Cabourn Collectors – Mr Jon Scaife
“I used to see pictures of old explorers and service men and thought they always looked really fucking cool. It took me a while to realise but I really liked the idea behind that – being in challenging and difficult situations and performing a job but looking good doing it…well I think I look good anyway. Wearing the right materials and properly designed pieces, is like being supported by the clothes.”
For the second of our Cabourn Collector series, Rachael and Ben travelled to the heart of the Lake District to meet up with Jon Scaife.
Jon first came to our attention a few years ago when we spotted him wearing his yellow Everest Parka in our hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne. From then on, our paths crossed a number of times and each time it seemed Jon had yet another piece of Cabourn history on his back.
A native of the North East of England and a cameraman by trade, Jon is the best kind of Cabourn Collector – one who really appreciates the time and the intricacies that go into each individual piece and the quality and the history that Nigel as a designer strives to achieve in his work. He definitely isn’t the type who keeps his pieces in a sealed case to look at now and again either. He wears them, he works in them and he understands the functionality as well as the special nature of each one, which for us, was wonderful to witness firsthand.
When we caught up with him he was working on a BBC drama series set in the beautiful Lake District. Not a bad gig by any stretch of the imagination but we have to say how impressed we were by Jon’s work ethic, his humor and his ‘on with the job attitude.’ Even when it was freezing cold, blowing a gale and teaming with rain, he kept a smile on his face and balanced entertaining us with keeping things running smoothly onset.
So when we did get a moment with Jon in-between takes, we wanted to find out where his love for Cabourn started and what has kept him hooked.
“Actually, it’s not quite the romantic introduction to the brand that you may imagine. I really wanted a yellow T-shirt so I went to End in Newcastle and there were two options, Folk or Nigel Cabourn. Originally, I wanted the Folk one but it had sold out in my size so I settled for the Cabourn one”
Not exactly, but the course of true love never did run smooth…so what made you come back again?
“It was the Spring Summer 2014 Indigo Mallory jacket and vest. I instantly loved the colour and the idea of a really smartly tailored jacket made out of a light denim. It was my first real introduction to high quality materials, and to ventile. I realised just what a proper design and combination of good quality materials with well-chosen colours could do, and how that mix could work together to bring a real grounded charm to the piece. Which, I think when you look at it, is simply at the core of any Cabourn collection – it’s charming.”
So it must be around five years that you have been collecting for?
“Yes, probably around four to five years, which doesn’t seem too long. I remember looking through the site one day and saying to my girlfriend if could only ever wear one brand Cabourn would be it. Then slowly over the next few years I think I subconsciously made that happen. When I first took an interest in clothes I watched an interview with Nick Wooster, in it he said that building a great wardrobe is like gardening. You won’t see the results overnight but instead over weeks, months and years – this really stuck with me. I buy a couple of key pieces every season, whether it’s for weekends or for work and over the years it’s built into something that can cater for any situation. It can be mixed with other brands and vintage pieces seamlessly and also be practical to the occasion and environment.”
That ethos is probably one that resonates with a lot of Nigel Cabourn fans so can you pinpoint what it is, in your eyes, that makes the brand so special?
“The attention to detail and the quality in the manufacturing are the first two things, but they are also the most obvious. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that out of any clothing brand Cabourn ranks highly on a world level at producing some for the best made and designed pieces of clothing. For me personally, however, it’s the overall unique and individual Cabourn style. It’s the cut, colour and pace of the whole thing. The brand toes a line where it can compete against any of the best technical outwear garments, designed to survive the most extreme environments, whilst still retaining that unique Cabourn style.
That charming subtle timeless look that comes from an encyclopedic knowledge of vintage and a passion and understanding for the details, techniques and materials that go in to every piece. It makes it very hard not to become thankfully immersed and utterly romanced by it all.”
With that said, do you have a favorite piece?
“I really love my yellow Everest Parka. For some reason whenever I pictured the Everest in my head it was yellow. So when I finally got one in yellow I was over the moon. I love the way it ties at the waist and most times I’ll fasten with that. I much prefer it to the Antarctic Parka, I just think the Everest has a lot more charm and cosy familiarity, it’s like it wants you to wear it.”
“Oh, and this Nigel Cabourn ‘George Lowe’ jumper I’m wearing – straight away I want to know more about who George Lowe was. I know a bit about Mallory and Herbert Pointing, the photographer – in fact I got the book, which has the pictures he took.”
Are there any other classic Cabourn items you particularly love?
“ Of course! Way back when I got my green Cameraman I was astounded at how beautifully made it was, and I still am now. The matching green ventile and green Harris Tweed the sealed seams the ladder fastenings the little loop hood toggles. It was almost like I piece of art, as ridiculous as that sounds.”
Not ridiculous at all, in fact we were thrilled to see Jon wearing his Cameraman jacket onset. When the downpour of rain came on he quickly grabbed it from his camera stand and threw it on. To see this piece be used exactly what it was intended for was pretty cool. This led us to ask Jon more about his work and how his Cabourn clothing fits in with his working life.
“I used to see pictures of old explorers and service men and thought they always looked really fucking cool. It took me a while to realise but I really liked the idea behind that – being in challenging and difficult situations and performing a job but looking good doing it…well I think I look good anyway. Wearing the right materials and properly designed pieces, is like being supported by the clothes. All the ideas, details and fabrics inspired by vintage work wear and military wear included in the Cabourn designs really lend themselves to punishing environments. Because the Cabourn designs adhere so closely and authentically to the original pieces they draw their inspirations from, their purposefulness and practicality carries through to me in my work. It doesn’t just look cool it really fucking works. I’ve been in valleys all day with wind and rain and even behind a waterfall, for longer than I would have liked, and the Cameraman jacket held up 100% every time.”
We were lucky enough during this trip to see Jon in action wearing the clothes and he took great delight in telling us that the back pocket of his dungarees fits his clapperboard perfectly. Of course, we at Cabourn HQ would like to say it was designed for this purpose, but that wouldn’t be entirely true…
As with all Nigel Cabourn garments, there are some key features inspired from the archive of historical vintage that Nigel collects. We wanted to know if Jon’s interest in clothing also spans back through the ages.
“I do like vintage a lot, I think in a small way it goes part and parcel with the brand. At one point your natural interest will direct you toward vintage clothing. Then the process of learning about the clothes will usually involve the context, which they were used and developed, which in turn leads you into history. I did history in college and although I don’t use that particular information day to day I continue have an interest in it and the political side was the most interesting for me.”
So do you have a favorite vintage piece?
“My favourite vintage piece is either my windproof camo smock or my green selvage pants. I love the colours, they are very different to what you’d get now. The pants are very well made and match my Cabourn pieces very well. The smells too, I love the smells.”
So as the heavens opened for about the sixth time that day we wanted to round off our chat with Jon by asking him a very important question…Do you follow Nigel on instagram? (Any fan of Cabourn will know that Nigel is a huge fan of Instagram, and he posts many times a day about his adventures and upcoming projects.)
“I do follow Nigel on Instagram and I think it’s fair to say it does influence me, I say that with a smile. I’ve only met him a couple of times but his seemingly boundless energy and character, even through Instagram, is enthralling. His passion and enthusiasm makes it very hard not too want to become absorbed by it all.
I read an interview in Highsnobiety a few years back where he says something like, ‘sometimes I look in the mirror and think you can’t go out dressed like that, you look like a twat’ or something along those lines. A friend at work once said to me, ‘you’ll never be able to replicate what’s in someone’s head, so that’s why you have to put your own personality and feeling into it’ and I think that marries up with what Nigel is saying. You might think you look like a total idiot sometimes but as long as you put your own sense of style and character into it then it will have some confidence and direction, it’ll make sense.”
In so many words we think Jon has hit the nail on the head. As long as you wear clothing with confidence and your own personality then it will work for you. Never mind what anyone else thinks.
It was an absolute pleasure spending a couple of days with Jon in his place of work. Getting to know the personality behind the man we have seen dressed in Cabourn so much over the years was a joy. He wears his clothing practically but with his own quirky touches, making his interpretation of Nigel Cabourn clothing truly unique.
We would love to hear from other Cabourn Collectors to add to our series.
If you would like to be featured, please get in touch with Rachael – ([email protected])
Tell us a bit about about yourself and your collection and we will get back to you!