By Matthew Holtby
A few nights ago a friend of mine made a comment about the winter coat he had seen me wearing the last time we hung out. It was minus 30 outside and although I wore a denim jacket underneath, this particular coat is comparable to something George Costanza would wear. Simply put, it’s not a cool coat. Now, the friend who made the comment stood outside with me in a leather biker jacket and ripped jeans, quivering in the cold as we spoke. He looked cold but I suppose that is the price one pays to look cool.
I’m okay with the notion that I don’t have an image. As an artist in my early forties, I understand that I’m probably not a trend setter or a follower for that matter. I’m not always a practical dresser and my regular street and stage clothes are similar in style. My home attire is what one might call despicable. Swim trunks and a hoodie are my day to day around the house and possibly a toque or ball cap and almost always, black framed glasses. I am visually impaired and I prefer sunglasses but I do my best not to do the Roy Orbison every day. Some days are easier than others. Unlike the flamboyant styles of punk rock’s yesteryear or the “check out my big brimmed hat” look of today, I’m a jeans and denim jacket kind of guy almost all the time. On stage I normally follow a couple of easy rules–dress dark, no logo and never wear running shoes. I don’t have a great haircut but I’m grateful that I do have a full head of hair. It’s thinning but it’s there. I’m not wafer thin. Sometimes I even wear comfortable shoes. You could say I look like a dad. Surprise. I am a dad.
Aside from the bad banter between songs and the fact that I tune my guitar far too often up there, I try to let the music speak for itself. Yeah, I have press photos where I try not to smile or look into the camera. Most of them have me in sunglasses or looking really tired; another surprise. I probably am.
As I write this, it’s 9:50 p.m. and my wife and I are lying in bed typing away at our respective projects. The TV is playing American Pickers and when we take a break, it’ll be time to watch Top Chef. We are a cozy, practical and sometimes predictable couple. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I see people my age who dress better. I go to see bands and I take notice of how cool they look up there and I realize I’m absolutely not one of them. No matter the genre or gender, I have come to the conclusion that I just have to focus on writing really great songs and shift the focus away from how uncool I may look; it’s not about that. Some of my very favourite bands also fall into this category. Mind you, there’s a difference between Neil Young’s drywall splattered jeans and Interpol’s suit and tie shtick that still looks cool to this day but I do my best to simply not get noticed at all. So many hats, so many beards; trucker caps to the front or back or tattoos up to the eyeballs and all over the arms, I’m just not that guy. I’ve had A&R people try to tell me I need to figure out who I am and that all of my social media posts need to follow suit. “What do you want to say? Who do you want to portray?” My story is pretty simple and so is my wardrobe. This Scarborough dinner jacket says the same thing my head and heart does. I just wanna rock.
Matthew Holtby is a Singer/Songwriter living in Warkworth, Ontario