Episode 159 Dressing up with Zack Pinsent

Episode 159 Dressing up with Zack Pinsent

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Zack Pinsent is a tailor of bespoke period clothing for men and women, reproducing primarily Regency civilian and military costume. He is vocal on social and political issues while being immaculately dressed. His website is https://www.pinsenttailoring.co.uk/

Zack lives in Brighton and in our conversation he tells us about his plans for a grand Regency ball at the Brighton Pavilion in January 2024. At the time of writing ticket sales haven’t yet opened, but here’s his Pinterest board for you to see the type of dress that everyone will be wearing and what the Brighton Pavilion is like, if you are not familiar with it: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/Zack_Pinsent/brighton-pavilion-ball/

We talk about what men’s clothes ought to be like: how they should fit, the quality of tailoring, the colour palette, the pockets. We also discuss hats and trousers. There’s a bit of sword talk too, of course.





Guy Windsor: I’m here today with Zack Pinsent, who is a tailor of bespoke period clothing for men and women, reproducing primarily Regency civilian and military costume. He is vocal on social and political issues while being immaculately dressed. So, Zack, welcome to the show.


Zack Pinsent: Hello. Thank you. Thank you for having me.


Guy Windsor: Well, it's lovely to actually get to talk to you in person. We've interacted a little bit on Twitter, I think it was. Can I just say for the listeners that I am in a school t-shirt and a scruffy fleece and Zack is immaculately turned out with a yellow waistcoat and a cravat and that kind of collar that goes up past your jawline. Looking magnificent, sir.


Zack Pinsent: So thank you so much.


Guy Windsor: And just to orient everybody, whereabouts in the world are you?


Zack Pinsent: I'm in Brighton on the south coast of England, about 50 miles south of London. And during the Napoleonic period, a bit too close to the French.


Guy Windsor: We’ve got to steer clear of those French. And of course, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Brighton was a place where posh people from London came down to stroll upon the promenade looking fabulous.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. It became the fashionable place to be sort of from the 1780s when the prince Regent came down as a young man. And then he started working on Marine House, which then turned into the Brighton Pavilion. And it basically became where the Royal Court was for many years, and it became the place to be. Hence why Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice says, “I want to go to Brighton,” because it was where a lot of the military officers were because we have what is now called Hove Park, but originally was one of the largest military parade grounds, where also coincidentally, the largest court martial took place on UK soil.


Guy Windsor: Really? What was that about?


Zack Pinsent: Just the soldiers behaving badly. But it makes perfect sense because you're near the coast. You're in an area where you can get to Portsmouth very easily and for moving out for manoeuvres, but also right near to Brighton, where the Prince Regent, the king was for the longest period of time, and you're right out of the centre of London, which to be honest, is a prime place for mischief for your soldiers, people deserting, but also a hub of spies and villainy, really, because London, as much as it saw itself as secure from the French and their influence and all that jazz. It was about as secure as a sieve in terms of information. So having them down here in what effectively was genteel countryside originally, next to a fishing village, which was becoming a very fashionable town, seemed to be a good place to keep them.


Guy Windsor: Right. Okay. So did you move there deliberately? It does sound like a perfect milieu for you personally.


Zack Pinsent: No, no. Born and bred here. So born in the local hospital and thought, not going anywhere.


Guy Windsor: Fair enough.


Zack Pinsent: I mean, it's the joy of being incredibly close to London without having to be in London. And in fact, it's sometimes quicker to get from Brighton to the centre of London than it can be from parts of London to get into the centre of London.


Guy Windsor: Right. I have the same thing living in Ipswich. We have like a one hour train journey from Ipswich to Liverpool Street, and there are people who live technically in London that it would take them longer to get there.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly.


Guy Windsor: Okay. So what actually sparked your interest in period clothing and recreating it?


Zack Pinsent: Well, I think a really good way of summing it up is that every child loves dressing up and my parents just never told me to stop and enthusiasm really didn't go anywhere.


Guy Windsor: That’s very similar to like every kid loves playing with swords but most kids stop playing with swords at some point. And I'm here to kind of get them back into it.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, exactly. You know, I've even got a letter opener thing that I picked up on a school field trip. It's a fantasy sword, but it was like, I want to come back with a sword, not a pencil sharpener. So I started off with that sort of thing, wanted to dress up and then every own clothes day, every opportunity, I'd always wear some form of eccentric outfit or something, invariably some form of costume, because it was just more fun. I was a child. And then growing up, you're trying to fit in a little bit more. And then I was thinking, well, this still isn't anything I quite enjoy. And then I decided to dress vintage. And then the vintage turned into repairing the vintage and then recreating bits of vintage and then realising, oh, I can make anything. And then those small, tiny steps going on to create more and more things. And now via various peaks and troughs, it's now kind of what I do.


Guy Windsor: So I've seen images of you wearing a smallsword, and if I recall rightly, our very first Twitter interaction was I saw you dressed fabulously with an enormous hat and carrying this beautiful sword. And I was like, that's a nice sword. Can you actually use it? And you said, why actually yes, I can. So can you tell us something about your historical martial arts practice?


Zack Pinsent: Well, this is going to sound really poncy, but my school suddenly decided, oh, let's introduce fencing as a thing. So, we started to do a bit of fencing and an external teacher sort of came in and we did a little bit there. And that was fun. And then there wasn't really enough people to carry on. So then I actually took some fencing lessons outside school because it was that thing of, you know, I think my parents were just enthused that I actually liked some form of sport and I found it great. It was great fun, but I only did it for I think about a year because then the joys of GCSE and exams came along. But you don't really lose bits of it and it teaches you stance and things like that, as well as interestingly, a lot of the sword positions and stances and things are mirrored in many ways in dance and in court etiquette. So it's interesting sort of how these steps all stay together. I mean, in no way, do I know really what I'm doing. But I can sort of do a little bit more than I think the average person would be able to.


Guy Windsor: Okay. So you don't actually practice, for example, a late 18th century smallsword system as written down by Angelo, for example.


Zack Pinsent: No, but I have gone to a few classes and things when they've been going on. I've been to a couple at the Jane Austin Festival when they've held those because a friend of mine whose name actually escapes me brought along a whole bag of practice smallswords and everything, and actually teaches it.


Guy Windsor: Okay.


Zack Pinsent: So that was fascinating. Really, really cool. And then he stopped because he had a leg injury, so it was like, oh, bugger. And then I really never just picked it up, although it was quite fun to.


Guy Windsor: Zack, you've got to.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah. Oh yes I’ve got to.


Guy Windsor: Like, I mean, just for example, the salute at the beginning of Angelo’s School of Fencing. The way it places you in that position for which the clothes are built.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Exactly. No, no. So, I know the salute and everything, that first initial one. And then it also plays into a Napoleonic military salute. But it's interesting how it works then with court salutes and dress and it's this thing of none of it was ever working in isolation. And these sword practices were for like the genteel, the upper classes type thing. It is who these manuals are made for. Otherwise, a lot of people who were masters in skills of their craft were of generally sort of socially different classes and things like that. Or they were sword teachers, I assume, although if I've got that wrong.


Guy Windsor: Basically in the military, the person teaching officers how to use their sabres was usually a non-commissioned officer, like a sergeant. And fencing teachers were invariably of lower social status than the people they taught. But for example, Domenico Angelo, the most famous fencing master in London in the late 17th century, he was also a riding master, and I believe he also taught dance. And he taught at Eton College, amongst other places. He dedicated his book to think it was the Duke of Gloucester, first or second in line to the throne anyway. And of course, that's only done with the permission of the person you are dedicating it to. And so these people did actually train with him. He taught the very upper echelons of the nobility but he was not himself noble.


Zack Pinsent: Of course.


Guy Windsor: So people like me are effectively tradesmen.


Zack Pinsent: But it's that fine line where you are allowed into these circles to an extent, but never fully allowed in. But to be honest, you might not want to be. And there's also that thing of where a nobleman they can't have a profession, they can't have a job. So this is a fun sort of escape for them to be able to sort of pretend to have a profession.


Guy Windsor: Sure. And to think like how, for example, Queen Elizabeth would have interacted with her horse trainer. He's effectively an employee. But he's employed because he's one of the best in the world at what he does.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Because a good friend of mine is actually the riding master for the Dutch royal household. Really fascinating and can do side saddle and everything like that. It's amazing. Really, really, really fascinating stuff. And then to see him riding around with the reenactor playing the Prince of Orange at the Battle of Waterloo Bicentennial in 2015, it was like there are people on a horse and then there are people on a horse. It was very much night and day seeing, seeing the manoeuvres he could do and work about with pretty much a horse he'd met that day, effectively. It was astonishing, especially when you've got cannon going off and then you've got these huge amounts of troops suddenly popping up, and see how he handled the horse and everything. And then and then one, it was pre-arranged, jumping over a cannon and it was amazing.


Guy Windsor: Were you there as a re-enactor or as a spectator?


Zack Pinsent: Oh, yes. No, I was there was a re-enactor. I was a bugler in the third 95th rifles. So there I was running around in green wool, tooting the horn.


Guy Windsor: Immaculately tailored green wool, I hope.


Zack Pinsent: It was.


Guy Windsor: Okay. So do you do re-enactment regularly?


Zack Pinsent: So the military side has sort of fallen off a little bit as I've just sort of had to focus on life. But I will return to it. But I do a lot more civilian events and reenactments. So for example, balls and things. I mean, I've got some events coming up next month, but actually I've got some events I'm doing myself. Oh, look at this segue.


Guy Windsor: By all means. Let me give you the opportunity to plug. So tell me, Zack, do you organise any events yourself and are there any my listeners might think they ought to come to?


Zack Pinsent: Well, there's two. So there's one I'm doing in May, along with the coronation. It's really only for local people because we're not doing a big presentation for the public, but we are going in full Regency court dress through the pavilion gardens then processing through the pavilion, and then we're having a small dinner. So it's more a private thing with a public facing aspect, but it's sort of a soft launch of a concept for me because in January 2024, I am holding a grand ball, a Grand Regency ball at the Brighton Pavilion. So it's going to be a dinner and ball. It's going to be spectacular. It's a massive undertaking. But the great thing is, is that's when the London season was, well, the social season. It was in these dark periods where it was easy to have these ballrooms filled with people. So imagine doing that in summer. Everyone would boil. So it never really worked. So the good thing about this is that it's something to look forward to in January because January so depressing that it's a fun thing to be doing and looking forward to and it gives people enough time to plan and hopefully well, I mean, people have already actually bought flights and hotels, even though I haven't released the tickets. And I’m like, OK, you’re keen! Ten out of ten. And it is interesting because things are things are going to be a bit cheaper then and everything, but it's limited ticket supplies only. The tickets will go out in May / June and I might because of the interest put on another ball maybe the day before or the day after that. We'll see how that goes. But yes, and hopefully if this one goes particularly well, I'll be able to make it a regular thing, sort of an annual at least.


Guy Windsor: And I imagine you want everybody coming in proper clothing.


Zack Pinsent: Oh, yes, of course.


Guy Windsor: So how are you going to make sure that somebody doesn't buy a ticket and show up wearing, I don't know, a pair of regular trousers that they’ve cut off at the knee and stuffed an elastic band round to make it look like breeches?


Zack Pinsent: Well they've tried and I think we all start somewhere. My first outfit was a polyester nightmare. None of it fitted properly and all of this. So it's like, hey, they are dipping their toes and they are saying, Do I like this? Do I then invest in it?


Guy Windsor: So you're alright with beginners dressing up in Regency clothing side of things. So long as they make a good faith effort, no one is going to sneer at them.


Zack Pinsent: Totally. Totally. So I'm going to put it in the thing that Regency dress encouraged. And I'm building a whole Pinterest board so that people can see what the vibe is for the pavilion, one so they can see the interiors. Because after all, people are going to be spending a fair amount on these tickets. And I think they owe it to themselves and to the building, the only royal palace in public hands, to sort of step up their game, do their best. So I've sort of said, well, okay, people that don't have the stuff, you have got ten months. And here are resources to places you can rent or buy cheap from and things like that. But also you can maybe turn up in black tie if you don't have anything, preferably white tie. So then you've still got the tail coat side of things. But to be honest, if you turn up without making an effort, you would feel very silly. See, that's the funny thing. The one that doesn’t dress up feels odd.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. I don't think anyone is likely to not make an effort. But one thing that I have found in some re-enactment circles to be very off-putting is the clothing Nazis who like they'll have a look and go, “Was that cuff machine stitched?”


Zack Pinsent: Oh I do know those sorts of people and people think I'm like that. And I'm like, no, if I'm doing a very professional re-enactment for the public sort of thing, it's a particular year, and it's a historical thing and it's about education or about presentation, then that has to be correct. You can't fumble that and say to the public, this is what they wore because that would just be a lie. So that sort of thing has to be held to a very high standard. Otherwise, when it's a social event that you can buy a ticket to and you just want to go to the first thing and all of that, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. As long as you're making the best effort you can. And after all, people will maybe put an outfit together and then think, oh, maybe I want to change this or change that, especially as sort of in the Facebook group or things like that, people are going to be posting what they'll be wearing, and then you'll have people kind of slightly worried, which I kind of want to dispel, because for a woman you can come along in a plain white dress, regency dress with then some coloured accessories and you're done. The only requirement really is that fill your hair with a tiara and feathers and you're fine. And gentlemen, keep your jackets on at all times. My big bugbear that you see at these reenactments that happen is as soon as it's, like, vaguely mild, they’ll go, oh, I’ll take my jacket off. It's like, man, keep your jackets on. You're in a royal palace, for goodness sake. And after all, it's not just for you. It's for everyone else that's there. Because for some people, I mean that there's a couple who have bought a plane ticket from Chile and they've bought hotel rooms already in Brighton. And I'm like, God, I hope they get a ticket. But I think for them, I'm actually going to potentially keep a couple of tickets back for them to make sure they can actually come.


Guy Windsor: I think you probably should, yes.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah. But it's that notion of wow. Okay. That's some sort of proof of concept. So it's not an event just for you because people are saying, oh, we go to events all the time. Didn't feel like dressing up to this one. And I do see that happen at other events in the UK when there's so many of them and the price point of them is sort of £30 to £60 or something, people go, oh, well I've been to another one, didn't feel like dressing up really, really for this one. And I'm going, mine is going to be a big event. I mean, look at the setting. And I am going to have a thing on the invitation saying, gentlemen and officers can have swords and canes, but they can't be worn in the ballroom. And then I think in the evening there's going to be a lovely line of swords all propped up along one wall in the dressing room. So that's going to look quite fun and interesting. And I'm going to get little tags so that people can write their name on them so that you don't inadvertently take someone else’s sword.


Guy Windsor: That would be awkward.


Zack Pinsent: It would. Or do I tell them not to bring them at all? As Handel asked patrons when coming to his Messiah in 17 something or other, at the Common Hospital because of the popularity of it, he said on the thing, Gentlemen to attend without swords so that more people could sit on these benches. And I think that’s quite fun.


Guy Windsor: And also there's less likelihood of a murder.


Zack Pinsent: Yes, this is true. This is true. When in any social situation or any society, you take out particular types of offensive weapons, you'll find that, oh, the chances for things involving those weapons could go down. Which in no way translates to anything modern in any modern situation or society, at all.


Guy Windsor: I'm quite fussy about my shoes as obviously bad shoes, bad day. But I'm also an inveterate wear of hats, not indoors, obviously. I'm indoors at the moment, so I'm just wearing headphones. But I mean, modern hats like this Australian Akubra, I tend to go for the fedora sort of thing. I do have to ask because you have a simply astonishing selection of hats. Where do you get your hats from?


Zack Pinsent: From a few places. Some are vintage ones that I've reblocked or redone, some are ones I've just sort of come across like I've been to a market at a re-enactment thing and there's been one there and they've been like, oh, yeah, we're selling a few of these. Not sure where they got them. Or they are ex-film sometimes. I do have a hatter lady called Jane Walton, she's made me a couple of hats, but now rather excitingly, I've got a brand new hat, which I'm working with on research with a French hatter. Well, she lives in Paris. She's American. But she makes the most lovely hats. So this is one I'll be debuting in May. But we're using research from the Swedish Military Museum because they have the plans for making different types of hats.


Guy Windsor: Really?


Zack Pinsent: Yes. So we're sort of looking at that because they've got the little inch markers and everything. So we're realising, okay, we need to make it this large and to stretch out this bit here, she's sourcing all the ostrich plume and everything.


Guy Windsor: What kind of hat?


Zack Pinsent: Oh it's going to be a modern Major-General. No. So here's the problem. I'm making a uniform that's a regulation non-regulation uniform. Where there are regulations to it, but it's also vaguely unregulated, which isn't helpful. And the hats keep changing because of that. So I'm following a portrait of George III where he wears his general’s uniform. So it's a bicorn with tricorn tendencies, but often known as a court chapeau or something like that, basically where you have the bicorn style with a slight kick at the front, you can wear it bang on sideways, which it wasn't really worn that often.


Guy Windsor: Just for the non-specialists, a bicorn is basically a hat with two points and it's like an enormous semi-circle sitting on your head.


Zack Pinsent: Kind of. Yeah, very much so. And then as the time period goes on, you see it doing this sort of slide around the head until you get to the very sort of Hornblower type thing where it's bang in front of the face, although it was never really worn bang in front of the face, there was always a tilt and a curve and a slight rakishness over the left eye, because obviously you don't want to get in the way of when you're doing saluting and everything. So the cock of the hat depends on regiment, tradition and many other fancy things. And they always say, Oh, it's down to saluting. And it's like, well, or it could just be down to the fact that your colonel in chief wears his like that, so everyone just started wearing hats like that.


Guy Windsor: Yes. And also, if you want to shoot a musket, if you have a bicorn straight down the line it is going to be banging onto the gun, you need it turned off to the side.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Yeah. Well, I mean, these sorts of hats specifically worn by officers and things, it's a thing of how often were they actually firing muskets and actually doing soldiering. More often than we might think.


Guy Windsor: And also they would have worn them hunting.


Zack Pinsent: Yes and no. So interestingly, you go from the, I'm calling it a tricorn but it's only ever been called a tricorn in the late 19th century - before then it's just a cocked hat. So you would have worn a cocked hat and then you went right from that to pretty much wearing forms of top hats. So I haven't seen any evidence or any depictions of someone wearing a sort of full bicorn hunting. It didn't enter fashion like that.


Guy Windsor: I don't mean hunting like hunting with fox and hounds. I mean, like shooting birds. That sort of thing the gentry have been doing since forever. I mean just go to the Wallace Collection.


Zack Pinsent: Oh yeah. They're all over the place and they seem to be doing the same thing where a bicorn, when it comes into being, becomes a full dress ceremonial thing rather than a cocked hat, you have ceremonial versions but it's the everyday type headwear. And then that turns into smaller and smaller cocked hats, and then it effectively turns into round hats in the 1780s. And then those then are morphing slightly into these smaller types of top hats, and then they just become top hats from then on. So there isn't really a point where you see bicorns being worn, except there's a really fascinating painting in Wurttemberg in Germany, where they're all in full court dress because they did this thing where they gathered all the animals and they let them loose, in a square effectively, and they all shot them at that point because that's real sportsmanship.


Guy Windsor: Absolutely.


Zack Pinsent: So they were all wearing sort of bits of court dress or fancy attire. And I think in some of that, they are wearing sort of bicorn type things, but it's not really running about hunting, as you'd expect, or stalking prey and things like that, mainly because that would make it incredibly impractical hat. But you sort of want a lower thing. It's interesting. And I'd be really interested to find things. I think it's that funny thing of if you brought someone shooting who had maybe never done it and they turned up in a bicorn, you could be like, What the hell are you doing? You know, it's like someone coming along in the three piece tweeds and everything. But then with like town brogues on or something, that sort of thing. Why are you wearing those? Sort of thing I suppose. See, I make it sound like I know lots about modern hunting. I've no idea! Historic hunting, not a problem. Yes. No, it's interesting. The bicorn seems to be the one that sort of skips the pleasure side of dress. You go from tight, small cocked hats to then forms of top hat simply out of practicality.


Guy Windsor: Okay. Now, I should perhaps mention that in the 1920s and thirties, my grandmother, my father's mother, was a milliner. Worked for a milliners, as who made hats for the lady who became Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother. I have hat making in my blood. Although I've never made a hat.


Zack Pinsent: Oh, you should. Well, in fact, my French friend who isn't French, who's American, who lives in France, the milliner, she does do classes.


Guy Windsor: So I can go to Paris and make a hat.


Zack Pinsent: You could. You could.


Guy Windsor: That’s a bloody good idea. I will do that.


Zack Pinsent: You know, I mean, it's the home of millinery really. So it's quite a fun thing to do. And I think other sort of places like I think, you know, Locke and Co and things, I think they do like little classes like decorating hats and stuff. But it seems to be a different way of doing things. But I think going to a small class run by a cool professional is always quite fun.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, it's the best way to learn anything. So, have you done that with tailoring?


Zack Pinsent: No, I'm working out how to do it. Because I'm self-taught, I don't know what I don't know. And I'm also potentially bad at teaching, but I would like to do sewing classes of sorts so things where I can help people pattern perhaps a Spencer or a waistcoat or a sort of let's go and make a waistcoat over like a week period or something like that. But then also doing sort of sampler classes of “Hello, this is how you hold a needle.” So basically people that might need teaching from how to hold needles to people who've done a bit of sewing and doing samplers where you just teach historic sewing techniques. So for example, this is how this particular stitch is done, this is why this is done. And learning about the layering that's involved, those are things I’d really like to do.


Guy Windsor: Has sewing changed much in the last couple of hundred years?


Zack Pinsent: Yes and no. Mainly because we do a lot by machine now the way we would sew things together has changed drastically. I mean on the Row and things like that, they use still a lot of it by hand. But there's techniques and things that they use that I wouldn't use and vice versa. So if you do a lot of modern tailoring, you've actually got a lot of unlearning to do, mainly about drape.


Guy Windsor: What is “drape”? For the non-specialists in the audience.


Zack Pinsent: Drape is effectively how the clothing hangs off your body and how it works and where the angles of point are and things like that. Basically, the back balance is key, effectively, and that's how the front and back marry together on your body. And the balance of drape and back balance is quite different. You know, you can have it perfectly balanced and look perfectly balanced, but if the drape is off, it means that the front of your coat isn't going to work how it would have in the past. It's more a modern interpretation, how you think it should be, rather than I'm looking at how period clothes drape and how they work and you sort of build that into crafting for a modern body. I mean, after all, you're not using shoulder pads and things which we're so used to using. And here's the thing. Look at period dramas and look for the men's shoulder pads. Like, why? Why? It's because they're using a modern blazer block, and just adding other shapes to the bottom to make it more like a tailcoat or something, because it's a construction thing. Oh, the people in the shop, they know how to do this. And the sleeves. There's nothing more ugly than a modern sleeve. They just don't look nice. They're not very elegant. Now, it's not to say that there aren't some lovely suits with some lovely sleeves. Sure. But as a concept, the men's modern suit sleeve is a bit meh.


Guy Windsor: Yes. And you can't move your arms properly while wearing it.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Well, that's because of the very low armscye. So once you have an idea.


Guy Windsor: What is an armscye?


Zack Pinsent: An armscye. And good luck on the spelling, because I always get it wrong. An armscye is basically the armhole. So, for example, here I'm holding up my hands. So we kind of assume that it's a circle. But no, actually, it's more of a more of an oval where your arm is. So basically what you want to do is you want to bring the armhole as close to that point as possible where it will fit snugly all the way round, because actually it's the same thing we have with sportswear. If it fits closer, you have a much wider range of movement. If you have to hold down that which you do with modern suits, because the way you can do that is you can mass produce it for more people and guarantee a better shoulder fit. It means that once you lift your arm, the whole suit comes with you.


Guy Windsor: Right.


Zack Pinsent: Rather than in no period clothing because it's made for you with a nice high armscye for full movement, you can lift your arms and do court dance ballet or even sword practice. And the coat stays exactly where it is. Fred Astaire has the same thing done with his suits. He had a very high armscye. So once you see him dancing around, he's wearing, I think he had some done in Anderson Sheppard, but they gave him a very high armscye from his request and he can move his arms about and everything and it stays where it is. It's a bugbear I have with conductors.


Guy Windsor: Because the back of their jackets keep flapping up and down.


Zack Pinsent: You aren’t a bat. But there's also a thing that you can do. It's in a tailor's manual and it's literally called the conductor's sleeve. It's cut slightly differently for your arms being pretty much constantly raised. And then when it's down, it creates a little bit of creasing. But you are going to have your arms up more than you're going to have them down. And I think that's really fascinating. And with that means you can look at any period representation of a conductor, even in the late 19th century where there's an orchestra and there's someone conducting, the coat is down, the arms are up. Now it's a case of let me bring my entire jacket with you and distract you.


Guy Windsor: Yes. It's crazy to see those probably foam shoulder pads around their ears when they are conducting. Most of the tailoring I've really cared about has been for armour and the clothes worn under armour, where movement is absolutely critical. And well fitted armour, you can absolutely put your hands together above your head and there's a lot of clattering and battering, but you don't end up having to haul the entire cuirass up your chest to bring your arms up unless the armour is badly made or your jacket isn't fitted properly. And my arming jacket, it fits like catwoman's catsuit.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah. No, it's fantastic. I mean, having something well fitted can totally change how you feel. Well, people talk about comfort in these sorts of clothes and think, well, it's perfectly comfortable if something's made for you it's incredibly comfortable. But also, if something is made for you, you can feel confident in it. And confidence is part of something being comfortable.


Guy Windsor: Very true. Okay. So I do have to ask, the biggest difficulty I have in my wardrobe is trousers, because I simply cannot abide a waistband around my hips as modern trouser makers like to do. It drives me absolutely fucking insane. What I end up having to do is I get the highest waisted trouser I can get and then I get it like two sizes bigger than it should be so I can have the waistband around my waist without it crushing my nuts. So how does one build a pair of trousers?


Zack Pinsent: So there's just different styles. And the high waist is not really in. Well, it's actually coming back into fashion, but in fashion, it's coming back into fashion. I think it'll take some time before it gets to the high street suit retailers. But you can go to a modern tailor. But the problem with going to modern tailors and fashion houses and things like that, they have a particular way that they would like to do things for you. But if they're bespoke tailors and you say, hi, I want a really nice high waist, they should be able to do that for you. But there are also suppliers out there who do historical trousers and clothing. So a really good one owned by a friend of mine who does film and TV and has done for the past, oh, 20, 25 years. So basically, any period drama that you've seen in the past20, 25 years, 30 years all the shirts have been them pretty much. And that is a place called Darcy Clothing, owned by a friend of mine. Lovely lady. And they do nice high waisted Victorian trousers. And to be honest, they're cheap for what they are. Cheap for what they are. I mean because they're designed to be sort of mass produced and things, I mean they're not as cheap as a pair of trousers you might just buy on the high street. But then again you're looking for something specialist. And then there is also the option of going to a tailor and having something made.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, I have. I have done that and I have trousers that I've had for the last 17, 18 years, which they will do the job. They are properly waisted or whatever, but you know, trousers don't last forever and they're starting to get a bit creaky. Okay so Darcy Clothing, I will definitely look them up now. The kind of trousers that you make, Regency style, that is a completely different thing to the Victorian trouser.


Zack Pinsent: Totally. So interestingly trousers have been around since, well, forever. It's basically cloth that covers the whole leg. But in terms of fashion, they come in and out and you see them sometimes with labourers and things like that in the 18th century or as a form of um, I suppose sailor's slops or things like that, or people wearing stuff in the Mediterranean. The breeches are the other go to bit of legwear really. So they're like trousers that are cut off at the knee and are very tight fitting. And then you wear stockings with them now when you think, oh, isn't that impractical? Well, not really, because if you're walking about there’s mud around the streets and whatnot, rather than having to change your whole bit of legwear for another pair of trousers because you've got mud on everything, you just change a stocking and the stockings are fairly cheap. So it adds another layer of usability into something. But the whole notion of period wear because you can move in it better as well as fashion and it saves on cloth is cutting things tighter. Well, form fitting and it's just much nicer. That's a bugbear when I get to see historical dramas and things where the breeches and pantaloons and even the trousers aren't fitted and tight enough.


Guy Windsor: Okay. Also, the breeches thing, like fencers have been wearing breeches since the 19th century or before. And like serious hill walkers and the ramblers in the UK will wear breeches because you get better freedom of movement, because the trouser never catches on the knee. You know how if you squat down in regular trousers you have to kind of hitch up the front of the trousers to squat so it doesn’t catch on the knee. You don't have to do that in a pair of breeches.


Zack Pinsent: I will extol the virtues of breeches until the cows come home because they really are the thing of why did these go out of fashion? Well, various reasons, but it is interesting that that we don't wear one. You know, it's been in fashion longer than it's ever been out of fashion.


Guy Windsor: Right. You must be familiar with pluderhosen.


Zack Pinsent: Yes. Oh, yeah.


Guy Windsor: I mean, have you never been tempted to go, like, a century earlier and get full kind of pluderhosened up?


Zack Pinsent: It's tempting and it's something that I'm kind of working with at the moment, because I do have an outfit in mind from the 1600s that I have some lovely silk for. So there's this one in the V&A where the outfit is copied very well, and I've got an original patent for it that they did their first things at with the school of historical dress. So that's quite exciting. But yes, no, I will be at some point be making a sort of 17th century ensemble. But as and when really. It will happen.


Guy Windsor: Okay. I mean how could it not. I mean, that's just fabulous. I am getting I'm gently edging myself towards just wearing pluderhosen all the time. The trick is just finding the pluderhosen which have adequate pockets. So how do you solve the pocket problem? Because I don't carry a handbag and basically in my trousers I have wallet, phone, keys, sometimes a notebook, pens. I mean, that's why pretty much all of my trousers have side pockets on the thighs.


Zack Pinsent: Oh, exactly. So there is no pocket problem, historically, when you look at men's leg where it's full of pockets, even pluderhosen had massive pockets when you look at originals and things like that. So I've got a pair of breeches in my collection which has two fob pockets, well, two frog pockets, a fob pocket, a side pocket in one side, and then another side pocket in the other, and then a further side pocket around the other side. But then also in those pockets the pockets are divided up. So they've got sections in those pockets. So there's effectively like six pockets in these pairs of breeches and one is very long and skinny and I'm like, well, that's the perfect sort of length for either a pen case or a glass case or something. So that pocket had a use. And I think that's always quite interesting.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. And the great thing about getting clothes tailored is I can get the pockets exactly the way I want.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Yeah.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. Back when I used to fly wearing a suit, the inside left pocket of the jacket was sized to exactly fit a boarding pass, for instance.


Zack Pinsent: Perfect.


Guy Windsor: It is a much, much, much better way to live. Now, the frog pocket. What is a frog pocket?


Zack Pinsent: So the frog pocket is basically the pockets you have on breeches, for example. They go from the flap and they go up to the side and they actually button on the side and they form like a little point situation. Because you've got to remember that that comes into being when the waistband of the breeches are quite low in the 18th century. So you can't really access the side in the same way because of the waistcoat and everything. So it's easy to access it sort of from the top side, if that makes sense, but still keeping the integrity of the breeches together. But then you have some side ones coming in, but basically it's a form of pocket. In fact, I'll be doing as part of this project I've got coming up in May, I'm making a brand new outfit, so I'm going to be making all the small clothes. And in that I'll be doing the construction of breeches, a waistcoat and a coat and putting that up on YouTube because it's interesting and people don't know these things because it's not taught, and why would you happen to know the minutia of the construction of 18th century breeches? So it's quite fun to be able to make something and show people and answer all these interesting questions.


Guy Windsor: Excellent. Okay. And when that comes out, send us the link and we'll stick them in the show notes.


Zack Pinsent: So seeing as you are a big fan, obviously, of historical fencing and everything, from my perspective, do you have many originals?


Guy Windsor: I only have a couple. I have a sort of 1815 Sabre. I’ll grab them. For me swords are things to be used, not hung on the wall. So I have this pioneer’s sword from 1815, but it handles a lot like a smaller 1796 pattern light cavalry sabre. I do have a 1796 pattern light cavalry sabre with its scabbard, but it is in really poor condition.


Zack Pinsent: Oh, bless them.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, somebody probably left it in the rain or something many, many, many years ago. And it's basically black, but it actually handles okay. But I don’t like to use it too much because you're going to destroy the handle.


Zack Pinsent: The weight of the blade and things are fantastic and they're so springy and light that there really isn't any, any modern ones I've come across that have been able to sort of reproduce that.


Guy Windsor: The modern reproductions, they tend to be rather dead in the hand. Whereas the originals, they sing to you and I have a smallsword that I got for giving individual lessons, so I have a blue rubber point on the end that comes off when I want to literally make a point. But yeah, the smallsword with its sort of triangular section blade is so... the thing I think everyone gets wrong about smallswords is they're not fencing weapons. It's much closer to a knife fight. It's very fast. And you're trying to shove a spike six inches into somebody's chest.


Zack Pinsent: Yes. Yes.


Guy Windsor: And so it should be fought a lot closer than it’s fenced at. And yeah, there's something about picking up one of these. It unleashes the inner psychopath. So you have you have historical originals too, I take it?


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, well, because I don't use them. So I've got a couple of court swords and things. I've got a really lovely early 19th century. Well, I mean, it could even be 1780s. It’s hard to tell. They don't exactly date them. And the thing with court swords is that there are distinct changes, but they're over such a long period of time and it's got a lovely white scabbard and the cut steel is gorgeous and it's a pure dress sword. So it's blunt, but the tip is like a needle. It really is.


Guy Windsor: All smallswords have blunt edges. They're not designed to have any cutting capacity at all.


Zack Pinsent: So I thought that maybe towards the end they did have a little bit of an edge going on. But it's always just at the end.


Guy Windsor: This one I’m holding here is absolutely a murder spike. And there's no question that it's made for use. It's not particularly decorative at all. But yes, it has no edges to speak of. So your sword with a sharp point. That's a sharp point for going through all that very fine tailoring and into the meat underneath.


Zack Pinsent: And it's just so thin and it's so springy and it's just wonderful. I really, really love it. But it is like a sewing needle in terms of its sharpness. And I'm thinking, oh, wow, this is actually a usable thing because that's the point of having the court sword as well. Effectively yes, you may be wearing silks and all that jazz, but you are in effect, if push came to shove, you are there to protect the monarch. But also, Your Honour, if it came to it, you have to unsheathe that sword and use it.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. Although I mean Godfrey famously described the broadsword, i.e. sabre, as the call of duty and the smallsword as the call of honour. So yeah, I'm not sure that the reason courtiers were allowed to wear swords had too much to do with protecting the monarch.


Zack Pinsent: No, no, no. It sort of comes from the notion of orders of chivalry and fashion and dress. But it is also that notion of if push came to shove, you were kind of expected to be able to use it. And I think most people would be able to or at least draw it, but there would be officers and guards enough so it's not too much of a problem. It's more a ceremonial expectation to use it than truly expecting people to use it.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, and like, how many owners of Ferraris can really drive?


Zack Pinsent: Oh, exactly. Exactly. No, no, no. Completely, completely. It's like, how many owners of vastly expensive paintings actually understand it? You know, it's the same sort of process.


Guy Windsor: Okay, so there are a couple of questions that I ask all of my guests. And the first of which is, what is the best idea you haven't acted on yet?


Zack Pinsent: Oh, gosh, that's almost vaguely depressing. I don't know. Best idea I haven't acted on yet. Well, I think one I am actually acting on is the Brighton Ball Pavilion, because that's been something I've been wanting to do for years and years. And now they are trusting me to do it. That's exciting. Gosh. Um. Biggest idea that I've never acted upon.


Guy Windsor: Well, I mean, quite a lot of my guests, because they're the sort of people to act on their ideas, which is how I came to notice them, which is how they ended up on the show. Quite a few people say, well, actually, I just act on all of my ideas so I don't have one. So that's a perfectly legitimate answer.


Zack Pinsent: There is a bit of that.


Guy Windsor: Is there a book in there somewhere, like Zack’s Guide to 18th Century Tailoring?


Zack Pinsent: I think that could be in the future. And it's something I may or may not be talking with some people about. But also I still feel that I'm too much in the learning stage about what I do. I still feel that, yes, I've got knowledge, but I don't have enough to really pass it on just yet.


Guy Windsor: I have a thought for you.


Zack Pinsent: Oh, yeah.


Guy Windsor: I have a thought for you. Okay. A book doesn't have to be the book. And if there is an 80 page summary of interesting sewing techniques or how to fit a pair of breeches or something according to your current level of knowledge, that would be useful for someone who is trying to make their own, for example, Regency clothing. Then that would be a good thing to do for them. And then maybe in 20 years’ time when you've got ten of these things out and have learned much more and have updated them as let's say you come to some breakthrough about breeches in a couple of years’ time after your breeches booklet had come out, then you just update it and let everyone know there's a second edition and they all get excited to go off and buy that one as well. And then in 20 years’ time you compile all of these things together and you suddenly find that you have the definitive tome on Regency Dress.


Zack Pinsent: I think that's a fair point. Yeah. Interesting. Something to think about. Gosh, where’s the time?


Guy Windsor: Yeah. I mean, there is that. But then you do a lot on YouTube where you do like video tutorials and things of how you're making things.


Zack Pinsent: Sure. And I'll be doing a lot more on YouTube because at the moment, like I've gone through periods where I just haven't done much and it is a whole other job. The thing is, I'm busy making stuff the whole time. I can't always be editing because I'm doing several different jobs and then there is the social media side of things.


Guy Windsor: Some of the YouTube people I follow, I do not understand how they can possibly have the time to do this incredibly cool technical thing they're doing something about woodwork or watchmaking or whatever, whatever other one of my interests I'm watching them for. And then they have the time to produce this beautifully edited, beautiful video as well. I'm like, how?


Zack Pinsent: So there seems to be a growing market, and I've been approached as well, to get editors in to do it for you.


Guy Windsor: Sure.


Zack Pinsent: And I'm like, well, I could do that, but I'm not really making enough to really warrant that. And I still want it to have sort of my own flavour and stamp on it.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, and editors need to get paid. And they're not cheap if they're any good.


Zack Pinsent: Well exactly. Well I mean actually, it's possibly not as expensive as you might think because people do it via piecework and stuff. And the thing is that there’s so many of them wanting to do things for YouTube as well, and YouTube ends up paying quite well if your videos do well. So it's an interesting well, it's an interesting… which then leads me on to a phrase that I have a bone of contention with, a double edged sword.


Guy Windsor: Well, God, yes.


Zack Pinsent: Because aren’t they if they have one edge, they have two edges?


Guy Windsor: Yes. And even a single edged sword has a back edge, even though it's blunt and you use it for like beating swords away and it’s still useful.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Generally with the same things you know the top sort of few inches on the other side is also sharp. So it's like, yeah, it's like a double edged sword. Oh, you mean a sword? Is that what you mean?


Guy Windsor: And the back edge isn't bad for you. It's not like a double edged sword is good, but it's also bad. But no, a double edged sword is good, entirely.


Zack Pinsent: So it's a double edged sword. You mean, it's a sword.


Guy Windsor: Yes. He was sleeping like a baby.


Zack Pinsent: You mean up every few hours?


Guy Windsor: Yeah. Every few hours of screaming for milk and having shat his pants.


Zack Pinsent: What a terrible sleep that was.


Guy Windsor: Yes, all right. So anyway, so double edged sword. YouTube editing.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it's something I need to do more of and I am getting a lot quicker than I was at it, but I just need to focus on it and basically I just need to build it into my schedule where I'm very much I’ll go into the workshop to work on something and if I get into the zone, I'll be working on something until too late at night. And then I'm like, oh, damn, I don't have this YouTube thing.


Guy Windsor: Here's a thought. People will pay significant amounts of money for video tutorial courses.


Zack Pinsent: I don’t think I’m there yet.


Guy Windsor: Just because the information is available for free on YouTube doesn't mean people won't pay for it to be packaged in an organised way and delivered as a course.


Zack Pinsent: True. I mean, I have got a Patreon, so I'm also doing a bit of that. But you know, I’ll be posting more sort of behind the scenes things and little tidbits I find, especially with this new project I'm doing for May, which is going to be quite exciting: remaking a uniform which hasn't really been remade and people don't seem to remake it and it's interesting. And then working with some other people about stuff, you know, because I'm not sure how much I can say about these things, but it's all a lot of very cool things to look forward to, which is fun.


Guy Windsor: So, I mean, just as someone who would be interested, I am not going to trawl through YouTube looking for solutions when I could have them pre-packaged and sold to me as a complete package. So it's just a thought. And I make about half of my income from online courses and then most of the other half comes from books. So as an ex cabinetmaker who understands the problem of being paid for each piece that you make, I am very much in favour of generating passive streams of income, or should we say also scalable products, things that you can make once and sell many times, which you simply can't do with a waistcoat?


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you can do it with shirts, but there are shirt tutorials out there. But it'd be interesting. I mean, you could do it with waistcoats in a way, you know, sort of do it to some standard sizes.


Guy Windsor: What I mean is you make one waistcoat and then you can sell that same waistcoat a thousand times. You can't do that with a physical object.


Zack Pinsent: No, no, no, no.


Guy Windsor: But with a book, you write it once. And even if you sell a hundred million of them, you don't actually have to make another book at any point during that process.


Zack Pinsent: That's a good point.


Guy Windsor: It’s scalable. I don't mean copying, but I mean scaleable. You produce it once and it could be reproduced through technological means. You don't have to have any direct influence, over and over again. And actually, designs would work like that. So if you have a pattern book, for example.


Zack Pinsent: Yes, that's true.


Guy Windsor: You design the pattern and then you sell the patterns. So that's one way of doing scalable income.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, well, the thing is, you don't really use patterns in historical clothing, you use drafting, and it's a sort of modern fallacy where, oh, where did you get your pattern for this? It's like, no, no, no, it's not a pattern you buy, it's a pattern you have to draft. And part of it’s from drafting that part of it is from the rock of the eye, which is really unhelpful as well. But I am actually producing a waistcoat pattern, which is from an original waistcoat that I've got, and I'm scaling it up and down with then notes on how to fit it on yourself and that sort of thing. This has hit a lot of hurdles, but hopefully it'll be something I’ll be able to put out in the next couple of months, or maybe slightly later, because I was meant to get it done for sort of Christmas time. And then I had problems with the printers and then it was the thing of, oh, well, actually I need to now go back and tweak this for people above a certain chest size. So it's been more work than I really ever intended it or thought it would ever be.


Guy Windsor: That is so often the case with anything to do with publishing.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, it's exactly that, but could be worse.


Guy Windsor: Okay, so my last question is, somebody gives you $1,000,000 or probably guineas in your case, to spend improving historical martial arts or historical tailoring worldwide. How would you spend it?


Zack Pinsent: Oh, to start off with, I think it would be making people fit things properly. Breeches, especially. You just make them tighter. Just make them tighter, make them actually fit your legs.


Guy Windsor: How would you do that?


Zack Pinsent: Oh, some form of martial law.


Guy Windsor: Sumptuary laws.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just bring in sumptuary laws again. No, I suppose in the world of historical tailoring and whatnot, you're dealing with modern men who are used to the modern way of being. And you've got to take your mindset out of your modern caveman brain and go to the enlightened part of the Enlightenment and actually realise that a lot of your quibbles about colour, fit, things like that, that's all sort of born out of Victorian repression and nothing that was actually really a problem. So go along and wear bright embroidered yellow suits with pink flowers. It just shows you're a wealthy gentleman of taste. You know, men seem to be terrified of colour and things like that. But I think it would be making it less of a burden on people, having better access to people creating better things or having it made better. I don’t know exactly what I do, but maybe start like a foundation for research or something like that, you know? Let's look at and restore period pieces. Let's have a course going on historical tailoring where you don't worry about, oh, where's my other money coming from or anything. You can just solely focus on research and work on historical pieces like that. That would be amazing.


Guy Windsor: Okay, and maybe a public education campaign about how breeches ought to fit and how padded shoulders shouldn't be a thing.


Zack Pinsent: Totally, totally. And also telling bits of history which just aren't taught in schools. That's always quite interesting. And telling people about fashion history. And fashion history isn't just about clothes, it's about people. Fashion history is social history, and social history is the story of who we are. And it's fascinating that history isn't looked at more in a fashion sense because that really tells you a lot about people, especially historically when they had to have everything specifically ordered and specifically made for them. So you have an idea of who someone could be by the clothes that they wore rather than now, the choice is made for you by someone else. You just pick it from a rack. You're given a lot of choice, but really you're using someone else's colour palette. You're using someone else's resources to dress yourself as opposed to going in somewhere and going, oh, I like that fabric and I like this. Can we make this out of it? People aren't used to being actually able to choose things. People are used to the illusion of choice.


Guy Windsor: Yeah, it's like the difference between being able to program and having to use other people's programming solutions to solve problems you may encounter. I'm the same with wood and furniture. Like if I want a cabinet in my study, well, I could go online and find some shitty piece of MDF thing that would more or less fit the space or I can make it just the way I like. And make it to fit precisely the space and with exactly the depth of drawers and the kind of drawers and the cupboards and all that. It could just be exactly how I want it to be. Of course, you must know this as a craftsman, nothing ever turns out quite exactly the way you want it.


Zack Pinsent: Yeah. So there is always that whole thing of you can be very pleased or something and go wow, that's great. Oh, good, I'm glad you like it, because I don't like how that went. This was a nightmare. And it happens with each and everything, and I think that must still happen in modern tailoring, and in even the highest of crafts. I think the only place it doesn't happen is probably the Rolls-Royce factory.


Guy Windsor: I bet it does. I bet it does, because I think that's pretty much the definition of craftsmanship. Dissatisfaction in the outcome, right? I have friends who are world class in making swords or shoes or whatever else, and they produce something that is a flawless masterpiece in every respect. And everyone who cares about this particular kind of object looks at it and pretty much genuflects in its presence. And they go, yeah, well, but it doesn't quite…. And it is like that it is that dissatisfaction in the outcome that allowed you to develop to the point where you could make this flawless thing of gorgeousness. But because you have that thing that allows you to get that good, that you could make stuff of that quality, all you can see is the flaws. Because as your skill develops, so does your ability to see mistakes.


Zack Pinsent: That's true. And it's often the case where people with the smallest amount of information think they are more experts in a field. The more you know, the less you think you know, which is kind of what's possibly putting me off doing anything. I'm like, oh, I don't know enough. And people are going, I had no idea that buttonholes looked like that. But I think actually doing a whole YouTube series and then sort of compiling it into a course or something would potentially be a good thing. This is how you sew on a button, that's how you make one of these buttons. This is how you sew a buttonhole, the whole sort of thing. And just so people that are intimidated by the concept of going, oh my God, a suit, it's such a big thing. Okay, let's start small. Let's start with the basics stiches you need. You need a running back stitch. I mean, pretty much you can put a whole outfit together nearly with just a form of running back stitch.


Guy Windsor: And the running back stitch is the only stitch I can do. But in my house when my children rip their clothes or whatever, it is me that sews them up.


Zack Pinsent: Fantastic. That's good. Repair is something which people don't do anymore. But then again, things aren't invested enough or of a high enough quality, generally speaking, because they've been bought for cheap anyway, they're not worth repairing.


Guy Windsor: Right. If it’s going to cost you ten quid to get it stitched up, or five quid to buy a new one, what do you do?


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. And I think buy once, buy well and don't buy anything that you're not able to or wouldn't be able to repair as in if you buy something and it's like oh it's not good enough to repair it then don't buy it.


Guy Windsor: Right. That's how I am about furniture, certainly.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Exactly.


Guy Windsor: And swords too. Although when swords break, they are normally not worth fixing.


Zack Pinsent: That's true. Well you do sometimes see swords from the past turned into daggers.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. And you see forged welded repairs on a broken blade quite often. Where the blade has snapped somewhere around the middle and they just overlap a bit and hammer it back together.


Zack Pinsent: An they go, that’ll do.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. And it will. It's just a few inches shorter than it was before.


Zack Pinsent: Exactly. Yeah. And then you have some guy trying to sell it that it’s especially made for a short guy so. Uh huh, sure thing.


Guy Windsor: Yeah. No, definitely not. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today, Zack. It's been lovely to meet you.


Zack Pinsent: Not at all. An absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.


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