Jack Stillman was my Grandfather. He was an ex Navy man in the Second World War and saw action in North Africa and in the Pacific. He endured one of the heaviest theatres of naval warfare in North Africa in June 1942 when Axis forces unleashed hell on a fleet of British and Australian ships despatched to protect a crucial merchant convoy. Despite horrendous loses over 3 days of battle, Jack survived.
After the war he then went on to be a Christian Minister; despatched across Australia with his family to set up missions in New South Wales and Western Australia. I have photographs of him, my Grandmother, my Father and Uncle all crammed onto a Harley Davidson motorbike with a side-car; off to church on a Sunday morning.
He was a devout man. Jack was a man’s man. He certainly didn’t take any shit. But he loved life and my fondest memories of him are on family holidays at the beach in Busselton Western Australia. Him waist deep in the ocean covered in kids; each one trying to pull him down or climb on his back. All the kids called him Grandad Jack. That was my Grandad. Jack Stillman passed away in 2004. He achieved 87 years.
My Grandfather and my father taught me what it means to be a man in Australia; to take responsibility, to be honest, to work until the job’s done. I am the product of this upbringing and 20 years of soldiering and policing. I became a man’s man. I pursued excitement and occasional violence and I took no shit.
In February 2013 a truly tragic event changed my life. It took my somewhat perfect existence and dashed it on the floor like a beloved Lego project: how fragile our competitive lives are. I was forced to quit my lucrative job, sell my house and go on welfare for the first time in my life. Significantly it also left me as the single parent to a beautiful little 2-year-old girl who, up until that point in time, had never lived with me. Suddenly I was a full time mum.
Overnight I was all about potty training and Jimbaroo and Pepper Bloody Pig! By March I was Googling “5 Important Care Tips for Curly Hair” and researching the pro’s and cons of immunisation all the while coming to terms with a very complicated yet intense grief and a sweet little girl who was puzzled over the absence of her mother.
2013 wasn’t my best year. But it wasn’t my worst either. Not by a long shot. I quietly packed up my Lego and put it back in the bucket. I couldn’t reassemble what I’d had. I’m glad I didn’t try. Sometimes we just need a complete re-set on our priorities in life. It’s like moving house: you end up finding crap that you’ve been hanging onto for years and you decide “Sorry old friend, you’re taking up space. I’m not bringing you along”.
2013 was my re-set. It was a challenge but thanks to Jack, I was made of more resilient stuff. So out of it was born some new priorities for the Grandson of Jack.
- Life is for living. Be who you want to be, not who you think you should be and don’t wait for life to find you; go out there and grab a man sized chunk today!
- Actively avoid distress and deliberately make the distinction between stress and distress. Most people say they hate stress but but what they really mean is distress. And even so, do they really avoid it? Some people inadvertently pursue it! I wish to avoid distress as much as practically possible by making decisions about what I do and with whom I do it. Even if it means choosing to eat the occasional shit sandwich, I am strategic when it comes to the rate of my heart.
- Enjoy my children. Our children are only dependant on us for a short time. The joys of watching them grow and laughing at the bizarre crap they come out with is short lived in terms of a lifetime. I wont let competitive living get in the way of that again.
- Love responsibly. This means many things to me but essentially it means, give much, take little. Jack said many times “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4). He also said, “Never stop courting your partner.” Which means, never stop trying to win her. Think about it…
And so how the hell did all of this lead to a fashion brand for men?
Despite the fact that the majority of my working life was dedicated to guns and violence, I have always been a creative at heart with an entrepeneurial bent. I have also always marched to an alternative beat when it comes to fashion. In August 2013, on a whim, I enrolled in a part time jewellery making class at Contemporary Metals in Perth. It was an instant awakening to me. Suddenly I was dreaming rings and bracelets and chains. I knew that the market for men's accessories in Australia was wanting and at once I knew what I wanted to build with that Lego. In those crucial weeks Jack Stillman, the fashion brand, was born.
I created Jack Stillman so I could raise my amazing daughter Maddie but I didn’t want a business that didn’t stand for something. I want it to be enduring and perhaps arrogantly, I want it to inspire other men to let go of the competitive living that holds us back too often from the real joys of life. Men NEED to be men. We need to fix things, we need danger and we need to beat our chests occasionally. None of that is an excuse for being a dick. Men also need to take responsibility, to be honest; to work until the job’s done.As men, we are responsible for the masculinity of our sons and our grandsons and we are the benchmarks for our daughters choices in future partners.
So Jack Stillman is essentially about an image. It’s about creating a peaceful, carefree yet masculine image for men. It’s not for everyone. But I believe the image you put on is the image people often expect you to be. And if it’s expected of you aren’t you more likely to live it? And if you live it wont you become it? So consider wisely the image you put on everyday. It’ll take you places?