You just know when Marc Hare has entered a room. The tone softens. With no formal training in shoe design, and having built Mr. Hare by learning the essentials and trusting what he loves, his choice of the tag line “shoes you can attach some romance to” not only summarises Mr. Hare the brand, but also, somehow, reflects Mr. Hare the man; the dreadlocks he’s been growing since he was seventeen, his warm nature and his effortless cool. He’s a rare breed. Alice Made This was keen to learn more about the man before the brand and how surfing has influenced his attitude towards design – and life.
I first met Marc Hare at the Polly King showroom in Paris, where both our brands were showing the latest collections of menswear and accessories. I’d been working at Alice Made This for a month and his relaxed manner reassured me that menswear wasn’t going to be as chaotic as I first thought (perhaps, maybe, some of the time). I wasn’t surprised when Alice told me that he was a keen surfer, loves to travel the world and ran Low Pressure, London’s first proper surf shop. Today I talk to him not about shoes (although they are beautiful – go and browse them immediately), but about that part of his life before Mr. Hare. The sea, the snow and the inspiration. I ask him when it all started.
“1992”, he tells me. “I was a kid BMXer and even back at Stockwell Skate Park in the early 80s surfing seemed like a natural progression, but there weren’t a lot of inner city cats surfing back then. I finally got my chance when I met the publishers of the legendary Low Pressure Stormrider Guide: Europe, who were planning to open a surf shop in Notting Hill. I had my own PR company back then so I offered to do PR in exchange for a board and lessons. The rest is history. Surfing more than anything so far taught me that the best things in life are not things, they are moments when you are totally plugged into the power sources of the universe and you are the yin of the yang that surrounds you. Yeah I just said that.”
“Low Pressure was like university to me” he continues. “I worked with some very inspiring entrepreneurs and visionaries who fundamentally may have been flawed, but they taught me how to see outside the box.”
“After successfully launching the Notting Hill store in 1992, I jacked in PR to work full time for Low Pressure. My first job was to design, manufacture and launch a surf and snowboard clothing line, which we sold to all the other surf stores in the UK. A two week road trip around the UK in our tricked out Renault Traffic, surfing and snowboarding along the way. The best part was all the subsequent surf and snowboard guides we published which involved a lot of research and industry schmoozing trips. I got to snowboard at nearly every French ski resort for the European snow guide, then the following year I snowboarded from Colorado through New Mexico, Arizona and California ending with my first ever visit to LA. What better way to spend your early twenties?”
“Being publishers meant we got to hang out with all the legends. I met Jerry Lopez and Greg Noll and Kelly Slater and Tom Curren. There is a picture on the wall in Mr. Hare Wesside of Terje Haakonsen (Google it) wearing a Low Pressure fleece. At the time he was Burton’s Michael Jordan. For a crazy little shop off the Portobello Road, we were totally plugged into surf and snowboard culture.”
It’s an enviable beginning. Finding your professional feet and making all those necessary mistakes in an environment that you love, surrounded by people that you admire. Speaking to Marc drills it home that we should be seeing more of the world than the peripheral view offered by a spinning office chair. Doing is learning. I ask Marc more about the impact his travels and his discipline have had on his post-twenties self.
“I could write a book,” he tells me, “but I haven’t even scratched the surface of destinations in the world. I have surfed extensively in Europe, North Africa, north US coasts and Costa Rica. But little else.”
“Costa Rica was my favourite place because it was like paradise. Rainforest beaches, bath temperature water and constant rolling waves. But North Cornwall is where my heart lies because Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places on earth and it’s all my home breaks. If you know where to find shelter from the wind and you have made peace with wearing neoprene, you can surf all day on uncrowded waves.”
“Surfing teaches you about methodical preparation and planning as well as patience and independence”, he continues. “To surf you have to be in the right place at the right time with all the right kit. You need to be part meteorologist, part Ray Mears, part dolphin and part dictatorial. You can only surf when there are waves, so you can’t let anything get in the way when there are waves. It isn’t a sport. It’s a total discipline, I never really considered myself a surfer because I never lived anywhere where I could surf everyday. In 2007 I dislocated my left knee playing football on AstroTurf and have subsequently lost control of my left foot, making it very difficult to get to my feet on a wave. I will paddle out if I am at the beach with friends but I have switched pursuit now to sailing.”
“Surfing has no greater aim than the total pursuit of style. It isn't enough to get yourself to the exact spot where energy from the moon and low pressure elements, have travelled through water molecules for three thousand miles to find escape as they hit the land shelf, where they meet you, paddling ferociously to join that power surge as it extricates itself in the form of a wave, but you have to execute that ride and hang on that wave with style and grace. This understanding applies to all things."
Being self-disciplined and tuned into his surroundings seems to have formed the foundations for Mr. Hare the brand. A self confidence, a definite sense of style and a honed taste, mixed with a willingness to be open and inspired by the world around him, appear to have led Marc to a design aesthetic and a brand that people can buy into. The smart black evening shoe becomes associated with music, culture, love and enjoyment. It becomes warm and fun. Yes, this is to do with the branding and the placement, but it’s mainly to do with Marc.
I wonder what the future holds and what advice he would give to Londoners who spend their days dreaming of a sea breeze.
“I see it as the end reward to a life of hard work,” he says of retiring to the beach. “I was born and raised in South London so I am urbanite personified but I definitely want to end my life in a contradiction to evolution and return back to the sea. I know a lot of people who upped sticks and moved to the beach during the Low Pressure years and for them the struggles were just as great as life in the Smoke. Economically the beach is a seasonal place so you either need low expectations or a high bank balance to maintain that August beach feeling. Beaches however do come in all shapes and sizes so for anyone who feels they couldn’t give up the hustle and bustle of city life, Lisbon in Portugal suddenly looks like the best place in the world.”
“Ultimately though, nothing”, Marc concludes. “Surfing sucks. You can’t get good coffee at the beach. You will get seaweed in your beard. There’s no wifi either. People in London, stay where you are !!”
Learn more about Mr. Hare.