Today I spoke to my close friend, John C. Ross, otherwise known as Jean Hollywood. An academic researcher, actor, illustrator, and more, he kindly produced original artwork for Documenting Fashion. Now, he divulges his keys to style, beauty, and knowing thyself…
What are you wearing today?
I’m wearing some lapis high-waisted jeans, with a top from TK Maxx – I’m not sure who made it, but it reminds me of Alexander McQueen. My black swoopy thing is from H&M; I am a lover of the High Street. I’m also wearing a really cheap and tacky gold necklace, with my initial, J. I always wear a lot of silver rings, which are inherited or gifts.
Tell me about your nails.
They’re stiletto nails, in a light blue with an under-sheen of gold. They are integral to me; they are an expression of my soul.
How would you describe your general style?
I’m attracted to dark things: I like dark wood and leather, and I wear a lot of black – I’m told it’s intimidating. I’m moving away from it a little, and am really liking lapis and gold. Lapis goes so well with gold, and is such a beautiful colour …Blue is my favourite colour, but I hardly wear it because I don’t think it suits me – apart from my jeans today, which are probably the first blue item I’ve ever owned.
How do people react to the way you look?
Emily Brontë once remarked, when she was judged in Belgium for wearing old-fashioned leg of mutton sleeves and refusing to wear a corset, that she ‘wished to be as God made [her]’. I’m inspired by that: people should be themselves. I think I am unique, and people’s reactions can sometimes be odd, and sometimes brilliant. I’m not traditionally masculine, and I’m happy to be more feminine. Near 100% of people think that I’m a woman, and I don’t mind that because I’m me, regardless of whether I am a man or a woman. How people label me doesn’t matter too much, because I am who I am. This is why people should experiment with fashion. You have to know who you are – as the Ancient Greeks would say, gnothi seauton – and fashion can be a tool for this, through exploring and finding out what works.
Who do you draw inspiration from?
Give me any strong woman, like Katharine Hepburn. Lana Del Rey is an interesting one. I love her music, but I worry that people glamorise the things she sings about. The way she looks is a bit of an inspiration. I adore the music and aesthetic of the 1960s and 70s, but I never felt like I was allowed to. Then Lana came along and brought it to me, by putting it into a contemporary setting.
Has your current work on mid-nineteenth century photography given you an insight into the period’s sartorial culture?
Photography at the time was quite spooky: people didn’t like seeing themselves reflected back on metal and glass. This allowed for some cultural self-reflection, which has snowballed into how we use photography today. Also, feminism was in its inception then; women were very slowly starting to take a handle on independent life. In terms of fashion, the big European fashion houses were way ahead of everywhere else, which is interesting, as it took longer for high fashion to disseminate, if at all.
Finally, Documenting Fashion would like to thank you for the beautiful contributor illustrations you produced for our blog. Can you tell us any more about them?
I’m very happy with them, and hope you are too. It was a fascinating process for me. It wasn’t a new one, because I often draw portraiture, but it’s really nice to have a set of people all interested in similar things. It was great to source and research what people are into. I realised that essentially, I am a fashion illustrator, which I didn’t consciously recognise before. Now I know that is what I’d like to do more of.