Backstage fashion secrets from Rascal Flatts stylist John Murphy
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Now for the matter at hand...
You probably won't know the name John Murphy.
But you might go to the Rascal Flatts concert on Saturday at the Ford Amphitheatre. You might marvel at the laid back country style of band members Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney. Dang, you might think. Those boys have good taste.
Then, in a way, you'll know John Murphy.
At 34, he's worked with stars like Jeremy Piven and Sharon Stone. Now, he's the personal wardrobe stylist for Rascal Flatts. On tour, he ensures the colors jibe and the pants fit and the style is cutting edge but chill. In a band-brand partnership deal, he's dressing the guys mainly from JCPenney's American Living line of affordable clothing right now (Deal Diva Letitia is a fan of the brand).
He called the Deal Divas from home in Nashville on a brief tour break to talk about budget shopping, the band's style and his own nightmare concert outfit (can anyone say parachute pants?)
~ Deal Diva Stephanie
Did you always plan to be a fashion stylist?
I was going to be a pediatrician. I went to college and I was pre-med. I couldn’t pass organic chemistry with more than a "D." It was a five hour drive home from college. We laugh about it now, but nobody talked to me the whole way home except for my grandma who sat in the back seat, and she just wanted to talk about my Madonna posters on the wall.
Was it tough breaking into the fashion industry?
I had a job waiting tables in conjunction with being a wardrobe stylist for the first seven years. You're independently employed, and there's no guarantee when your paycheck is going to come. There were definitely moments where I was like, "I have to quit this and just get a job. But now looking back, it makes it so much more worth it to me. I'm able to do what I love and what I want to do. It’s very rare.
What's your day like on tour with Rascal Flatts?
The clothes are pretty much all put together and altered and embellished in Nashville. When I go on the road, it's going to each guy's bus and picking out a shirt and keeping the color palette running through. Joe Don and Jay are more interested in their fashion and clothes than Gary is. Gary is aware of it and knows what he likes and doesn't like, but as far as putting things together, that's not as important to him as it is to the other guys.
How do you mix up the looks?
We embellish Gary's shirts, add some rhinestones. Joe Don's jeans, we like them to fit real tight in the legs, so we take them in a little. Jay's T-shirts, we'll shorten them a little and take in the sleeve. The fun thing about it is we get to show the variety of the American Living line. We can pair the American Living clothes with other designers. It's nice to show you can have an American Living suit and maybe put a Gucci shirt underneath it. You don' t have to spend a ton of money to look great. You can focus on your key pieces and really maximize your spending.
How can we make our own stuff work better?
If you go buy a $40 pair of jeans, and you have a $10 or $15 alteration, they're going to fit you as well as a designer pair of jeans. Go in your closet, find all those clothes you have that don't fit you and pick out your two or three favorites to take to the dry cleaner and get them altered to fit you. You've added to your wardrobe and didn't have to spend a lot of money.
Ok, you have license to put Gary LeVox in a rhinestone shirt... how can we get the regular guys in our lives to try something new or trendy?
I was just talking to someone about scarves. There are all these great scarves in the men's department, big huge table cloth scarves my grandma used to throw on the table when we had Christmas, with the long, thready fringe. The fact of the matter is, in middle America, you're not going to find a lot of guys who are going to want to wear that. But start off with a basic cashmere blend, get something with a print, maybe buy a bright color he can wear with a normal leather jacket. Ease him into it.
You see a lot of people dressed for concerts. What's the worst thing you ever wore to a concert?
I had my parachute pants, tight rolled at the bottom, of course, and my penny loafers. I had a big flap front shirt, and the whole flap came across. That was probably the New Kids on the Block concert. It was the height of the worst fashion ever. It's coming back now and it's giving me anxiety when I go to a store and see bubble skirts and big shoulders. It's like every date I ever had in middle school. Why does anyone think that looks good? It didn't look good then.