Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Interview with Duke from Modern Action Clothing

Looking good and being pretentious does not have to go hand in hand. Duke from Modern Action has been designing and producing his own line of clothing for some time now attracting Mods and Skinheads from around the globe. Although all of his goods are made in America, which is something to say nowadays, when other manufacturers such as Ben Sherman and the like, who have traditionally made their clothes in England, are now increasingly outsourcing their production labor to countries in the far east. These clothes aren't necessarily made for stick thin Italian fashionistas either, Big American Skins can find a good fit too as there's something for everyone.You can't really find stuff of this design, cut, and quality anywhere else at the moment, so you should definately check out Modern Action and improve on things when it comes to looking sharp.

How long have you been doing Modern Action for now? I understand you were selling clothes on ebay before MA came together.....did that pave the way for you to design clothes, as you saw a demand for some of the type of shirts you're now producing?

Duke: I've been doing this for nearly 2 years now. I began work on the first run of shirts in about January of 2005, and it took a few months before I finally had some product. Prior to that I did sell on ebay for quite some time. Starting in about 1999, I would go to London and bring back loads of Bens and Freds, and sell them on there, as well as some folks here in SF. That sort of tapered off as other people started doing the same thing, and both Fred Perry and Ben Sherman began distributing in the USA widely. What really made me take the step to produce my own range of shirts was the fact that although Ben Sherman was now readily available in the USA, the designs had gone to shit, and The Merc was no better, with them both producing generic made- in-Asia crap!

What is the creative process like in coming up with the shirts you sell on your website? Who or what are some of your inspirations as far as that is concerned?

Duke: It's pretty much based on things I see that I think look smart, and then try to introduce details that aren't commonly seen. Nearly everything has been done to death, it's just a matter of combining things that aren't seen as often. I've tried to give my sleeves a unique look with the turned up sleeve, and big and small horizontal 2 button configuration. The new long sleeves I'll have by the time this interview is published will have a fairly unique pointed cuff. Inspiration can come from a vintage shirt I see in a shop, someone at a gig, or on celebrities from the late 60s ranging from John Cleese to Lee Marvin!

On your website it says that Modern Action products are Made in the USA, is it hard to balance things like production costs with making sure your clothes are as high of quality as they are?

Duke: For now it's OK, as I do most of them retail direct to the buyers. When and if I start getting a lot of wholesale orders to stores it may wind up being a problem, as I may not be able to offer a competitive price. But hopefully that can be balanced out by a cut in price on my end by producing larger runs of products. Much of the prices are fixed on supplies though. Fabric costs alot until you are really buying thousands of yards.

What kind of person do you design your clothes for? Would it bother you if MA blew up and became trendy and desirable to wear by "mainstream" people. What would you say if you saw your shirts featured in GHQ or the like?

Duke: I'm doing this for the various street level cultures that have been around since the 60's that require smart and hard clothing. I do think it would be awesome if they wound up in GQ. I am not courting the mainstream though, and as a result I don't think they will become trendy any time soon. If say word got out and it went big, great. I'm not an Anarcho-Punk, and I have no moral opposition to success. If the shit takes off I'd just run with it, I can always start a clothing line called Immediate Action for the faithful!

What is your opinion on EBAY as a place to buy designer/vintage clothing (ie Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Stone Island etc.) I understand that there's a lot of knockoffs around and that some of them are even fairly well put together. Do you think it matters whether it's the genuine article or not as long as it looks decent?

Duke: eBay is a great resource, there are often good deals, as well as some killer one-of-a- kind vintage things on there. There is TONS of counterfeit gear on there though, especially if you are looking for Stone Island/CP Company. There are more fake Freds than ever on there nowadays too. Do your homework and get the genuine item or risk looking like a total pratt. If you get stuck with something I suppose you should make the best of it, but only a third class ticket would intentionally seek out an item that is not genuine as it's "Good Enough". I'd say save yer $$ and go for quality not quantity.
Charlie: Tell me about the Modernist scene on the West Coast, is there a lot of stuff happening as far as Northern Soul all-nighters/Shows/Rallies are concerned? Who are some bands/dj's etc. people should look out for?

Tell me about the Modernist scene on the West Coast, is there a lot of stuff happening as far as Northern Soul all-nighters/Shows/Rallies are concerned? Who are some bands/dj's etc. people should look out for?

Duke: I participate pretty heavily in the Mod scene here in CA, although I am personally identified as a Skinhead. San Francsico at present is in a bit of a lull. There is a cool Mod nite called Kaleidoscope that is happening once a month, which features Major Sean, Carlos, and Dr Scott, they play a good bit of Northern Soul there. There are infrequent other events, and there are a couple folks folks in my scooter club, Black Sheep, like Rick Soulsiter, and Dion who have great records There are some other folks like Stormy Rogers who isn't very active anymore, but is occasionally around as well as Shawn and Kiki. Many of those folks do great Reggae sets as well.

LA really seems to be happening with pretty regular nights. Angel City/Hot Shot, Bullet, Club a Go Go, and stuff put on by Westside Scooter club all happen often, and have decent turnouts. Again, many of these nites are a mix of Skinheads and Mods. There are also several annual rallies every year all over CA that draw over 100 scooters. SF Classic the rally that my club has taken over draws over 300 scooters!

I heard that you promote shows occasionally, tell me about the last couple you've done and how they went. Have you had any bad experiences with booking/putting on shows?

Duke: I'll bring a band to town once in a while, or try to get a DJ nite together although I don't spin myself. Last couple of big events I did was a killer The Who tribute band which was well attended, but attendance was cut into by a Mod act called The Loved Ones who happened to be doing a one off reunion gig the same nite. I also did a couple of Templars gigs in the bay area. They played full sets at both gigs, no one was arrested, and all the bands got paid so it was a success! There was some small talk about a return invasion of the Templars to CA, with 1 gig in LA 1 in SF, but never got past a couple emails and phone calls. I may look into it again in the new year.

What is your response to people who say that being a Skinhead/Mod/Punk/HC Kid etc. means living in the past, and that it's stupid to be so into bands that were rocking before they were even born? Are subcultures like those still viable in today's society among today's youth?

Duke: The scene is certainly still current and vital. Is Rap dead? No one ever says Hip Hop is stale or dead, and it's soldiering on and utilizing much of it's original ideals and ideas. To some degree, some of the earlier underground bands like the DKs or the Misfits are now finally gaining commercial recognition, but that isn't a bad thing. We need more older bands like the Lewd or Menace to get the credit they deserve! There are plenty of new bands that are building on the legacy that began with the older bands. Hell, half of the revered older bands came along after "Punk" was erroneously deemed dead in 78/79!

Do you like to do a lot of traveling? What are some of your favorite destinations to visit?

Duke: I'm a big fan of London, and go there pretty often. I travel to gigs and events pretty regularly, and hope to do a fair bit of traveling in 07 and tie it in with some Modernaction promotion!

Where is your favorite place to get pizza in your city? In what city do you think the best pizza in the entire US can be found?

Duke: My favorite Pizza in San Francsico is Arinels. You just need to add a little salt to it. It's the best pizza this side of the Hudson river. Which brings me to the second part of the question. There is no doubt, the best Pizza in the USA is in my home town of NYC. Fuck deep dish pizza. If I want soup in a bread bowl, I'll go get clam chowder in Fishermans Warf! Pizza should be flat, crispy and delicious, not a soggy runny mess! Even the thicker Sicillian pies in NYC are crispy with a firm consistency to the cheese. That is the only way to go....

This was originally published by me at

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