Rock bands have long served as fashion tastemakers and arbiters of cool. Jam bands, not so much. But if you frequent Phish Twitter, Facebook, Phantasy Tour, or any other online Phish community—the Phish-net, if you will—then you may have noticed a recent uptick in discussions of what Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, Jon Fishman, and especially Trey Anastasio are wearing, both on stage and off. Leading the charge for that trend is F Alex Johnson, a.k.a. Phish Phashion, the would-be leading authority on what Phish wears.
Through his Twitter page, @PhishPhashion, and more recently on Instagram, too, Johnson has been cataloging the outfits of the members of Phish for about a year. With complete breakdowns and links to buy different pieces of clothing worn by the band, his page has become the go-to resource for people interested in knowing exactly what pair of cargo pants Trey wore at Jones Beach, whether Mike’s Vans were Sk8-His or Sk8-Lows, who made Page’s crazy shirt, or what color Fish’s dress is in normal lighting.
One question some fans of the band have is, why does anyone even care? A Fishman in any other dress would groove as sweet, right? Live For Live Music scheduled a late-night call with Alex, who was just getting his morning started in Kyoto, Japan, to get his perspective on the Phish Phashion phenomenon.
It’s not as if the conversation or interest around Phish’s clothes came out of nowhere. “People have always talked about the clothes,” Alex was quick to remind. “People back in the ’90s would talk about how a jam was better when Trey had the Pepe Le Pew shirt on as opposed to the Marvin the Martian shirt, or, you know—what are the other classics?—the Jah Volunteer shirt, right? Like there’s some sort of an aura about that shirt.”
— Greg Schwartz (@gregschwartz) January 14, 2022
Even in more recent years, the band’s performance attire has prompted reaction and speculation from its detail-oriented audience. Back in 2016, the Gucci floral print duke shirt Trey wore on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon prompted a cascade of amusing quips and memes on Phish message boards—so much so that Trey altered the lyrics of “Carini” to reference it later that month (“Everyone was screaming when they saw the shirt”).
Alex explained that this latest surge in interest in Trey’s onstage attire started when the guitarist began working with New York celebrity stylist Sam Spector circa 2019, prompting dramatic changes to his wardrobe and sparking conversation among fans.
“People really started taking note I think around The Beacon Jams [in 2020] because that’s kind of when [Trey] started wearing the Thom Browne, like thousand dollar crewneck sweaters and all the fancy stuff.”
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Spector, who also works with celebrity style icons like Neil Patrick Harris, the Jonas Brothers, and Bowen Yang, styled Phish for 2018’s Kasvot Vaxt Halloween set and custom-designed the costumes for the band’s New Year’s Eve show in 2019, including all 50 of the band’s clones, but it would be easy to argue that his biggest impact on Phish has been as Trey’s stylist.
“I think Trey and Sam are both having fun with it,” Alex said, “like, now that there’s this weird new angle, you know. It’s a new filter almost, like every night there’s the music, the location, the venue, the setlist, and the clothing [laughs]. It’s just a kind of neat new layer to look at.”
The t-shirts Trey donned in Phish’s early days were a far cry from the luxury linen tops and designer sneakers he has worn since teaming up with Spector, but Johnson feels the function of the clothes remains the same. “Because they are an improvisational band, the way they look translates to how they feel, and how they feel translates to the way they play. It all goes from the outer layer to the inner layer back out again to what they’re doing.”
“So, for example, I saw a couple of looks back and forth when Page and Mike had the same shirt on [at Alpine Valley]. They were looking at each other like, ‘This is pretty funny.’ [laughs] So, it’s just like a little bit of humor added, right? So maybe that night, those jams are a little more lighthearted or whatever.”
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) August 13, 2022
Before Trey upgraded his wardrobe, Mike was the clear standout in the band as far as style was concerned (except perhaps for the drummer in the dress, but we’ll get to him). He was featured in a 2014 Esquire profile about his newfound fashion sense, and there was even a “Couture of Mike G” Twitter page long before Phish Phashion existed, though it hasn’t posted since 2015.
“Mike’s an accessorizer,” Alex explained. “If you could say one thing about Mike, it’s that he’s the one guy where there’ll be something extra. He is just extra. He went with the pocket square for a couple of shows, he’s got that dream catcher necklace, the squash blossom necklace, he’s got that monocle thing. He’s definitely got that accessorizing thing that no one else in the band does.”
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Mike was also a bit of sneakerhead before it was cool: “Trey posted a picture from when Bella [Anastasio] was a baby, and Page has her on his lap, and in the picture, Mike’s hightops are prominently displayed and he’s like, ‘Mike already doing his sneaker thing,’ [laughs] so everyone’s aware that the fashion thing is a thing.”
Trey’s not the only one tripping out tonight. Check the Nike X Ambush kicks on Gordo in “Active Fuchsia.”
🙏🏼 to @joejoejobe for the shout about it.
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) August 7, 2022
Mike told Esquire that he and Trey were inspired to dress nicer after a stylist brought a large selection of John Varvatos clothes to a Phish photo shoot.
Trey and I got into Varvatos and said, “Let’s go get more stuff like this.” We’d have these shopping sprees with a stylist and other friends to help, to the point where we were wearing so much Varvatos that we were wearing the same stuff. So hence he’s wearing Rag & Bone and I’m doing G-Star, All Saints, whatever just to get away.
Those brands helped define Trey and Mike’s style throughout Phish’s 3.0 era. Mike also mentioned that he used to wear “a wig that looked like my own hair that raised my hair two inches higher,” and there was a period when he wore makeup on stage.
It was only on occasional nights and at the big venues. You know, if there are twenty-two-thousand people, it’s only the front row who can see anyway. There was mascara that was purple and I don’t even know what all the other different kinds of makeup was called. They were just globbing it on.
It doesn’t seem as though Mike has been influenced much by Sam Spector or Trey’s new taste in super high-end boutique designers. He continues to wear mostly Varvatos and G-Star with an interesting selection of Nike hightops that avoids the mainstream hype beast trends. “I think Mike kind of feels like he’s a bit Mad Max-y,” Johnson said, attempting to characterize his style. “He’s kind of got that, you know, Thunder Dome quality to him with the peak lapel jackets and the distressed denim tops and all that sort of stuff.”
According to Johnson, Mike gets at least some guidance from Phish’s creative director, Julia Mordaunt. “When I post stuff that’s incorrect, and it’s usually about Mike, she will come in with the real details and she’ll post a link,” he said.
Mordaunt once told him that the neon green Agnes B pants that Mike wore at Clifford Ball ended up at a Goodwill. “So, if you were in the Burlington Goodwill [laughs] you might have bought Mike’s pants,” he said, “which is just funny for me to think about.”
Alex described Mike as more of a collector than the other guys in the band because he wears pieces he likes many times in different contexts. “Mike just posted a picture of him in this crazy bright green work jacket and these silver gloves. And he is, like, wearing these G-Star raw stripes, these orange and silver stripe pants in the picture. So, he’s just doing yard work in his stage clothes or who knows, he might have put them on for the picture, but I don’t think so [laughs]. I think he’s just walking around in these clothes at home.”
Love that Mike wears his G-Star RAW stage pants to do work around the house.
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) August 28, 2022
Mike indicated to Esquire that he does differentiate between stage clothes and “civilian” clothes but said there is not a big difference: “Occasionally when I’m in the civilian world I’ll put on the stage stuff. It’s not radically different, but to me, I know it’s somewhat different. It’s a little bit like putting on a costume or a uniform to get in the mood.”
Trey, on the other hand, likes to keep things pretty fresh, rarely wearing the same thing twice. “I’ve seen two repeats and they freaked me out because I know he’s got clothing for each night,” Johnson said, adding that the guitarist does sometimes repeat sneakers, and he will often wear his stage clothes from the night before at soundcheck the following day. “But he doesn’t really repeat too much, so I know he’s got a robust closet. I need to see a closet pic someday, or a rundown like the gear rundowns they do.”
Both Trey and Mike show an appreciation for different kinds of fabrics, construction, and design. Trey has worn some bolder prints and show-stopping pieces like the Bode Good Luck button-embellished linen shirt he wore on New Year’s Eve 2021, but most of the time he sticks to a simple selection of classic menswear—henleys, button-down plaids, short-sleeve resort shirts, and sweaters with the occasional sport coat—weaving in nods to contemporary street style with high-end hoodies and sneakers.
Trey has a message for us all: good luck buying my clothing.
Wearing Bode, 12/31/21
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) January 1, 2022
“It’s a plain look. You can probably get that same look at TJ Maxx for a lot less money.” When it comes to fabric and construction, though, Trey and/or his stylist have refined taste. “He’s like, ‘I want garment-dyed. I want organic if possible. If it can be made in Italy, I want it made in Italy.’ … You see him with a lot of the dip dyed, garment dyed, nubby linen. He likes that worn-in, lived-in look, but with crazy skull print sneakers or those weird Wotherspoon sneakers with the threads hanging off. There’s always something that’s like, ‘Oh wow, what’s that?'”
Mike notably “never wears leather, and he tends to err on the side of recyclable, post-consumer stuff.” Some examples are the Vollebak tee he recently wore at Dick’s, which “is made from plastic bottles and other bits of trash,” and his Nike “Space Hippie” kicks, which are “made of recycled trash as well.” Alex added, “He may not wear $1,200 sweatshirts, but he does drop bank when the piece warrants it—case in point, the $650 Vollebak hoodie that’s made with Dyneema, which is 15 times stronger than steel.”
Mike, refusing not to be seen in Vollebak’s “indestructible hoodie,” made with Dyneema, which is 15 X stronger than steel.
Can your wallet withstand it? https://t.co/NtZ67ECwkW
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) September 4, 2022
As for Page, Johnson said, “I have the sense that Page buys his own clothes. I think he has his own sort of style sense.” That style includes almost exclusively short sleeve button-down shirts, most of which are affordably priced, though he does have some standouts from higher-end designers, like his Kiss shirt by Robert Graham or prints by Ted Baker.
I hope I live to see the day Page shows off what’s under the hood.
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) October 21, 2021
“I used to think that Page had his shirts made for him because I couldn’t find the same patterns anywhere. I’ve sent messages to Ben Sherman asking, ‘Can you please help me find this shirt because I can’t do it.’ And they were like, ‘Well, we don’t know. So, we’re gonna send it to our style department.’ And then they sent me a thing like, ‘Well, this is one we haven’t had for years, but it’s called so and so,’ and so I have been helped in that way by some big labels.”
That was a long time ago, though. Now, Johnson has sharpened his fashion sleuthing skills to the point where he can identify utterly generic-looking garments via the LivePhish webcast and post links to buy them before set break.
“There was a black AMI Paris hoodie that Trey wore, and people were like, ‘There’s no way you’re gonna find that hoodie.’ But I waited and I waited and there was a shot where I could see under the guitar strap, there was this little heart logo and that was it. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s AMI Paris.’ ‘Cause they’re the only ones that use that heart logo. So, that solves that mystery. I went and found it, put it up, and somebody, some dude that night, sent me a message saying, ‘My wife and I made a bet that you would not be able to find that hoodie and you did it so I had to donate a hundred dollars to Mockingbird Foundation.'”
(Big) Red rocks.
We’ve covered the beanie. Here’s the rest—the low down, the leanie
5/22/22, Red Rocks. Thanks to @jcvalentine for the crispy snap of our favorite cat burglar.
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) May 23, 2022
Of course, Jon Fishman is still the most iconic dresser in Phish, and his outfits are the easiest to identify. His original donut dress/mumuu came from a Salvation Army free bin, but he recently received a wardrobe refresh of his own from Lisa Simpson, who made a closet-full of new dresses in fresh colorways including pink with blue donuts, yellow with green donuts, and the traditional blue with red donuts.
“She has been Fish’s dress-maker for all of 3.0, since 2009. She makes all of his [stage] clothing, including the suit that he has. Mike posted a picture of Fish’s wardrobe closet, and it was fun to see that suit. It’s got these crazy birds on it with the purple lapels and the donuts. It’s like a jacket and shorts combo. I think he’s only worn it once, but it travels with him wherever he plays.”
“So, every night he looks at his wardrobe and says, ‘All right, what am I feeling like tonight?’ And he picks the color, right? I don’t know his process, but knowing that he’s got his wardrobe because Mike put that picture up, he can pick whatever he wants. So, am I feeling green and yellow? You know, am I in Wisconsin? Is it gonna be a Green Bay thing? He gets to pick the way he’s feeling.”
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) August 15, 2022
So, why follow Phish Phashion as opposed to any other band? The short answer is because that’s what people like. “My page is much more relevant during [Phish] tour and for good reason, right? That’s when the clothes come out. So, I try and keep things fresh and I try and put up things that people care about.”
Johnson has dipped his toes into covering other artists during Phish’s off-season, including Billy Strings, Dead & Company, and Goose. “But it seems like people, at least the people that follow me, don’t really care so much about that. And so as much as I’d love to do other bands … I’m kind of sticking to Phish and an occasional posting of another.”
Everyone knows Bobby is the undisputed king of the grandad collar, half-placket, roll-sleeve shirt.
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) March 28, 2022
Johnson does not earn any money through Phish Phashion. In fact, he pays for the webcasts himself, though some appreciative followers have donated in the past to help cover some of that cost. He and his wife work in Kyoto, where they moved a few years ago from their home state of Massachusetts. He saw his first Phish show at Greenfield Armory Castle in 1991 and is a life-long musician, having toured on guitar with the Drunk Stuntmen for 15 years before expatriating. He continues to create music in Japan. Check out his latest project, aptly named Colorway, here.
[Photo: Jodi – F Alex Johnson, a.k.a. Phish Phashion]