Staff Picks: The Friends Who Mean The Most To Us
On The Journal, our regular Staff Picks feature usually focuses on the new pieces we have our eyes on. We like to think these suggestions from the team help you make informed choices about what to buy, or at least provide some styling and wardrobe inspiration. But this week, to mark World Mental Health Day and the end of our #TIMEwithHIM campaign, which celebrates the power of friendship, we thought we’d consider the picks that really matter – the people we choose to spend our time with. A lot has happened in 2020, but it’s our friends who have made it all bearable. What better time than now to salute the mates, buds, confidantes, brothers and sisters who get us in and out of scrapes and keep us all scooting along whatever the weather?
Mr Dan Davies
Mr Dan Davies (right) and his friend, Mark. Photograph courtesy of Mr Davies
I’ve known Mark since I was 11. We’ve grown up together, been around Europe in a van, attended countless football matches, pubs and raves, and competed fiercely on golf courses across Britain and beyond. We’ve laughed, cried and talked rubbish in each other’s company for as long as I can remember. We’ve been on stag dos, we’ve beamed through weddings and made vows as godparents to our respective children.
Mark is inner circle, but during lockdown, when every one of our group of closest friends seemed to be fraying at one time or another, he came into his own. It wasn’t just the weekly Zoom quiz he started, it was the feeling of community he generated.
Like me, Mark had kids relatively late. He now has twin boys who have just started school and a three-year-old daughter (my goddaughter). Being a father has been the making of him. He was always soppy – we both have Welsh fathers, which makes us prone to tears – but he’s also emotionally intuitive. When the existential angst of the pandemic really kicked in, he seemed to know when to reach out.
He knows when I’m struggling and is always there for a chat. Though we live 200 miles apart – Mark in Leeds, me in London – and I haven’t seen him this year, I feel closer to him than ever. And that makes me happy, even when I’m feeling blue.
Mr Jim Merrett
Mr Jim Merrett and his sister, Helen. Photograph courtesy of Mr Merrett
My best friend, Helen, had no choice in the matter. I was here first, just another thing she’s had to deal with. And she’s been dealing with me ever since. She’s put up with my ridiculous ideas and the countless places, gigs and films I’ve dragged her to. When she moved away to the big city, I was still there, lingering like a bad smell.
She’s tolerated, humoured and listened. But she’s also said nothing when I’ve brought home another questionable girlfriend, even when I can tell she disapproves. And the worst part: I’ve never told her how lucky I am that she’s my sister (at least not while sober).
Now I’m the father of two children – a boy and a girl – who are just as tight. I just hope they grow up knowing that they have each other, as well as the best auntie in the world.
Buying Director And Style Director
Mr Sam Kershaw and Mr Olie Arnold
Mr Olie Arnold (left) and Mr Sam Kershaw
Mr Olie Arnold: One of the many great parts of my job is the talented team I work with, and this man is right up there with the best of them. Sam and I have spent a lot of the past five years travelling around Europe on a crusade to bring the best product and content to MR PORTER and I’ve probably stayed in more hotels with him than my wife (separate rooms, I should add).
He’s got an eagle eye for uncovering exciting new designers and brands who make clothes that people with taste actually want to wear and embodies the work-hard-play-hard mantra. He’s the main reason I don’t go mad when I’m away, thanks to his unwavering enthusiasm for exercise and a refusal to sit still. Early-morning cycle rides in the Tuscan hills, jaunty jogs through the parks of Milan and even reckless scooter rides through the streets of Paris, he’s a man on a mission and I’m glad to be his wingman.
Lockdown hasn’t been straightforward for him and his lovely family, yet he hasn’t complained once, always managing to find the light in a dark situation. That sums him up, really: a top pal with a heart of gold who has an unlikely penchant for death metal. Keep on rocking, Sam.
Mr Sam Kershaw: I can’t believe I’ve known Olie for only five years. It honestly feels like a lifetime. I knew instantly we were kindred spirits and, out on the road, we quickly became not only great friends, but also a very successful working duo. His knowledge of fashion is encyclopaedic and I constantly use him as a sounding board for ideas. He indulges some of my more eccentric behaviours and, moreover, has shown me how to embrace them. He once let me play metal for an hour in the cab ride home.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by family all through lockdown, but one of the big things I’ve missed is his company. He is a truly remarkable character, one of the kindest and most noble people I’ve ever known.
Mr Ashley Clarke
Mr Ashley Clarke (left) and his friend, Anish. Photograph courtesy of Mr Clarke
I’ve known Anish for three years, but it feels like 10 times that. He is the kind of friend who gets me into trouble, gets me back out of trouble and makes me laugh until I can’t breathe. He’s the one I call in a crisis and the one I ask for advice when I’m thinking about dropping half of my salary on a new jacket.
From getting sunburnt on South Beach to almost breaking our legs on the slopes in Chamonix, we have had some of the best holidays together. The one time we went on holiday without each other last year, we somehow ended up on the same connecting flight by coincidence.
Head of PR, Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Mr Mark Blundell
Mr Mark Blundell (left) and his brother, Callum. Photograph courtesy of Mr Blundell
I like to think my younger brother looks up to me. I, on the other hand, don’t have a choice. Callum is frustratingly taller than me (cue “I Wish” by Skee Lo). Nonetheless, our brotherly bond is strong. We have shared enough together to know that for certain. We were pageboys at our parents’ wedding and he was an usher at mine. We have great memories of living in Arizona when the family moved there many moons ago, playing GoldenEye for hours and having a kick-about outside.
He may have got the brains (law school) and I may have got, well, communication skills (London College of Fashion), but it’s what makes being brothers so special and doesn’t stop us talking daily about everything from cycling, cars, music, Arsenal and the odd chat about the rise and fall of Bitcoin.
He may be six years younger than me, but as we have grown older that gap become smaller and smaller, mainly because we started to go out drinking and clubbing together (during my stag do in Ibiza, we both got tattoos within two hours of landing – let’s leave it there). I’m so lucky to have a great mate who doubles up as a brother and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Executive Fashion Editor
Ms Sophie Hardcastle
Ms Sophie Hardcastle (left) and her friend, Kirsty. Photograph courtesy of Ms Hardcastle
Kirsty and I are truly chalk and cheese, but I believe that’s a big part of what makes our friendship so special. We met a mutual friend’s birthday party when we were 17 and there was no looking back. All bets are off when we’re together, whether that’s getting up to no good at Glastonbury, jumping out of a plane in New Zealand or stopping everything if we hear Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. No one makes me laugh like she does, and she still surprises me to this day.
Kirst now lives in Melbourne and while we can’t be as inseparable as we once were, we have proved time and time again that we’ll always be there for each other and can pick up just where we left off. Things haven’t been easy for my kind friend, but she has the most enormous strength of character, finds joy wherever she goes and has grace that endures. I defy anyone not to be enchanted by her.
Mr Sam Wilson
Mr Sam Wilson (right) and his friend, “Jonny Beard”. Photograph courtesy of Mr Wilson
The details of where Jonathan Burton Stevenson (AKA Jonny Beard) and I first met are hazy, but we became friends somewhere between a pub, a record shop and any number of dance floors in Sheffield and the North of England circa 1993. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Manchester to begin my studies, and we would make occasional trans-Pennine trips to enjoy our shared passion for “festivities”. When I finished at uni, I moved into Jonny’s flat – a great deal of fun while it lasted, as Jonny was a resident DJ at a number of bars and clubs at that time.
Eventually I moved to (that) London to start my career in the world of style and fashion magazines. But it became important to retain my links with Jonny, and my other Sheffield friends, as I recognised how fundamental they were in forming my identity – particularly my passion for (and taste in) clothes, music and design. Not to mention the fact that we have a brilliant laugh whenever we’re together.
I am very lucky to be able to count Jonny among my friends. We live very different lives (I am married with three children, while Jonny – who was best man alongside my other bestie Luke – is somewhat inexplicably a confirmed bachelor), and there have been periods of time when contact has been infrequent. But we can always pick up right where we left off – usually on the subject of the latest Supreme drop, house vs disco, Converse low tops vs high tops… And shall we have another pint?