The people that have been interviewed so far in this series have been those with senses of style that I have admired or respected for quite a long time. @johnbbrooklyn was my original heritage/denim style icon and I have admired his look well before I got on Instagram. @newenglandmenswear was one of the first people who stood out to me on the app as someone who wore jeans with fantastic style and @migigp was someone that I thought was a king of style as soon as I discovered his account.
This week’s subject was a little bit different. I have followed @illcutz for quite a while now, but I have to admit that when I first conceived of this series, I did not have him on the list yet. While I liked a lot of his outfits and the pieces he owned, but for some reason I did not think to put him on this list. However, over the past year or so and especially over the past 6 months, Illya has skyrocketed to near the top of my list of favorite accounts on Instagram.
To my eyes, he has really found a distinct style all his own. His jacket collection has expanded to a very impressive lineup and his shirts are tucked in far more often. Most interestingly, he has found success wearing certain items that very few others would dare attempt, such as camo trousers and shirts, unique vests, neckerchiefs, and his now iconic British Army Overalls. This is on top of the fact that he pretty much always has a cool and often unique hat on (that is often made by himself).
What is most impressive about Illya’s style is actually twofold. Firstly, he has an incredibly unique look that is all his own, something that is very difficult to do in the world of denim. Secondly, he manages to pull off looks that a lot of people, including myself, would never want to wear themselves, but still respect. It is rare for people to really enjoy seeing outfits that they would never wear themselves, but Illya’s outfits seem to have that effect on people, including myself.
As of today, @illcutz’s account is probably the one that I most look forward to seeing posts from every day. He is always doing something new, inventive, and/or creative and I get a lot of inspiration from it. Now, let’s find out how he got to wear he is today and learn more about what makes him tick.
Almost Vintage Style: When and how did you get into raw denim, boots, and quality clothing?
Illcutz: This must have been around 2015 when I stumbled upon
‘Raw Denim’ sub on Reddit. I was searching for better-made jeans as I wasn’t happy with what the high street was offering. This sent me down a rabbit hole of finding the ‘perfect’ pair with as most people will know a lot of trial and error on sizing and fits, the journey was fun and I learned a lot about different types of denim including topics such as construction, dyeing techniques, sanforized vs
unsanforized and the different weights amongst a myriad of other details…I was hooked.
Quality boots came quickly afterward, just like with raw denim I wanted to have better-made boots/shoes which didn’t have to be thrown out every year due to being worn out, I hated the fact that just when you had worn in your old pair, and they had become like a glove on your feet you would be forced to get rid of them due to broken sole or some other defect. This ultimately led to me to research the items I bought a lot more thoroughly, to make sure they would stand up to the test of time, and that perhaps one day I could eventually pass these things down to my son.
AVS: When and how did style become important to you (was this tied in any way to heritage menswear)?
IC: Growing up, heritage style wasn’t important to me for me as I just wasn’t aware of it. I come from an era where the music you listened to dictated how you dressed, it was very tribal and you had to signal which genre you belonged to….so as a hip hop kid this meant baggy jeans, tee’s and sneakers.
I slowly cleaned up my look from a streetwear aesthetic in about 2012, at this point I started to care a lot more about my appearance, especially how I dressed.
This was mainly driven by personal circumstances which had changed my outlook on life and I wanted to better myself on all the fronts I could manage. In terms of exploring heritage menswear that is something of a relatively new experience for me and a journey, I’m still on.
AVS: Who or what influences and inspires your style?
IC: These days I’m generally inspired by styles from the early to mid-20th Century Americana as reinterpreted or reproduced by the isles of Japan. In essence what this means is a mix of Biker Culture, Cowboy and Military garments with modern interpretations, and what I really enjoy is how well these styles can be interchanged with each other.
AVS: How would you describe your personal style?
IC: This is a hard one, but the best I can do is
‘Rugged Style’, I think this perfectly sums up the clothing I wear, as one of the primary questions I ask myself when buying something new is; “Will this is fit for purpose and will it handle whatever I will throw at it?” whether that be hiking, motorcycle ride-outs or even my 5-year-old!
I’m a very tactile person and love heavy and textured clothing which is substantial and has some heft to it, whether it is denim, canvas, wool or leather; once you have been accustomed to the real deal it’s hard to go back to the articles which don’t stand up to these kinds of standards.
AVS: Do you have a favorite season for clothing and why?
IC: I guess the sweet spot is between late autumn and early winter when you can deck yourself out with a multitude of layers, and enjoy the autumnal colours of the outdoors.
AVS: What is your favorite/signature piece of clothing?
IC: I’m too much of a fickle beast to have a favourite piece, what have found is that I will obsess about a piece initially and match it with every single item I own and then move onto another item or combination. I’m much the same with other parts of my life, such as books and music. I’m always looking for that next thing to feed my insatiable appetite.
For the last year, I have been obsessed with the Mister Freedom’s Ranch Blouse, I really enjoy the different inspirations he has taken from heritage denim brands and served them up so uniquely in a non-traditional type II jacket, it’s literally changed how I look at other denim jackets.
AVS: Do you have a favorite category of clothing (boots, chinos, t shirts, etc) and why?
IC: Jackets are probably one of my biggest vices, so much so that I have arrived at the point of where I have to wear more than one at a time to make sure they all get aired every once in a while!
AVS: What is your favorite clothing brand and why?
IC: The main two brands I always look out for new collections are Mister Freedom and Stevenson Overall Co, I think both brands have a few parallels in what makes them tick. I really admire their taste for picking out old styles and transforming them into modern interpretations of what has come before.
AVS: Are there any items that you are looking to purchase soon or are on your wish list?
IC: There are always things I’m looking to either upgrade in my wardrobe or to add…right now I have been searching for a blanket lined Type 1 denim jacket. And as there not that many on the market I’m contemplating getting a custom one made up.
AVS: Describe your favorite outfit that you have worn or plan on wearing.
IC: Mister Freedom Ranch Blouse x Warehouse Chambray x Stevenson Overalls & Co 120’s x John Lofgren Natural CXL Engineer Boots
AVS: Are there any other people in or out of the denim/heritage menswear community that you think have great style?
IC: In terms of certain individuals, it has to be said that IG has had a big impact on inspiring my style, as there are so many good feeds of fellow Gents who always bring fresh and unique takes on rugged menswear. The gents below (and of course yourself) are some but by no means the only ones who are a constant source of inspiration.
John B @JohnBBrooklyn
Mark Large (1lrg)
What these Gents have in common is great taste, a sense of adventure and ultimately confidence in themselves to create and wear their unique outfits.
AVS: What separates your style from that of the average denim head?
IC: I would rather the people decide that.
Thanks for the insight, Illya! I definitely can relate to the tribalism of music defining your style. I was a drummer in pop punk bands for over a decade and that style/clothing defined me for that entire time period. That Mister Freedom Ranch Blouse also fits you perfectly and I think it’s the piece that I most associate with you. If you notice, there are actually some double denim shots in here, but the way Illya layers, I think those double denim outfits look really good and are certainly different than normal double denim.