This is a long overdue interview with someone I admire and respect greatly. Svante Nybyggars AKA. The Urban Hippie, based in Malmo, Sweden defines his ethos – aging with energy and style.
He’s a professional writer, with over 35 years knowledge. In the few years I’ve been following him on Instagram @theurbanhippieswe something that really strikes me is his enthusiasm for meeting people from all over the world with a similar love of vintage style.
His instagram page is full of inspiration for any man of any age aspiring to dress well in denim, workwear, military or just well made clothes with superb style.
The real energy however, is from the person inside. There are so many questions I wanted to ask Svante, I’ve done my best to limit them!
Mr. Svante Nybyggars
How did The Urban Hippie happen?
“I was turning 60 and for the first time I felt an age crisis. I decided that I could not continue with a lifestyle with too much work and stress, and on top of that the food and drink that made me overweight. I had to change my lifestyle.
As a young man, I wanted to be a musician (double bass) and socialized with people in the cultural community. But life had other plans for me. I first became a journalist and, a short time later, copywriter in the advertising industry. Suddenly, I worked with large, listed companies on the stock market, far away from the jazz musician I once would be. The work was interesting and challenging, but I also had a desire to return to the roots, to find my original self.
One of my personal favourite pictues of Svante
So at 60, I made a U-turn. I became a vegetarian, quit alcohol and started training. At the same time, I began to look at the style I had as a young man. I also explored my roots. On my father’s side was earlier generations of fishermen and small farmers, they dressed in workwear with woollen caps and braces. My search for my recent style became a kind of genealogy. My father was an officer in Finland during World War II. Maybe that has contributed to why I am interested in army clothes today.
I belong to the generation of baby boomers born after the Second World War. We are many in this age. By creating an alter ego, I saw an opportunity to become a spokesman for the Record Generation, as it is also known. My last name Nybyggars means New Builder in English. Before I built brands for clients, now I’ve sort of built my own brand as a dude who wants to be around for many years still. We have a saying, that as long as you are younger than Sir Mick Jagger, everything is cool.
He had long hair – for quite a while…
The phrase Urban Hippie sounded good. It’s not like hippies in the 70s, with drugs and without a goal in life. On the contrary. By adding urban, I wanted to highlight a modern and healthy lifestyle, but also a relaxed approach to life.
That is the road I’ve chosen. As a person I am outgoing and social and get both energy and inspiration by meeting other people. Both young and old.”
Svante Turning 60
You must have experienced a lot of cultures through the life, art and music as a creative fellow. What have been some of the highlights for you and how have they influenced your style?
“In terms of design and art, I like the Scandinavian minimalism. The same with music. In my 20s, I started listening to a lot of jazz – Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Dollar Brand, Miles Davis and others. Preferably in smaller groups. I still rather hear a trio than a big band.
At that time, I dressed in workwear, even if there were not so many brands as today. And if there was I wouldnt have been able to afford it.
In the beginning of the 70s, it was great to take the ferry to Copenhagen and go to jazz club Montmartre where several of my favorite musicians played. Today there is a bridge to Copenhagen, and easy to go there, but I do not have the same energy as earlier years, ha ha!”
What were your earliest experiences with style and how did they define you as a young man?
“When I was a teenager in the 60s, I played in a pop band and loved British pop culture. I put up pictures of The Who in front of my mother and asked her to sew clothes in this style, including a striped jacket. It was really a different style than today. On the other hand, as a Mod I had the M51 parka and also have one today.”
Occasionally you’ll wear something ‘from your old life’ as you put it. I particularly loved that big houndstooth tie you mixed with denim. It really seemed to add so much depth to the overall look. What items do you still have from ‘that life’ that you just could not give up?
“In my old life, I dressed sometimes in Italian suits, I wanted to look smart and elegant. Most garments from this era I have given away. But a few pieces are left in the closet, including a jacket in corduroy and some ties. Unfortunately, the jacket is a little big now, I lost weight when I changed lifestyle, but it works if I have multiple layers underneath.
That Houndstooth Tie & Blue Blanket Vest Combo – Yes!
Today I only own two suits, an old workwear suit from Berlin and a newer one, from the LVC, but in old style.”
Berlin Workwear Suite and Red Wing Iron Rangers
Svante in his LVC Suit
When did the shift into denim and workwear happen and what was the catalyst if anything?
“The catalyst was that I managed to change lifestyle to a healthier one. It required some discipline. The interest in workwear awakened at the same time, it was in 2011. Probably I wanted to close the circle and live like the person I once was. Things happens inside when going through different stages of life, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint why you suddenly have such a strong desire for something.”
I’ve been following you for a few years on instagram. You’re looking better than ever and wearing some amazing high end brands. What makes them so special for you?
“Now that workwear has become an important interest I look for brands that have extra good quality and design. Of course, it costs money. On the other hand, I live otherwise a simple life. Have no car and do not hang in bars.
Among the brands, I have stuck especially for The Real McCoys. I like virtually everything that comes from them. Nigel Cabourn, Buzz Rickson, LVC, Aero Leather, Iron Heart, French Le Labourer, yes there are many other brands that also stand for heritage.
If I lived in London I would look for fine vintage stuff but its almost impossible to find in my home town. Many people search it on the internet, well that’s not my thing. I want to try and feel before I decide.”
What three items of clothing have been your favorite or key pieces in your life?
“A good pair of jeans and a good jean jacket has always followed me through life. In the early 60s, when Lee jeans were introduced in Sweden as the first American brand, I bought a raw pair and went to the beach in Malmo to swim with them on, and also roll in the sand. A good start to get patina, it felt. A few years ago I did the same, mostly for fun, since it was 50 years since the first time. People must have thought this was one kind of a strange old fellow. This time I had jeans from Momotaro. A third item? A nice tee is of course a must.
Momotaro ‘Natural Sandwash’ by The Urban Hippie Sweden
Being a little eccentric gives me some pleasure. I’m old enough to be that, I guess. A few years ago I bought the 25 oz jeans from Iron Heart. They were then the heaviest one could get. Crazy in some ways. The first week I could not button my fly, the damned jean was that stiff. Now, I have used the jean a few winters and taken command over them. They are nice and warm when I bike.”
An strong denim arsenal
What is your most sentimental item and why?
“I say probably my M65 jacket. Maybe because it reminds me of my father. The film Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro also made strong impact.”
Svante in his Real McCoys M65 Jacket
I’ve noticed you have some excellent boots in your collection. What have been some of your favorites?
“I am very fond of my Iron Rangers and moc-toes from Red Wing. I’ve had them for three years and they are now comfortable to walk in. I’m also happy with my Viberg Boondockers that I got at one of many London trips. This brand can hardly be found in Scandinavia, although it has Swedish roots. The Viberg boots had leather soles but recently I put on rubber soles so that I can use them all year. I also have a pair of Crocket & Jones, high quality boots they are but a bit more dressed. I use them when the occasion feels right.”
Beautiful! Svante and his Viberg Boondockers
What advice do you have to advance through life with style, positive energy and keeping creative?
“By reading magazines and listening to music, you can get a lot of inspiration. But mainly it is rewarding to meet people in different countries and talk with them about common interests. If you are older and want to earn respect among younger, you have to learn how they think and what’s important to them. Learning is lifelong. By learning new things, aging is also more fun.”
You’re a vegetarian, so I guess you consume a lot of eggs. How does The Urban Hippie like them for breakfast?
“I like eggs in all forms. Boiled, fried and casseroles. When I stay at the hotel In London there are usually all sorts. It gives energy when you go out and wander in the crowd and get big city vibes. Malmo is a small town so I need to get away now and then.”
Many thanks to Svante for taking the time to tell us some more about himself. I personally found this a very inspirational read, I hope you have too.
If you’re not already following his instagram feed, check out @theurbanhippieswe