Last Tuesday night, we grabbed a few minutes to chat with Jakob Dylan before The Wallflowers took the stage at the John Varvatos store in New York (which, handily enough, sits in the same space that was once the home of the legendary rock club CBGB). Today, to mark the release of the band’s first record in seven years, Glad All Over — oh, and our John Varvatos sale event, filled with stylish picks from Varvatos Collection and Star USA — we’re publishing the results of that interview. Read on for Jakob’s insights on rock ‘n’ roll, style, and how to wear a hat as well as he does.
Congrats on the new record. How’s it feel to have the band back together?
The band feels better than it ever did; it’s playing better than it ever has. The musicianship in the group is at an all-time high level.
How did working with former Clash guitarist Mick Jones on the single ‘Reboot the Mission‘ go?
Well, I’d love to say that we spent time with him, but I’ve known him for a long time, so it’s a little less interesting than hanging out all night. We sent him files, as you do in the modern world. And of course what he did was fantastic, and we’re thrilled. I’ve gotten feedback from him that he was really happy with how it turned out, and I’m going to assume that if he didn’t find the material compelling then he would’ve found a way to not do it. So I’m already thrilled enough with that.
And how did you wind up hooking up with John Varvatos?
I’ve known John for a number of years. He’s obviously really tightly intertwined with rock ‘n’ roll, and fashion and rock ‘n’ roll have been joined at the hip for… well, probably centuries, but we’ll go down to the modern era and say at least the ‘50s. He knows that, and I think that’s where he comes from — he grew up with all those iconic images he knew of his favorite stars, and that’s what he’s providing today for a lot of people.
And you’re as drawn to his aesthetic as he is to rock ‘n’ roll?
I would think so, yeah. I think he’s got terrific clothes.
I was watching old Wallflowers videos, and thinking to myself that the looks you were wearing back then could almost fit in a Varvatos campaign right now.
We were suiting up when it wasn’t happening. The world was coming out of grunge and people told us to not wear our suits when we were out playing. But we wore suits because the Beatles wore suits, and Chuck Berry wore suits. It made sense to all of us. But in the mid-‘90s it wasn’t real fashionable. That thing hadn’t really made its way back yet.
Well it certainly holds up.
I think so. I mean, I go to work like everybody else. People don’t go to the office in their flip-flops, and that’s not how we do our job either.
And is that how you view your own style? Like you said, you guys had a distinctive look from the beginning. Do you try to build that out?
We don’t really discuss it too much. It’s never something we’ve discussed at a higher level, but when you perform, it’s not as much about what you’re wearing as what it does. It can be a suit of armor at times. It has lots of purposes. But the clothes I walk around in on a regular basis, those aren’t the clothes I’m ready to perform in. Not because it doesn’t look good — but if you’re going to go play a baseball game, you need to get your baseball uniform on. That’s how I feel.
And what about having kids? Did that change your approach to how you get dressed?
[Shakes head “no”]
Not really. How so?
So many people I’ve talked to, when they have kids—
What, they start dressing like a grownup?
Either that or in something that can be demolished if need be, since kids aren’t exactly easy on a nice suit.
Well, I don’t wear my suits around the house anyhow, so it’s not a problem.
One thing I’ve noticed has stayed consistent throughout the years is your affinity for hats.
I like hats.
Is that a signature thing? It wasn’t really the thing in a popular way at that time.
You know, a lot of guys I like wear hats. Talk about The Clash, those guys wore zoot suits and hats. Willie Nelson wore a hat, and Hank Williams wore a hat. I don’t know if they got asked all the time about their hats the way I do…
Do you get it often?
Yeah, there are some people who’d prefer I didn’t wear my hats as often as I do. But then, I mean, I don’t imagine anyone told Johnny Cash to take his hat off if he didn’t want to.
So seeing as you’re a bit of an expert: Any tips for our readers on how to carry off a hat?
Well, it starts with finding a good hat. But here’s my tip on hats: You might be intimidated by wearing them. You might think, “I can’t pull that off.” And maybe you can’t. But if you wear it, you’ll at least be the guy or the girl with the cool hat on. So you’ll have that going for you.
Do you have any style icons?
Not necessarily someone who I model myself on, but no one ever looked better than Chet Baker. And Paul Simonon [of The Clash]. He couldn’t fail. I’m sure he doesn’t fail now, we just don’t see a lot of pictures of him. And I also feel that way about Nick Cave. He doesn’t fail.
Do you have any tips on incorporating a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll style into your everyday look?
I think first and foremost, dress in a way that makes you comfortable. But it just depends on what you’re doing. Like I said, Superman has to put his costume on and go to work. So if you’re doing something like that, you might need something, but in your everyday life just wear what you want to wear and be comfortable.
What is a rock ‘n’ roll look at this point? A chef’s costume. Maybe no one’s got that look yet.