Written for Scotcampus Student Magazine’s website
As the founder of #scotstreetstyle, Gordon J Millar combines working full-time as a nurse with curating a unique Instagram account. From celebrating reaching double figures with an initial 11 followers, the #scotstreetstyle Instagram now has over 6,000 fans keeping up with Scotland’s Creatives.
On July 5, The Record Factory on Glasgow’s Byres Road played host as live music and unique ensembles gathered for an evening of lively discussion and laughter. A sunny beer garden with slouchy couches set the scene for a quick chat with Gordon before he was swept off as the night’s activities unfolded.
What a lovely evening for this event! Let’s start with defining what makes #scotstreetstyle?
It’s very important that we establish that we are a style community. By style, that does not mean fashion. It’s not exclusive at all. Everyone has their own personal style, whether that is somebody who may mock fashion but they’ll go home and worship a pair of trainers, or they’ve got something particular that they like- we’re all about freedom of expression, smashing stereotypes and nurturing people to achieve their potential. There’s a deeper level to what we’re all about. When we use the word ‘style’, it’s not superficial. It’s about freedom of expression and being who you really are.
This is now your fourth gathering, how has #scotstreetstyle picked up momentum since it first began?
It started off as an experiment from transferring social media to social reality, especially from Instragram. We saw so many people, especially Creatives, using the visual medium of Instagram to connect. We thought- ‘let’s try to get some people together, because actually most artists work in isolation’. As glamorous as it sounds, they are mostly on their own. It was really quite an incredible experience, all that collective creative energy unleashed in one space. For me, a personal highlight was watching people smile, people who were maybe nervous about coming, but when they got together with other Creatives there’s that unspoken understanding that they just get it.
Creativity is a lovely word because it is all-inclusive. You name it; it’s anybody who has that creative flame inside. When you connect with another creative, you actually feel it. You feel you’ve got something in common. All we’ve done is be a catalyst for that using social media. Social media is a way of connecting into social reality, because in a way that’s what we all want. We’re social animals. We’ve seen the breakdown of community, people don’t go to church anymore, people move about to go to college, university or work and they’re living alone but they’re spending all their time on their phone…And do you know what? It’s nice to be with people and if you are creative, then you will get along with other creatives. I think that’s why, on a bigger societal level, #scotstreetstyle has been so successful. We’re giving people a sense of purpose to be part of something and part of a massively growing global community.
How would you describe the attitude of that community?
The attitude is warm, friendly and very positive. We actually don’t engage in negativity at all, we completely ignore it. We nurture that positivity, we support each other and work together to create, collaborate and have fun. It’s an entirely positive experience.
We’re kind of learning as we go along because there’s no grand plan here. After the first Gathering in Edinburgh we knew six people were coming, and then over 100 people turned up which was wonderful. Something we didn’t anticipate was the quality of the photographs that came out- they created this illusion of a bigger event than we actually were at the time, which people wanted to be a part of.
By the time we had the second Gathering, over 250 people came so we thought ‘we need to be well-organised for the next one!’ This is why we come through to Glasgow- it’s a bigger venue, with bigger sponsors and bigger associates. We want to try and make sure that everyone travelling from the whole of the UK has a positive experience.
What are the trends that you see emerging from those attending these Gatherings?
What we’re seeing from a men’s style point of view is a huge renaissance in the Barbershop culture which comes from post-war Americana, the Soda-Pop shop, cinema, the big cars, the vintage look, the tattoos…
The biggest game-changer of all has been the growth- literally- of the beard. The beard is more than just a hairy face; it allows men to experiment a bit more. They can maybe try new products and different clothes. The beard has really opened doors for men’s style. We’re also seeing a huge surge in bloggers across the board, people just expressing themselves and sharing their lifestyle. There’s a huge rise in blogger culture and beard culture, and we want to bring them together, because actually we’re all Creatives, and we’re all the same.
How do you combine your personal experiences with #scotstreetstyle?
This is like a hobby that is kind of taking over. I’ve done social media for years-the representative of the Dalai Lama invited me to travel with His Holiness when he came to Scotland a couple of years ago. I then did all of the social media for the Dalai Lama and it was an amazing experience. My friend Victor Spence designed World Peace Tartan, and we got a scarf on the Dalai Lama! When the dust settled and we were reflecting on the incredible experience of having this Noble Peace Prize winner in our country with the World Peace Tartan scarf we thought ‘what are we going to do?’
I thought: ‘every year in New York there is a big Scottish Tartan Week- let’s try to blag our way into that!’ We went along last year and the World Peace Tartan became the big story- we were invited to parties and fashion shows and it was incredible. One day, just by chance, myself and my girlfriend Louise Clark were walking down Fifth Avenue. I had World Peace Tartan trousers on, Louise was wearing a World Peace Tartan scarf, and this older gentleman stopped us to take our photo. I thought it was a tourist, and that photo appeared in The New York Times the following Sunday. It was Bill Cunningham, the most famous Street-Style photographer in the world and we just thought ‘wow!’ We had all this energy from these experiences and came back to Scotland feeling totally re-invigorated to bring some of that energy back to this country.
How do you manage Instagram alongside your day job?
I think Instagram allows efficiency of time because it is a simple visual media which Creatives like because you can see stuff on your Smartphone and share things at the touch of one button, making it an efficient medium.
The way I construct my day is: 6 o’clock in the morning- bang, first post goes out. I do my 12 and a half hour shift on the ward and then come back and do another post. Social media has advanced so much, and we’ve all got these little black rectangles in our palms. People are watching and they are looking for something, and we were at the right place, at the right time, with the right social media.
What are your tips for those looking to get involved in blogging and photography?
Get an Instagram account, write a blog and start saying ‘hello’ to people. You’ll start to find that Creatives are very supportive. Just open your doors, start making connections and come along to #scotstreetstyle Gatherings and you will meet like-minded people.
It’s incredible some of the things that have happened from this. We’ve had a lot of successful collaborations- people coming together, starting their own business, starting their own blogs…Just go out and there and do it and you will get support!
So, it is all about exposure but in the right way? It’s about meeting people naturally.
It feels very natural. We’ve evolved organically from nothing, but if you look at our origin story, it’s strong and comes from a good place. It comes from the heart of Tibet and the Dalai Lama, the World Peace Tartan and New York City. There’s no reason why we should not be mentioned in the same breath as Berlin, Tokyo, Milan, New York, or London.
The best place to stop and ask somebody to take a photo of their outfit is Scotland. The most approachable people on the street are Scottish, because we’ve got the best banter. Street-photographers can have a chat with you, whereas sometimes it can seem as if London: ‘too busy’, Milan: ‘too cool!’
Scotland: we have everything here and what’s happening now is people come to Scotland to be part of the Scottish style. We’ve all started that and we’re taking ownership of it. And why not? That’s a really strong message – just do it. We have autonomy now of social media. Take that opportunity and just do it. Why not.