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Registered: 09-2006
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Ace Face Clothing founder Stuart Murray interviewed by Paolo Hewitt


PH - Before we start talking about your company I wanted to know how you think the whole skinhead movement started.

SM – From reading about it, I would say the original skinheads were the final flourish of the Mod movement round, about 1967 or 68. When Mod started breaking away and became a bit more flamboyant, a bit more Austin Powers if you like, some Mods reacted against that. They started wearing their hair shorter, more utility in their clothing and they became known as the Hard Mods. The press then started calling them Peanut Boys because of their short hair and then later on they were called skinheads.

PH: So how did you get into it?

SM: Round about 1979 I lived over in North West London. One day I was walking round Wembley market and there were a gang of skinheads behind me. Boots, braces, short hair, I had never anything seen quite like it. I had heard of skinheads but I was not sure what they were. I was fourteen and I literally got into over night. At the time I had longish hair and like a lot of people at that time wore flares. The next week I went down Wembley market and got myself a two tone suit and got my head shaved. Much to my parent’s delight. From then on I would get my hair cut every two weeks and a line put in every week.

PH: What clubs were you hanging out in?

SM: I originally started hanging out with a gang in Harrow Central and then guys from different parts of Harrow. The gang started getting a lot bigger. As we got older we started going to places such as Baileys in Watford, Tudors in Harrow and sometimes we would go up West to places such as the 100 Club. We used to drink in a huge pub called The Headstone in North Harrow which had three bars in it. One bar was a skinhead hang out and one of the other bars was in a function hall which became the Bandwagon and they predominantly catered for the heavy metal and bike market . They put on bands such an Iron Maiden, Motorhead, all those wonderful skinhead bands……Obviously, we never went in there. However, the bikers started using our pub so you had skinheads and heavy metal guys that far apart every Friday night. And of course it was like a bloodbath in there. It got to the point where we had to have a meeting between to sort it out, it was that bad. So we sat down and thrashed out a peace treaty. It was also about that time that the skinhead thing started branching out. Some skinheads went ultra right wing, listening to Oi music. My lot started tracing the music back to its origins, looking for skinhead reggae records. There was some crossover but our lot stayed more traditional plus we really got into the clothes side of it. I always called myself a dandy skinhead. I liked the crombies, the Tonic suits, pretty much how I am dressed now

PH: And those clothes were the inspiration for your company?

SM: Absolutely. About eight or nine years ago I decided I wanted a Tonic suit. So I went to all the usual places, like Textile King in Berwick St, and was told by everyone, sorry it has not been made for thirty or forty years. Everyone said, try Dormeuil. I did go there but the material they had been in the wrong colours, they just weren’t interesting. I went to see my mate Marc Griffith, who I grew up with and is a tailor. He gave me some tips and I went traipsing round little tailors all over London. A couple of them did have some material but only in very small amounts. I gave up. Then five years ago I decided to get married. I wanted a Tonic suit for my wedding. So the search started again. Again I drew a blank until Marc said, what about if we go up to a mill? I know a person who runs a mill up North. We will go up there and have a chat with him, see if he has got any lying around. So we shot up to Bradford, went to this mill and spoke to the owner, real nice guy. He took us round and he spent an awful lot of time with us, showing us how things are made. that kind of thing. Then he showed us this big room which had a glass skylight. He said to us, none of these materials are in order. You have just got to search until you find it. After four hours – and I am not lying here – I lent my arm on some cloth and I said to Marc, you know what for the first time in my life I am giving up. Just then a cloud moved out of the way of the sun, a beam came through the sky light and hit the cloth I had my arm on. I looked down and thought, I don’t believe this. It was a roll of bronze and gold single ply Trevira Tonic. That was it. Once he knew what the material was he could now set about making more of it and in different colours. He said, it will take about two or three months to put it together. After three months we popped up there. I could not believe all the colours, they looked fantastic. . I asked him for three and a half meters of one colour which is what you need for a suit. He looked at me really impassively. I asked for another three and a half meters in another colour. The bloke’s face was now an absolute picture. Then he said, do you think I would go tot all that trouble for you to get a few suits? You must be joking. I thought you were serious. I said well how much do you want us to order? He said minimum hundreds of meters. How much is that I asked? He said thousands. I said right. So I went outside with Marc and we rang up Gary Robinson a mate of ours we grew up with who has a couple of businesses and said, we have got this idea, what do you reckon?. He said, yes I’ll have some of that.

PH; How did you launch the company

SM: The Internet plus ads in places like scootering magazine. My wife Lucy handles the website and customer care and does it brilliantly. Basically we have set it up so that you ring us or email us. If you’re an overseas customer you can go to a tailor and get your measurements and we can do it off those measurements. For other people we send out samples with the colours and I tell you now, we have never had anyone turn us down once they have seen the colours.

They ring us up and go I do not believe it, I have been after that material for years. They then come and see Marc in the workshop and together they design the suit. They can have anything they want – cloth covered buttons, flaps on the pocket etc.

If they want to be more sociable on a Saturday I hold an open day at my house in the countryside. I have got a big out-house which has got a fridge in there with beer and cider, got a record player where we play a lot of the old reggae and Northern Soul and books on skinheads and Mods which they can read through. They can hang out and meet like minded people. What we have found is that people come down to get measured and then come down a few weeks later for a fitting and bring a mate along. At the same time you have got other people arriving to look at the material so everybody mixes and gets to know each other so it has become a social thing. When we started it was a hundred per cent people who had grown up with the skinhead and mod culture but now we are getting quite a few young guys coming through the door which is very healthy. Maybe it is their fathers who have put them onto it. Or the other thing now is school proms. You get a lot of dads bringing their kids in too get their first suit made for the school prom. The material we specialise in and we offer is three ply pure Mohair and wool, Two Tone cloth made to the exact specification and weight as the original Tonic cloth of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. I should also add that we do scarves now in association with Nicholson and Walcot and we do Harringtons as well.

PH: And a few famous people, as well I hear have used your company?

SM: Madness have been in and also the Specials for their comeback tour. Most had tonics. We have also done the likes of the Dub Pistols and a lot of tribute bands. They have seen their stage heroes wearing it and so they want it. We have also been contacted by a lot of celebs who ask for free suits. They tell us who they are – or more to the point who they were – and we tell them where to go. Politely, of course. You see this company for all three of us is a real good hobby. We have all got our own business so for me it is a social thing but I do believe the dynamics are there to make it a very good company.

PH: Couldn’t agree more, thanks for your time.

Next Customer Saturday Club 18th Sept – Pls call Stuart 07703582116 if you would like to join us

The Ace Face Clothing Company
The Original Two-Tone Iridescent Tonic

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info@[sign in to see URL]
Tel - 01342 835447

I didn't use my initiative, cos no one told me to...
14/Sep/10, 2:24 pm Link to this post Send Email to Baxter6   Send PM to Baxter6
al james Profile
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Re: Ace Face Clothing founder Stuart Murray interviewed by Paolo Hewitt

As a mod from Harrow , I dont share to many of those memories. The North Harrow skinheads used to hang around in the car park park of the Headstone pub & were a pain in the asre. Skinheads at Baileys, really?? Tudars was a really !@#$ disco venue. A place you only went to if p1ssed & needing a pint after closing time.
28/Dec/14, 10:37 pm Link to this post Send Email to al james   Send PM to al james

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