Style & Grooming

Five People on Why They Love Wearing The London Leatherman

Five of the historic label’s devotees explain what makes the brand so special

If you’ve ever asked how leather became punk, then the answer is The London Leatherman. Emerging out of the subcultures of the 1970s and 80s, The London Leatherman – also known as Ken – pioneered the use of leather in modern subcultural apparel: first among the leather scene, then the punk scene. Self-taught but highly specialised, Ken fashioned extraordinary, era-defining pieces out of the material, outfitting the likes of The Sex Pistols, Debbie Harry, Viv Albertine, and pretty much every other punk icon you can think of. He created jackets and waistcoats, T-shirts and tank-top vests, trousers, chaps and belts. And while Ken passed away in the 90s, entrepreneur Dave Carroll picked up his mantle, relaunching the brand in 2018 and continuing his legacy. Here, five London Leatherman devotees extol the praises of this historic label.

Jordan Mooney, model, actress and author

“I first heard of The London Leatherman while I was working for Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood at their shop SEX at 430 Kings Road between 1975 and 1976. I would go to the shop in Battersea to collect and place orders with the then-owner Ken. By the way, the shop was as classy as the garments themselves. A very dark and mysterious interior with a big illuminated fish tank in the middle of it. I really admired the workmanship, high quality and simplicity of the pieces. There was a sexual undertone about them mixed with the idea of bringing fetish wear to everyday life. I wore a leather pencil skirt and cape combo as day wear and felt empowered by it. Nowadays the brand name has been carried on by Dave Carroll who obviously cares very passionately about high quality pieces that make a statement, are made to last and are classic. I own several T-shirts and some superb studded and non studded wristbands and belts that I wear almost constantly. You can smell the quality as well as see it and they get much attention and compliments wherever I go. Dave has on occasion made a special piece for me to my own specifications which is a mark of someone who loves his art.”

Stephen Hamilton, hair stylist and make-up artist

“I first encountered Dave Carroll many, many years ago. We would see each other out and about in London, at places like La Rocka! & Johnson’s in Kensington Market, where I used to shop a lot. It wasn’t until recently that we met up again at a friend’s soirée in Maida Vale, when Mark Moore (music producer and DJ) introduced me to a very stylish couple (Dave and Bridget) and we got talking about The London Leatherman. I’ve since acquired one of the new London Leatherman jersey T-shirts with the one working zip on the collar and also the LM1 leather wristband with chrome buckle and eyelets. The brand resonates with me because in the early days, part of my wardrobe was leather biker boots, jackets, waistcoats, trousers, and chaps – and one of my previous partners had a Harley Davidson. It’s the high-quality leather goods and the T-shirts I particularly like from the brand. How do I feel when I wear my London Leatherman pieces? Awesome!”

Jacob Shaw, bass player of Wild Daughter

“I first heard about The London Leatherman as an almost apocryphal figure in the early 70s making fetish gear for the ‘community’ which was then cannibalised by Malcolm McLaren to clothe the Sex Pistols in 1976. Two years later and mums were wearing studded leather wristbands doing a weekly shop, The London Leatherman was the genesis of every be-studded shoe and handbag seen today. It was during the Wild Daughter Mr G video that I learnt of the label’s rebirth and reinvention by Dave Carroll after it had faded away in the 90s. I was wearing an original pair of LLM Jeans from 1976 and the fit was sublime. Ever since then I don’t think I have had a seminal Wild Daughter moment without wearing any of the clothes. I had a bespoke pair of Classic Jeans and they are ultimately versatile for stage outfits. The aesthetic meshes with the band, it’s made to be lived in and it gives me a feeling of a second skin up in front of a thousand soon to be Wild Daughtettes. It is the faithful reading and slight twist of The London Leatherman archive that makes the current collection something to watch and in essence something for us to learn from, as we are showcased the reincarnated body of work of a very talented individual.”

Simon Erl, co-owner of Dragon Tattoo, Leeds and Temple Coffee, Leeds

“I first met the man years ago in a friend’s garage in Brighton. I was buying a 1980s Honda CB down there. There was a group of older cats hanging out known as ‘the meatballs’ and I was introduced to Dave through them. Having met him then I loosely followed his endeavours and projects while bumping into him from time to time up and down the country. As a brand it speaks to me because it’s real. So many brands just appear out of nowhere and try to cash in on some subculture that they know nothing about. We’ve seen it with punk, skateboarding, heavy metal, et cetera. The London Leatherman has always kept it real, and effortlessly so, because he lives it. I have the Scorpio rising shirt and the jean style leather vest. I like supporting brands that I have a real reference point to. Seeing how people live, how they conduct business and how they create stuff. There’s so many imposters around with social media and marketing budgets but there’s just some things money can’t buy and I always say ‘real will recognise resales’.”

Harry Newman, menswear designer at Kenzo Mode

“I think the first time I met Dave (or The London Leatherman), was at the opening of the opening of Fifi Chachnil’s first London boutique. I was wearing my dad’s old biker and Dave came up behind me and said ‘Nice Mascot!’ and then went on to tell me everything about the model and even year it was produced! I must have been 17 at the time and just on my way to starting a menswear course at Saint Martins and was blown away by his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things leather. I say I ‘think’, it’s the first time I met him because he’s actually an old friend of my parents who used to hang out at the same clubs in Soho together in the early 80s (Mud, Dirt Box, Wag, et cetera) and I remember meeting up with him on his market stall, with my parents when I was a kid, which was the best place to go to find anything Seditionaries or La Rocka. I like wearing The London Leatherman gear because of Dave’s authenticity. He was actually there and an intrinsic part of the whole scene and you can see that in all his gear.”