Deciding to brave the passenger cap at Heathrow airport this summer was not for the faint of heart, and yet, I was one of thousands who still thought it was worth it to head to London anyway. It doesn’t matter how many flights get canceled, or how much chaos is unfolding at international airports, the draw of England’s most beloved city remains. Especially for music lovers — it’s just one of those places where the sense of history, and a thriving scene that still produces new stars, continues to make it a must-visit destination. Amid daily trips to Dishoom (one of the greatest Indian restaurants on the planet), and while staying at new “super boutique” hotels like The Londoner, or the expertly designed One Hundred Shoreditch, getting a daily music fix in this iconic city is easy.
Whether it’s checking out the holograms at the custom-built Abba Arena — to see if they’re really as lifelike as everyone says — or literally climbing up The O2 to pose on top of one of the world’s most famous venues, there’s more for classic rock lovers to do in London than try to recreate the Abbey Road crosswalk pose. And one of the best new places for fans of both music and fashion to visit is tucked away in a corner of Soho on Carnaby Street. A new brick and mortar shop, Rolling Stones No. 9 Carnaby, opened during the height of the pandemic, in late 2020, so it somehow still feels a bit off-the-radar. But is it on the same level as those aforementioned rock ‘n’ roll destinations?
Walking into the store, I did feel myself rolling my eyes a bit at the idea of another retailer taking advantage of the continued hunger for classic rock merch. That is, until I realized this wasn’t just another retailer, but a label-backed store authorized to use actual vintage Rolling Stones designs from the band’s own tours and album artwork. As a fashion brand, RS No. 9 translates this iconic imagery into brand new tees, shirts, socks, leather jackets, blazers, sunglasses and more. Given London is the birthplace of the Stones, it only makes sense that if they opened an official merch store it would be here, and this is the only shop in the world that has the blessing of the band itself.
Part shop, part fashion label, No. 9 Carnaby is a band reclaiming ownership over something everybody else was making a profit off (namely Rolling Stones t-shirts). Their brand new vintage merch might be a bit of a paradox (everyone knows the best stuff is the threadbare shirts bought at concerts back in the day), but it also serves as a model for other artists entering their golden years. Along with clothes and accessories, the store stocks exclusive vinyl, headphones, and even jewelry, all presented in a red-washed, futuristic space that doubles down on classic rock touches like lyrics and mementos of the Stones’ illustrious past. Just like any fashion brand, No. 9 Carnaby will dop new collections every season, so once a shirt sells out, that style is finished. This model helps the store and the brand maintain a sense of identity and intimacy even as it expands.
“We always try to bring the conversation back to music as that is the band’s roots,” David Boyne, the Managing Director of Bravado UK, tells InsideHook. “Our regular, exclusive ‘Stones red’ vinyl drops have also been an incredible way of driving awareness of the store. We think RS No. 9 has opened many people’s eyes to the fact that traditional band merch and high fashion ranges can exist in the same world. Carnaby Street was always our number one choice, and its rich history going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s where music and fashion entwined made it an obvious location.”
So if you’re braving the chaos to visit London this fall, there are few places that will deliver more bang for your buck if you’re a fan of both a fashion and music. And if you need pics for the ‘gram, there’s also plenty of spots throughout the store to get a good shot. To further pique your interest, here’s six items from the Fall 2022 collection that showcase how the brand is keeping the legacy of the Stones intact while adding modern flourishes. Get them while you can, because when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Kirk Originals Aftermath – Black ($345)
Getting into the sunglasses game is a no-brainer for a band fronted by Mick Jagger, one of the most famous sunglasses-wearers in the world. With lenses so dark you’ll look like a rock star yourself, these frames are also adorned with a tiny silver tongue on the earpiece. “This is our second collaboration with iconic British eyewear brand Kirk Originals, after the first sell-out collaboration in 2021,” says Boyne. “The classic high gloss black frame with dark black lens is inspired by an iconic Stones album and designed to appeal to bold and confident characters.”
The glasses are available in two colorways here.
Paisley tee ($40)
Leaning more into the flower power vibes of the later ‘60s and early ‘70s, this cuffed tee offers a different take on the classic band shirt, which is usually confined to gray, white or black. “The beauty of this best-selling tee is that it features the iconic Rolling Stones tongue logo, and is non-tour specific while the paisley pattern gives it a 70’s inspired look with interesting texture and depth,” Boyne explains, adding: “It’s just an instant classic band tee.”
And at that price point? This t-shirt is worth the investment. Get it here.
Varsity Jacket AW22 ($345)
If t-shirts aren’t your thing, then Boyne points you toward a piece that encapsulates “rebellion on the classical elegance of the traditional prep movement.” Some of the items from the Autumn and Winter 2022 collection offer what he calls “modern takes on sporty varsity jackets and uniform argyle sweaters that amplify the ‘twisted academia’ trend.” Given the back of the jacket features a giant, checkered Rolling Stones tongue, no one will be confusing this with an actual high school varsity jacket anytime soon. “Classical, elegant typefaces and motifs get a rock and roll update, drawing from Rolling Stones heritage,” he says. “The Varsity Jacket is the standout piece from the collection, mixing Classic Stones iconography with something unexpected which represents a fun, rock and roll jacket in the varsity style.”
It’s definitely a far cry from your standard, run-of-the-mill athletic coat, and honestly, I was sold at “twisted academia.” Get one here.
Lion Argyle Knitwear Sweater ($88)
Keep in mind, if you’re buying this in London, they will insist on calling it a “jumper.” Here in the states, we call it a sweater, but the style notes remain mostly the same aside from that difference. “A running theme through the Autumn and Winter 2022 collection is the iconic Lion from Bridges to Babylon Tour, which sees this icon reinterpreted as a crest, playfully twisting the legacy of a Stones heirloom and proudly displayed across the chest of this winter knit,” Boyne says. “This heritage argyle pattern applies a polish to iconic Stones logos, creating a perfect rock and roll riff on a classic, quality knitted winter sweater.”
Sweaters definitely weren’t available back in the day, when threadbare t-shirt guy was getting his merch, so up your game with this high-class right here.
Argyle “RS” socks ($35)
Turn the idea of getting socks as a gift on its head with these argyle socks that recipients will actually be excited about and even want to wear. These are brand new to the Autumn and Winter 2022 collection, and Boyne dubs them “perfect for a gift to yourself or someone else.” In that case, why not get two pairs? Shop here.
Honk red vinyl ($53)
Even if you’re not into the fashion angle, it’s still worth visiting the store specifically to pick up some exclusive vinyl. Available on “Stones Red” only at the RS No. 9 Carnaby store and their online store, this box set is a super cut of some of their greatest work. “Honk is an exclusive Stones Red 3LP featuring the biggest hits and classic cuts from every Rolling Stones studio album from 1971—2016’s Blue & Lonesome and includes best known songs like ‘Wild Horses,’ ‘Angie’ and ‘Start Me Up,’ along with many more,” Boyne explains. Just make sure if you do cop some vinyl that it still fits neatly in your carry-on, even an exclusive record set isn’t worth checking a bag at Heathrow right now.
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