William Gibson: 'I'm always striving not to be noticed'

The sci-fi novelist on how he inspired the creation of a fashion line – and his nerdy fascination with military fatigues

I became interested in clothing while growing up in a very small town in the southern US. I was an isolated kid, I wasn’t interested in sports, but in junior high it struck me that people communicated who they wanted you to think they were with what they were wearing. I developed a sort of anthropological mindset around it. I started looking at how clothes were sold to us, the narratives attached to everything, through advertising: “Wear this and be this.” That stuck with me.

In this photograph, everything I am wearing is by Acronym, a brand designed by my friend Errolson Hugh. It’s fantastically comfortable and functional. Putting it on cheers me up: it’s like suddenly my house has been improved and I know everything will work. It’s all interoperative, so, for instance, you can unzip the back of the jacket and wear the bag underneath. Or, on another model, a zipper allows you to remove the jacket while wearing a seat belt. It’s not so much that I would ever need to do that, but I love the idea that it’s possible.

Another thing I loved on first discovering Acronym is that there is almost no exterior branding. One of the things I don’t like about our culture of clothing is that “Look, this is Gucci!” thing. That always puts me off. In some ways, I’m always striving not to be noticed, which I think comes from being a very tall young man. It makes me happy if I actively like everything I’m wearing, but there isn’t any statement that I’m trying to reach.

In my book Pattern Recognition, I gave the protagonist, Cayce Pollard, allergies to branding, which I thought would be a good joke at first, but which the narrative began to take very seriously. Cayce’s approach to clothing seemed to anticipate the normcore trend; it also led to the creation of a fashion line – William Gibson x Buzz Rickson – inspired by a jacket I invented for the book.

My interest in clothing is very peculiar. I couldn’t tell you what’s in fashion this season, but, during lockdown, I passed the time by working out my size in various European countries’ military fatigues, which took an incredible amount of Googling and asking other people to measure their trousers. That’s my level of interest. I’m just a very nerdy guy.

Agency by William Gibson is published by Viking (RRP £18.99). To order a copy for £16.52, go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK P&P over £15.


As told to Hannah Marriott

The GuardianTramp

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