Corbin and Perry go large

Sheffield-born artist Corbin Shaw has teamed up with Fred Perry, creating two custom polo shirts and a short film to celebrate his home city.

Corbin Shaw isn’t one to rest on his laurels. In the last couple of years alone, the multimedia artist has exhibited at OOF Gallery in Tottenham with Martin Parr, collaborated with a slew of coveted brands, created a pop-up corner shop for Shoreditch’s Jealous Gallery and designed a Glasto flag for THE FACE cover star Nia Archives.

Now Corbin’s taken on the Laurel Wreath logo, creating two customs of Fred Perry’s classic polo shirt. One of fashion’s most enduring staples and a uniform for subcultures ranging from mods and skinheads to indie kids and ravers, it’s not an easy piece to mess with. It’s really difficult because it’s a classic. It’s quite daunting to touch something like that,” Corbin tells THE FACE, explaining that it took two years of on-and-off modifying to settle on his final pair of designs.

The first is a love letter to Sheffield, Corbin’s hometown and, in his eyes, a rave hotspot thanks to now-defunct clubs including The Roxy, Gatecrasher and Jive Turkey. We are all influenced by industry in Sheffield. The sound of that robotic, mechanical, clunky repetition becomes something almost comforting for people and turns into music,” he explains, tracing a potted history of acid house, bassline and happy hardcore. An ode to this, the shirt is emblazoned with DEAR SHEFFIELD” on the front in Corbin’s signature blocky typeface and features a poem on the reverse, dedicated to the Steel City.

The second custom is Corbin’s take on a school leavers’ shirt, covered in scribbled well wishes, playground jibes, graffitied smilies and that Cool S” every UK teenager drew at some point or other. It’s finished in exercise-book blue, taking you back to those strange inbetween days sandwiched by the end of college and the start of a new chapter. I like the idea of immortalising fleeting moments and it’s such a shared experience,” Corbin says.

The collaboration is accompanied by a short film, which sees Shaw rave like mad to a properly ecstatic happy hardcore classic. Directed by Aria Shahrokhshahi and choreographed by Joe Grey Adams, it cuts from local park to off licence, estate to boxing gym, before ending with an obligatory ruin-your-new-school-trousers knee slide, half Trainspotting, half training montage.

It captures the reckless abandon of youth, the rush of early adulthood and the buzz of wearing a mint-condition polo shirt, ready to seize the night. To hear more, we asked Corbin a few extra questions about Fred Perry, the magic of Sheffield and his going-out rituals.

What are your memories of Fred Perry growing up?

It was a huge part of my adolescence. My Dad was like: this is what subculture is and this is the uniform. Growing up, the boys I idolised were the scallies with oversized Fred Perrys and gelled fringe and caps. That’s permeated throughout my life. I remember as a teenager going to my first gigs, the ritual of buying a polo with my Christmas money, then going to the O2 Academy for the NME tours. But as I got older I properly one-eightied on indie music and started going to raves, so I got into the striped Fred Perry jumpers and that became my new uniform.

What inspired the short film?

The crux of what I wanted to explore was how families pass down dance moves. I was interested in revisiting those childhood memories, so we went to spaces in Sheffield that mean so much to me, like my Dad’s welding firm and the boxing gym, and the garage where we used to play football. I wanted to basically create a modern-day Billy Elliot and tap into a nostalgia that was my own: these memories of watching boys listening to happy hardcore in the 2000s wearing Fred Perry.

What makes Sheffield so special?

In the north, everyone thinks its best days are behind it. But even with Sheffield, which is a postwar city where so much of the architecture is not supposed to have a lot of feeling behind it, there’s lots of attachment. I always wanted to visit the landmarks my mum and dad would talk about because a lot of them were knocked down, demolished or abandoned. The line about the hole in the road on the back of the DEAR SHEFFIELD” shirt is a reference to this famous roundabout in the middle of Sheffield where everyone used to meet. It had a fish tank in the middle! The clubbing culture in Sheffield is huge, too. It’s the epicentre of dance.

Go on, what did people write on your own leavers’ shirt?

Oh, God! I don’t think I still have my shirt. I don’t remember what people wrote on it, [but it was] probably similar to what we used to write online. Leavers’ shirts are such a shared experience across the country that everyone knows. I asked my friends to send me some messages for the Fred Perry one, so I used some of those. The original draft had more things on it – like a lot of cocks drawn on it – which we couldn’t get on the final one, but it ended up being the way it is, and I love it.

What was your pre-night-out ritual when you were younger?

When I think back to my first nights out with fake IDs, there was a lot of ironing. I wore some awful shirts. And I remember getting the bus with my mates and we’d sit in McDonald’s for a bit and wait for the optimum time to strike, hoping people wouldn’t realise my ID said I was 26 and half-Italian. When I started going to proper clubs and raves there was a lot more that went into it. Getting the ticket and the rest of it, selling some trainers to somebody in college for an extra 20 quid.

And what are your most euphoric memories of raving?

When I was about 18, I remember being on the tram so excited, so proud of what I was wearing – jeans, desert boots and a checked shirt – that I’d saved up for after working at a service station. It sounds cringey but it’s one of those proper coming-of-age moments. Like, this is really it, we can do anything we want now. I remember going to raves in Huddersfield, too. It’s actually so gorgeous. You’d come out of this disused factory that had been turned into a venue space and the sun would be coming up over these disused mills and lovely hills. It was incredible. Walking home, still a little bit buzzing. But there was nothing depressing about that, you’re quite happy the night’s over.

The Fred Perry x Corbin Shaw collaboration is out via Fred Perry from 18th April, available in seriously limited numbers.

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