to Sydney where I started working with my uncle in the Strand Hatters. That was kind of during the start of the menswear renaissance and I feel I learned a lot and we really helped to pioneer a certain sort of style around Sydney. I developed a few hats and small accessories with my uncle and started to get a bit of a taste for the grander world of menswear. After a few years at the hat shop I went back to school to finish my degree, got to go on exchange at Parsons here in New York, fell in love with the city (and an American girl) and decided to move back. Now I work at the Armoury!
Could you talk a little about Stand Hatters?
The Strand Hatters is one of those really special shops that have almost all disappeared. The established (old) menswear specialty shop/haberdasher. One of those places where you get the feeling you can walk into and maybe buy something that is 20 or 30 years old. My uncle Bob has been working there since the 80s and so even he has sort of become a part of Sydney legend. We used to get all sorts of customers in there and I think there is something really great about a shop that can appeal to Australian truck drivers and farmers as much as Leonardo Dicaprio.
What do you do at The Armoury?
I work on the sales floor at the Armoury New York and so my day to day activities revolve around helping people in store, making sure clients are happy with their garments, and teaching people about what the Armoury is. I feel like a lot of what makes our store cool is that we are as interested in teaching and informing our customers about clothing, be that manufacturing processes and materials or the social and cultural history of clothing. I also take on a lot of responsibility for the physical presence of the New York store, probably due to my history in the graphic and fine arts, so I am always trying to come up with new ways to display things and make sure the store looks fresh. And finally, and I’m really excited about this, I have recently been working with our press and online guys to make illustrations for online content.
How would you characterize your style?
I like an almost recontextualised classic American Ivy style. Repp ties, chinos, checked odd jackets, penny loafers and button down shirts. I mix true vintage with reproduction with a little contemporary Italian thrown in. I kind of think that I approach Ivy style with a Japanese mindset it’s closer to an obsessive costume for me than it is a natural born right. Lately I have been wearing my shirts a little fuller and my trousers a little longer.
How do you find New York? Especially in comparison to Sydney?
A lot of people ask me this and expect me to be surprised by New York but a lot of the time for me the cities are fairly similar in feel. One of the coolest things I think about NYC is that, even despite its size, so much of our contemporary cultural collateral is based on, or directly came from, New York and when im here I find it really hard to avoid that. A cartoonist friend of mine, who is from Sydney but is based here, recently told me “if I’m not in New York, I just don’t think anything I do makes a difference.”
What is Sydney style?
Americans always tell me that Americans dress in a very casual way now but in Australia we really do. There is much more a culture of dressing down and of stealth wealth than I see here. Sydney particularly has a relaxed take on mens clothing but the things I tend to think of as emblematic are bold and patterned shirts, not wearing a tie, unstructured jackets, brighter blues and lighter greys, winter whites, RM Williams craftsmen boots and of course fur felt hats!
You are also a skilled illustrator, having made some fine images for our website and our window displays. Who are your influences?
My largest influences are always those midcentury cartoonists who have a really bold, simple line and a lot of energy. Like Alex Toth’s shadows and perfect line, the gouache paintings of Mary Blair, Kazuo Hozumi’s Ivy characters and Harvey Kurtzman’s everything! I also am heavily influenced by the 2nd wave of underground cartoonist who appeared in the early-mid 80s guys like Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, Seth and the younger but sublime Adrian Tomine.
What is the favorite thing you’ve drawn recently?
I drew a little 4 silent panel comic about NYC last year and I don’t know if I will ever draw something I like as much again!
What are your favorite works from other artists?
A couple that spring to minad are Ice Haven by Dan Clowes, Tomine’s New Yorker covers (essentially all of them), Chuck Closes “One Froggy Evening”, Sokol’s 60s playboy pages… too many things to name. Also there are a couple of Stuart Davis paintings on display in this weird back room in the mets modern art section that I LOVE.