An interview with the fashion star, celebrity barber and stylist Stayfly Thrash
Words: Kelly Fung | Photography: Mandy Nash
When Los Angeles-based sartorial rockstar, celebrity barber and stylist StayFly Thrash came to South Africa to film parts of Red Bull TV’s new show Social Fabric The Way of Us was fortunate enough to spend some time with him.
Having grown up in a small town in Georgia, population 5600, he spent his adolescence with access to no fashion and no malls, and so what he loves about what he does now is being able to bridge the gap for others who come from backgrounds similar to his own.
Despite his territorial handicap, Thrash got into fashion in high school when he started looking at different designers, then started modeling, and photographers would ask him to style their shoots. Once he moved to LA it catapulted him to the next level.
Read on to find out more about the distinct Thrash look, the art of thrifting, and how he's making a living by sharing his journey through style.
What do you like to be called?
Well, Thrash is my actual last name, everyone thinks it’s a nickname but it’s real. I was an athlete in high school and nobody believed it was my actual name until they saw it on the back of my jersey.
What do you love about LA?
Everything. It’s so diverse and so much opportunity. You can create your own job and find your niche. You can honestly make a living doing what you love, which is so different from where I come from, where most people fall into factory jobs.
You wanted something more...
I’m a licensed barber and have been cutting hair for 12 years. It got to a point where I was just a regular barber, sitting in a shop all day and I saw something larger, I wanted more than what other people wanted. So I moved to LA and started cutting celebrities' hair for music videos, TV shows. The city allowed me to exercise so many things I had a passion for.
You mentioned that you've been interested in style since high school, but do you remember the exact moment when fashion became your thing?
It’s a weird thing to speak about because it wasn’t necessarily a positive thing. When Kanye West first arrived on the scene, I couldn’t understand the way he was dressing, it just didn’t make sense; skinny jeans and fitted jeans – come on, what was this guy wearing? We were all wearing baggy clothes, sagging our pants. But there was something so intriguing about it that I kept wanting to know more. Eventually I realised that I liked what was going on, how he made it acceptable for young black males to be into fashion, style and art.
Because stereotypically being young black male you were expected to only like hip-hop and wear baggy clothes…
Exactly, which I did, but he made it ok to like other things, too. He opened my eyes to that. And from there I started researching different things, travelling and meeting people which sparked things for me. Once I got into college and moved out of my parents’ house I started spending my own money on things that I liked and I started to explore and experiment.
What is the Thrash style?
Sartorial Rockstar. My personality is such a contrast from the tailored suits that I wear, and the reason I do this is because I want people to know that being stylish and groomed isn’t only for the corporate setting.
You don’t have to be a suit to wear a suit…
Exactly. I’m meshing my sharply tailored suit with gold teeth and dreadlocks and tattoos. But presenting myself well is still important to me. I’m always trying to push the envelope and break set ideas and stereotypes.
Your style says more than just “a suited gentleman” – there is an undeniable eclecticism to your look.
I’m inspired by different cultures, different eras, specifically the early 1900s. That era when menswear was an art form, and it was the norm for people to look presentable, not even in a flashy way, but getting dressed correctly was the way of life. I like to integrate those classic details with new era ideas. The clash makes up my own style.
Are you familiar with South Africa’s dandy community, the Sapeurs in the Congo and members of the Le Sape movement?
Yes! The first time I saw them was in Solange’s music video. I was blown away. They’re killing it. The older gentlemen specifically inspire me as I appreciate timeless style. Like them, I want to be able to wear what I am wearing today at 28-years-old and still be able to wear it at 88. They transcend trend, and that’s what I’m about.
How many suits do you own?
Not that many, around 10 maybe.
Would you consider yourself more a collector or pieces?
Definitely. That’s the process I’m infatuated with, going to vintage stores, thrifting and finding these crazy, patterned suits and then finding a way to rework them. I would change the buttons, or lining or have them tailored. I will find individual pieces and pair them with different things rather than acquire head-to-toe suits. That’s what makes this modern, that’s what makes this now.
Is this something you teach your young followers, who perhaps also don’t always have the money to spend on brand new outfits but want to embark on their own fashion journey?
Absolutely. I encourage people to thrift and inspire them in how I can transform a garment by adjusting small details. For example, take a jacket from being 70s to something current just by swapping out buttons, and then pairing it with something as basic as a pair of chinos. That’s how personal style develops.
What’s the best piece you’ve ever thrifted?
I bought something for a Brandi music video once, I ended up keeping it for myself. It was a cream Balmain wool, double-breasted jacket, I bought it from Goodwill for $12. It’s sitting in my closet, untouched. I haven’t got to it yet.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a coffee table book with a lot of new content and personal stories about my journey through style. I’m in the final stages of putting it together and it should be done in the next couple of months. I have so many things going I want to tap into that encompass style, but aren’t necessarily fashion-related, like interior decor and one day own a hotel.
What is the best style advice you’ve ever received?
Find a good tailor and sculpt your wardrobe to be whatever it is you want it to be.