A Day's March with Fredrik Strage
In A DAY'S MARCH WITH, our mission is to tell the stories of everyday triumphs and troubles, through people that shape the business of culture. We meet Fredrik Strage, renowned music journalist in a conversation about what came first – the music or the clothes?
”I’m a 90’s Bitch.” The brief, yet bluntly direct message greets us on the t-shirt of Fredrik Strage as he welcomes us into the comfort of his Stockholm apartment. Strage, who has actively written reviews, columns and features on pop culture since the early 1990s, is one of Sweden’s most acclaimed music journalists. The ”90’s,” that his t-shirt so eagerly refers to, has not only forged the pillars of his career, but also his sense of style. His signature outfit? A printed t-shirt underneath a leather jacket and black trousers. Stepping into Strages world is like getting immersed into pop culture. The bookshelves in his apartment are stacked with books alongside eccentric toys, vinyls and comics. On the surface of his piano lay family portraits next to South Park memorabilia, and his pick of peculiar art says it all – a large still from the film The Wicker Man directed by Robin Hardy. ”In the nineties, I started buying t-shirts after being drawn into indie fashion, which put light to tight fitting t-shirts – similar to those worn by the members of Popsicle and This Perfect Day. I liked the look. Although I didn’t really like the music, I did like the way they wore t-shirts,” he says.
Strage’s interest for quirky t-shirts soon came to grow. His New York excursions and exposure to hip-hop music acted as a catalyst for more experimental and fused trends as he began combining tight-fitting t-shirts with baggy combat trousers and limited-edition sneakers. ”I always ventured out to Brooklyn to source obscure and funny vintage t-shirts. My favourites were the t-shirts with Christian youth camp prints from the 70s and 80s. I wanted them to feel American and a bit strange.” The idea about ”the authentic American, a slightly braindead look and style” actually came from the American punk band The Ramones, Strage explains. ”I remember seeing pictures of them wearing Mickey Mouse t-shirts under a leather jackets. It looked insanely attractive. It was a bit like The Ramones’ music: braindead, simple yet strictly minimalist and consistent – it was inspirational.”
In the nineties, I started buying t-shirts after being drawn into indie fashion.
A DAY'S MARCH: Have you decided on what came first for you – the music or the clothes? FREDRIK STRAGE: The clothes came first. As a child, I wanted to look like the superheroes. I wore a Hulk t-shirt for the school photos for years. I remember doubting my decision in the fourth grade. The previous summer, we’d been to New York and my dad had organised a visit to Marvel Comics. We walked around there, watching them create the illustrations, and at the end of the guided tour we entered their stock room and the guide said “take as many as you want, kid.” I was ecstatic, convinced it would guarantee my popularity in school. No-one in the entire school would have as many Marvel comics as me. I was confident that I would gain everyone’s respect. When I returned to school, everything had changed – the only thing people talked about was the pop group Noice. A pin with their logo on your sweater was a must-have, so I asked my dad to come with me to the pop shop to buy me the pin. I had never heard of the band, but I got the pin anyway. That was the first thing I bought that qualifies as pop fashion.
Did this evolve into a larger fashion interest? - In junior high school, the yuppie fashion became popular. It was all about lambswool jumpers in bold black and white patterns by Lyle & Scott and Ivanhoe. In order to build on that style, I asked my mum if I could have a Lacoste polo shirt and a pair of shoes from Lyle & Scott and I remember her saying, “there we go, the label hysteria has started.” It became a big deal, kids suddenly wanted branded fashion – today there’s hardly anything else on offer. But back then people thought the youth had lost their minds over their clothes. Did you have any style role models during this period? - Anders Borg was handsome. I had joined the Moderate Youth Association to prevent film censorship, a major debate in the 1980s. Borg, who subsequently became Sweden’s finance minister, had a kind of Clark Kent nerdiness that was really neat. Short wavy hair, glasses and a bow tie. Without older siblings, I didn’t really have anyone to show me the way. When I started high school and walked into the library, a guy called Gunnar sat there reading Slitz, which in those days was a music magazine. I remember him asking me if I knew about Nick Cave. I said no and Gunnar sighed loudly. Around then I got into synth-pop and started dressing in black and Dr Martens. That’s not far from your style today. Have you kept to it ever since or is it a result of several phases? - Several phases. For a while it was all about doing the unexpected. When I was in a band, I got black clothes for all the band members while I dressed in colourful flower power outfits. It was all about making a mark. In fact, our appearance was more important than our music. Not just the outfits, but the staging and the placement of the instruments, the backdrop, our movements. Headbanging the right way was important, beating the drums in a way that showed we really meant it. I still think it’s incredibly important that the stage looks cool when I go to gigs. I’m very annoyed with Depeche Mode, they look like any ordinary band nowadays. That’s not much fun to watch. They used to look like Kraftwerk with Freddie Mercury singing.
Is there a stylistic moment in the history of fashion you would want to return to? - My favourite era is late sixties New York represented by Andy Warhol, The Factory and The Velvet Underground. People in Manhattan’s VIP bars looking bored behind their sunglasses. I never get tired of looking at photos from that era. Why is that era still so interesting? - The people creating culture and art in those days worked so hard. It was a combination of incredible diligence and fucked up decadence. I feel nostalgic about that era, and I wasn’t even alive during it. What’s your latest discovery when it comes to clothes? - Short sleeved shirts! Not that different to a t-shirt, but still.
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