Browns' very own menswear Buying Manager DEAN COOK discusses his lifelong love affair with the track suit as part of Fantastic Man’s Questionnaire series
What garment is key to your personal style?
How many pairs of track pants do you have in your wardrobe?
I’ve got about ten pairs of fashion ones from the likes of RICK OWENS and PRADA and untold numbers of normal sports ones from NIKE and ADIDAS.
Where does your attachment to track pants come from?
I grew up playing football. I played all the time and eventually I moved from Romford, in Essex, to Cambridge when I was about 15 years old to become an apprentice footballer for Cambridge United. I just lived in track pants and training kit. But I have one particularly formative track-pant experience that sort of shaped my life.
What was it?
I was 13, it was the school disco and I had no idea what to wear. I was completely at a loss and I had no suitable clothes. My dad played a lot of golf, so I stole his golf clothes and wore a pair of my track pants. I still remember that outfit: a white, skin-tight turtleneck, a brown SLAZENGER V-neck sweater and blue ADMIRAL track pants with the ADMIRAL logo in yellow down the sides.
Sounds like a good look! Did anyone dance with you?
I don’t think I was very interested in dancing at that age. But anyway, it wasn’t a good look, it was an awful look! I found the whole experience of not knowing what to wear and not having any clothes so stressful and embarrassing that I decided I was going to make an effort to understand clothes and style. And I think, in a way, that moment led to me working in fashion.
How did you go about transforming your style?
I went straight to the newsagents and I found two magazines. One was ‘The Face’ and the other was a magazine called ‘Unique’. Tell me if you ever find a copy because I’ve been looking for copies online but it’s impossible; if you google “unique magazine” it just comes up with allvsorts of random stuff. ‘Unique’ was very important for me. It was a bit different to ‘The Face’, it was British but more focused on Italian fashion: ARMANI, VERSACE, BEST COMPANY CLOTHING, etcetera.
Were you a bit of an Italophile?
I was, yeah. I used to advise everyone in my football team on which Italian brands they should be buying and all my salary went on clothes. I remember going to Browns on South Molton Street in the mid ’80s and buying my first pair of ARMANI JEANS. They cost £50 and I was only earning £25 a week playing for Cambridge.
"I was 13, it was the school disco and I had no idea what to wear."
Have you ever made a radical change to your look?
After I stopped playing football in the ’90s and started working in fashion, I worked in wholesale for brands. So I’ve always taken the lead from where I work. I was at DONNA KARAN and I wore a lot of black cashmere. Then I went to PRADA and had a very minimal PRADA look going on, same with when I was at JIL SANDER.
What PRADA era were you there for?
Around the time that NEIL BARRETT launched men’s and they were just developing PRADA SPORT. They didn’t have the red stripe yet but they were making this quite groundbreaking sport-fashion thing. I wore a lot of V-neck sweaters, light blue shirts, technical fabric trousers and oversized shoes. It was a really exciting time to be there. Here’s a question, when you go home, do you change and put a pair of track pants on?
Erm, no. I don’t. I’m quite happy in trousers.
See, I always change into track pants in the home. Partly for comfort and partly through habit. Even if I’ve worn track pants to the office, I get changed into a different pair when I get home. Usually an old pair of NIKE or ADIDAS ones.
What does your wardrobe look like?
It is very organised, but by category, not by colour. All jackets together, all sweaters together, shirts together, T-shirts together, long-sleeved shirts together. I have a double wardrobe with all my clothes in and then another for all my coats, and then a drawer for underwear and socks. I also have an entire chest of drawers just for sport socks. I’m obsessed. A conservative estimate would be I’ve got about 75 pairs.
Do you have an amazing wardrobe management tip?
Never hang a sweater.
Not even on a special, grippy hanger?
No, never ever.
Where do you keep them? Don’t they take up loads of room?
Folded. I fold the finer gauge ones in a drawer, and then the chunkier ones I have folded under the hanging space in my wardrobe.
Do you have a special folding technique?
Of course. I go shoulder over, arm down the middle, other shoulder over, other arm down the middle. Then fold in half. But with the heavier gauge ones I don’t do that because they would pile up really high. So I fold them in half, then leave the arms by the side and just lay them flat. You know, when you leave home at 15 and have to live with another family, you grow up quite quickly. You get very good at being neat and folding things.
Interview by Eliot Haworth, Assistant Editor, Fantastic Man