Mick Taylor, the Sartorialist of Brick Lane
When I took my photograph of Mr Sammy Minzly outside the Beigel Bakery yesterday, I was delighted to see Mick Taylor sidle into the left of the picture. For months I had been hoping for the privilege of a conversation with this debonair gentleman whose striking outfits I have admired innumerable times as I have passed through Brick Lane and this was the ideal opportunity.
He explained to me the origins of his relationship with style.“When I was young in the nineteen sixties, I was blond and good looking – I was young and I didn’t know what I had, I made a few pounds and enjoyed life. When I had some money I went to Albert’s in Whitechapel and got suits, shirts and shoes – everything had class.” But Mick recognises that fashion moves ever onward, “I slung a lot of it,” he admitted, “Nowadays everyone’s dressing down. It’s a different scene.”
That day, in an unusually subdued outfit, compared to his colourful summery ones, Mick paired up a vintage sheepskin hat with a slim blue denim overcoat which followed the lean silhouette of his trim physique and had a warm fleece lining and trim to match the hat. He continued the denim of the coat with a pair of blue jeans turned up at the cuffs, and completed the look with a pair of tan leather boots that he said reminded him of those Steve McQueen wore in “The Cincinnati Kid.” Then Mick astounded me with his next action. Confiding that he treasures a memory of going on a special date with a Jewish girl to the ABC Whitechapel, now the Genesis Cinema, to see “The Cincinnati Kid” when it first came out – he took a mouth organ from his pocket and, by way of illustration, casually played the theme tune which he recalled from that day in 1965. I was overwhelmed by the charisma of the man who is Brick Lane’s top style icon.
“What you wear, and how you wear it, is the most important thing” he declared to me. And, in confirmation of this absolute belief, Mick revealed that he bought his coat for three pounds in the market and found both the jeans and boots that make up his outfit on the street. Through all his many changing outfits of the year, Mick is living proof that style is not about money, it is entirely about ingenuity and imagination. In this particular outfit, I admired his choice of the restricted palette of blue denim and soft browns that complemented his natural colouring – the denim emphasising his piercing blue eyes and the brown fleece picking up the blond hairs in his beard to create a distinctively mellow look.
Although he lives in Whitechapel, for over fifty years Mick has been hanging around at the top of Brick Lane, becoming a connoisseur of – and star player in – the street life that he loves so much. You will find him there between the Beigel Bakery and Brick Lane Coffee most days until around three when he returns home to Whitechapel. I think I noticed Mick at first, not because of his clothes but because of his stance, since Mick stands in Brick Lane as if he owns it, which in a sense he does. With Mick, as with all true icons, it is not ultimately about the clothes, it is about the attitude. Blessed with a natural dignity, Mick has got soul too. Over all this time, he has been observing street fashion with a critical and perceptive eye, long before the Hoxton boys arrived in their skinny jeans and ironic hats. He has seen it all pass by down Brick Lane.
Mick says, “I am Cockney boy born in Hackney within the sound of Bow bells”. Speaking of the old East End, Mick Taylor told me he had seen the gangs, fights, murders and stabbings in the street. “You don’t see it no more, it’s better now without a doubt. No more gangs, no more violence”, he concluded with a thoughtful smile.