Aloof aims to shine a light on the best brands and companies operating in the independent market right now, from all over the world. Those under the radar of the wider consciousness but with great stories to tell and a unique perspective on the nuts and bolts of building a brand.
Mike Holmes' passion for headwear is clear. A man of good taste, Mike has been searching for the perfect hat for a long, long time. He started making his own several years ago to avoid further disappointment on the hunt for the perfect piece of millinery. We caught up with Mike to get the low down on the Long Shot Exp. and why Top Cat might just be your next style icon.
Aloof Studio (AS:) Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about The Long Shot Exp.?
Mike Holmes (MS): I’m Mike Holmes, Dad, husband and milliner. I began The Long Shot Experiment in 2015 when I left a graphic design job to become a stay at home Dad.
AS: The bucket hat that started it all- does it still exist somewhere in the collection?
MH: I still have the first bucket hat I made, but the promotional Marlboro bucket, the hat that set me on the quest for the perfect headwear, has long since expired. To my knowledge, there are no photos of it, which I prefer as my imagination can elevate it to heights it may never have truly reached.
AS: You mention Laurence Bidston as an inspiration to you and one of the reasons you started The Long Shot Experiment. Are there any other key influences you can think of?
MH: Laurence’s label Felix Blow that he ran with his then partner Janey, was in the best shops and on the coolest heads in Liverpool when I was a teen, and as I got older I’d see Laurence and Janey at gigs. Knowing that these real people, quiet and humble people at that, from my local scene were running their own label (they were never called brands in those days) was proof that I could do the same. In a similar vein, as someone coming from a skateboarding background, the inspiration and example to do it yourself was always present.
AS: Were you working in the Menswear industry before you started The Long Shot Exp.?
MH: I’ve never worked in the industry. Between 2000 and 2005 I ran a small T-shirt label called ‘Militia’ that very much rode the wave of the early post-graffiti/street art movement. I sometimes wish I had the knowledge and experience that a career in the industry would have given me. However, I think the naivety and freshness with which I can approach things is a fair trade off.
AS: Manchester has such a rich heritage of clothing manufacture here in the UK. Do you, or did you, ever feel pressure to live up to the high bar of quality when making?
MH: Quality is probably the element I trade on the most, with making dead, dead cool stuff coming in a close second. I don’t feel pressure but I’m very picky and won’t put anything out if I’m not really happy with it. Our new labels feature the line “Meticulously designed and crafted...”, attaching these is the final process and that line acts as a sort of conscience. I have to be able to answer yes to the question “were you meticulous?”.
AS: Can you tell us a bit about the Six Bars of Soul project that sits alongside the hats?
MH: Six Bars of Soul is a little outlet for the graphic designer in me. The project interprets the lyrics from some of my favourite songs graphically on T-shirts. Music is fundamental to the soul of The Long Shot and it feels like an honour to align myself, albeit briefly, with some great artists.
AS: The Bank Robber's are an important pair of shoes for you, pictured in them on multiple occasions and even making a T-Shirt about them! What is it about the humble Clarks Desert Trek that stands out for you?
MH: Clarks! Obviously I’m a fan of Clarks shoes. The Desert Trek/Bank Robber is a favourite, I just think they look good with everything. Also, I’ve not quite got the necessary swag to feel truly Ghostface in a pair of Wallabees. I’ve always been fascinated by subcultural style and clothing, Clarks appear prominently in a lot of very disparate cultures. The idea for the T-shirt featuring the line from Digable Planets ‘Where I’m From’ came while listening to the song and realising it spoke as easily of the North of England as it did of New York.
AS: Music plays an important part in the The Long Shot Exp. experience. What’s on rotation at the moment?
MH: Recently the Sault albums have been getting a lot of play and a friend just put me onto the French producer GUTS. I’m in the middle of putting together a playlist for the next hat release which is heading down a rather spiritual soul, funk, jazz route.
AS: Asides from Serpico, who is the best fictional character to wear a hat?
MH: Toughest question yet! It’s a toss up between Top Cat and Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle.
AS: Are there any brands you’d like to point out that we should all be paying attention to?
MH: I feel a bit bad that these aren’t UK brands but I’d have to say 18 East and Aimé Leon Dore are the labels I look forward to seeing releases from. 18 East use some crazy fabrics and have a lot of discrete nods to 90s skate culture, while ALD I love for their marketing that strongly promotes their community. Closer to home, I love Amsterdam’s Pop Trading Company and Manchester/Salford’s Figurments have some very interesting things going on as well.
AH: What’s in store for The Long Shot Exp. in the near future?
MH: We've just dropped a new style, the Marvin Mountain Cap. This one has taken about a year to get right and I’m super excited to get it out. It’s our take on the original crossover tech mountain hat that was big in the 90s. A technical mountain cap for styling in the city. Aesthetics over athletics always.
Check out the latest releases from the Long Shot Exp. including the new Marvin Mountain Cap here.