How I get dressed: Paul Weller

The rock star, 49, on an obsession with detail that began when he was a 'little peanut'

Sunday May 13, 2007
The Observer

I come from a time when every kid dressed up. Everybody. If you didn't, you wouldn't be able to hang out. It was very tribal. There's nice things in that. It's culture, it's roots for me. Maybe I just never grew up, mate.

When I was a kid in Woking, every week you went to the football dance, and every week the top kids would be wearing something different. You were constantly trying to catch up with them - which you could never do because, by the time you'd saved up enough to buy the item, they'd moved on to something else. That's the whole Mod thing I suppose.

This was the late Sixties, early Seventies and we were all post-skinheads - suedeheads. We were little peanuts, too young to be proper skinheads. But those styles permeated down to the kids anyway. The main strand that forged it together was that American-college look, the Brooks Brothers look: the cardigans and sleeveless jumpers and the buttoned-down shirts and the Sta-Prest trousers. That was the common ground. It was a way for people who haven't got much to make a show.

I can remember original Ben Sherman shirts being around till the early Seventies. I had to really save for my first Ben Sherman. We used to buy Brutus shirts, which were much cheaper - second best. But Ben Shermans were the sought-after item. The first one I ever got was a lemon-yellow one. I must have been 12, 13, and it was a bit too big for me. But being a kid I didn't realise you could take it back to the shop. I wore it till it fitted me.

It's the aesthetic that sticks in my mind. The colours and the look of things have stayed with me. It meant everything to me. It was a statement of intent. And I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a Ben Sherman as they used to make 'em 40 years ago, or whatever it was. So I spoke to Ben Sherman about doing my own design, based on how they used to be, as near as dammit anyway. With a few little modern touches. I just did a little sketch, put all the details in: the bigger collar, bit more like a contemporary Italian collar, a few little touches here and there. It's not rocket science.

That love of detail, the Mod thing, it's eternal for me. It's ingrained, I don't even think about it. I get a buzz going into a furniture shop - not even to buy things. Just to see the roundness or the cut or the shape of something. It's all art, you know what I mean? There's a shop down Knightsbridge way, it's all Italian furniture - it's like walking into an art gallery. And most of the decent clothes are made in Italy as well, aren't they?

I think my love of detail comes from the whole skinhead thing in the late Sixties, early Seventies. But even having said that, it must come down to the individual. I'm sure my contemporaries who were little skinheads at the same time as I was, if I talked to them now about the cut of a trouser, they'd be like, 'What are you on about? It's just a fashion we went through'. Which is right in some ways. But to me it meant more than that. Evidently I was looking at all those details and studying it. So I guess it was down to the individual's interpretation of what you care to see.

I've had offers to do my own label - I couldn't name a company, but people have made approaches. It's still a possibility. If I didn't do it, it wouldn't break my heart. But it would just be a nice little thing to do. It's not a burning ambition, but it could be cool as well, to make some nice, quality stuff.

I'll be 50 next year. Age has always been a bit of a nag up for me - I thought I was old at 21. I can't believe half a century's gone. It's not like I've not had a good time, 'cause I have, I've had a fucking wicked time. I don't know if the feeling's made worse by the fact that I was in the public eye with the Jam at 17 - it just freaks me out. You see it with your kids. The birthdays come round quicker and quicker. My youngest lad's gonna be two soon. My oldest is gonna be 19 this year. I could be a grandad soon, hah hah! In 10 years' time Mac will be 12 and I'll be 59. I'll be the oldest dad in the playground waiting for him. It'll be embarrassing. But what can you do?

I never, ever wanted to be the Rolling Stones. Bless their hearts but I don't necessarily want to go on doing the same old thing for the next 10, 20 years ... I could see how easy it is to get into that rut, the whole touring mindset. Apart from being able to wipe your own arse, everything else is done for you. You get on the bus and off you go.

But sometimes you've just gotta get off the roundabout and see what else is around musically and stylistically. Lily Allen's got a great attitude. There's a lot of good talent around just now. It's a good time, innit? I like the Kooks, Zutons, really like them. And Amy Winehouse. Rehab is an amazing record. She's a real talent. I've worked with her a couple of times and I could tell she can really fucking do it.

I'm supposed to be having a year off. But I'm recording with [former Blur guitarist] Graham Coxon for a possible one-off single, and I'm doing Glastonbury, and three warm-ups in Telford, Newport and Plymouth - all the fucking hotspots!

Yeah, I'll be wearing me Ben Sherman shirts this summer. Well, I fucking hope so - if I get some free ones out of 'em! Listen, I wouldn't do 'em if they weren't cool, right?