Tweed Pig Pin-Up - Gary McCann

Gary McCann - Set and Costume Designer

Lumme, a pin-up. It's been a while, I know, but patience is amply rewarded here. Dear new friend Gary McCann has gone the extra mile in providing us with three photos, background into his fascinating profession, and a few excellent shopping tips into the bargain. If I wasn't so mysteriously reclusive, Gary would very nearly have almost earned himself a slap-up afternoon tea at Tweed Towers, with the best china and a choice of preserves no less. Thanks for your efforts Gary. (Oh, go on, come round for a scone if you're ever in the West Country.)

Gary works as a set and costume designer for opera, musicals, and theatre productions. Originally from Northern Ireland, he is now based in Greenwich, London. His designs have been produced on Broadway, in the West End, at the National Theatre, and at major opera houses all over the world. His work will be on display this summer at the V&A museum as part of the MAKE/BELIEVE exhibition, and his art installations in 18th century follies can be seen at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire until November. He recently designed the 50th anniversary tour of The Sound of Music, which is currently on tour in the UK.

A Little Bit About Gary and His Design Work

Before we get to know Gary a bit more through his photos, here he explains his work as a theatre designer:

'Theatre designers are true magpies, our eyes are trained to focus in on small, significant aspects of the world that no-one else may notice - I never feel I'm truly "off duty" and am constantly absorbing the environment and people around me for inspiration.

'I spend an enormous amount of my time obsessing over little details - the patina of a button, the exact length of a hem, the colour of thread on some topstitching, pattern-matching, finding the perfect fabric or vintage accessory. Every detail works cumulatively, fleshing out the universe I am creating for the audience, this greatly assists the performers in generating their characterisations.

'At any given point I can be working on five or more productions at the same time. Currently I am designing Madam Butterfly for the Nederlandse Reisopera in Holland, which has an avant-garde timeless look with neoprene and felt kimonos, Macbeth for the Vienna State Opera, which has a Brutalist aesthetic within which I have created a new set of totalitarian uniforms which combine American, North Korean, and Soviet details, Becoming Santa Claus, a new family opera for Dallas Opera which has a fantastical Elven style which is partly rooted in Belgian Belle Epoque, and La Traviata for Philadelphia opera, which celebrates the golden age of 1950s fashion within a gilded Baroque set: it looks a bit like a Cecil Beaton photograph.'

Gary's Look

And here Gary explains his look:

'It's hardly surprising my own style can be somewhat eclectic. Getting dressed can be a little like creating a character in one of my productions - my look varies greatly on a day to day basis. As on stage, in day-to-day life clothes without doubt can make you feel different: and they tangibly change how you are perceived and treated by other people. I like to surprise and entertain with some of the choices I make, and being "well dressed" goes a long way in convincing those with whom I'm working that I know what I'm doing! My standard look centres around an off-duty George V or perhaps an Edwardian professor, I have a bit of a collection of three piece Harris tweed suits, hats, caps, pocket watches and brogues: but regularly I gravitate towards other sorts of looks - edging towards Rockabilly, fairground carny, or even 1930's despatch rider. Deep down I think dressing in a traditional or old-fashioned manner can be pretty rebellious - in this way I identify with the delicious irony within Anarcho-Dandyist ideology.'

About Photo 1 (top)

Yours truly with some of the costumes I designed for The Barber of Seville in the Netherlands in 2013. The look combined eighteenth century details with modern fashions, and as the opera had a tonsorial subject matter everyone had marvellous, rather ridiculous wigs which were painstakingly hand-made and dyed to the correct colour before styling.

About Photo 2

A day at Sandown races. Being a "friend" (ex-member due to beard growth) of the Handlebar Club, there are lots of opportunities for dressing up with like-minded folk.

About Photo 3

Some publicity shots I had taken in Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society building by the photographer Topher McGrillis. The suit is from Walker Slater in Edinburgh.

Gary's Tips

Finally, ever generous Gary offers some tips for achieving that 'Gary look'.

Thomas Farthing

The best all-round menswear shop in London. I've got my eye on their tartan Blackwatch suit for my Macbeth premiere in October

For Holding Up The Trousers

Morten Vestergaard makes beautiful bespoke braces in Copenhagen

Tommy Page

My charming friend Tommy who sells the best men's vintage clothing in Amsterdam

Walker Slater

A staple of mine - where else can you buy a decent three piece tweed suit for around £450? The huge branch in Edinburgh is well worth a visit if in Scotland

Old Town Clothing

Well worth the wait once the order has been placed

Darcy Clothing

Used by everyone in the industry, they sell great knitwear, detachable collars and all sorts of useful bits and pieces

Prison Blues Jeans

Fantastic, robust vintage-style jeans made by prisoners.
Available to buy online in the UK and in shops in Hastings and Brighton

Hornets London

Excellent vintage store in London

What Price Glory - Reproduction Millitaria

Based in the United Arab Emirates, they ship globally. Communication is very good and delivery is surprisingly fast. Most recently I bought a reproduction RAF Irvin sheepskin jacket from them and was thrilled with it when it arrived.


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