George Skeggs is without question one of London’s very own last remaining living legends. Otherwise known as ‘Soho George’, he is a gentleman with a truly unique style—and if by chance you are unfamiliar with his name, you certainly will not be unfamiliar with his image if you spend any time around London’s historic Soho streets and cafés.
Born in the East End, George arrived in Soho as a young boy for the first time in 1957 and was blown away by the sights and sounds that emanated from coffee shops like the 2is in Old Compton Street, often recognized as the birthplace of the British Rock and Roll scene.
George is one of the most colourful personalities you’re ever likely to meet, with his striking dress of hand made tailored suits and Fedora hats. He doesn’t follow fashion—he just is what he wants to be and simply doesn’t care what you think. At 74 he talks and moves more like someone half his age and has an abundance of wonderful stories from of his life and times in Soho right through from the 50’s to the present day. I love London because of people like Soho George.
“First day I had four followers—three days later its gone up to 544, and most of them in Japan, they have a great sense of style.”[8:00]
George was brought up during the war alongside three siblings and he gives a lot of credit to his Mum for raising the family. His creativity started to spark after they moved to Hackney where he attended a new school at the age of 6-7. The art teacher helped push him—and some of Geroge’s paintings were included in a children’s art tour of China, making him an international artist before the age of 10.[27:36]
Soho was what George jokingly calls “a reservation for weirdos” a category he puts himself in. It was a centre to strike out against conformity. Coffee bars and subterranean music venues are what George grew up and was shaped by, playing in jug bands and growing as an artist. Some of his creativity was blatantly obvious, at it manifested through his dress. George doesn’t call himself a fashionista, someone following and working inside trends, but rather he sees himself as an individualist with a modernists style. He follows his own sense of style and tailors his own clothing—long double-breasted coats, always 45 inches long, blue checked—fedoras from Covet Garden, his whole outfit on any given day would run about £2-3K.
“The Western Galleries—it’s fantastic…when I went in there two weeks ago it brought back all those memories when I first walked in there. I thought, you know what, I could live in there really. I could live under that statue of David.”[57:00]
Nowadays George is busy doing things like showing his art off at the Royal Academy—something his art teacher said would happen back when he was a kid. He’s been working on 4 foot by 4 foot triptych comic series—comics told through just three panels. When he’s not busy with his art he can be found on his daily walk through Soho, popping in and out of his favorite art galleries and coffee shops, living his life through art and culture while carrying it all forward on the shoulders of his personality and trademark coats.
I’d tell you to follow in his footsteps—but George would be the first to tell you to follow your own.