Sammo: The Introduction

Sam Shuter Sammo  I discovered Sam Shuter the way most people are discovered today, the internet. She’s not your typical menswear enthusiast. She’s not running a blog dedicated to street style or snapping photographs at  shows throughout the world. She has never mentioned “double monks” or “sprezzatura” in any of her conversations. Sam has not joined Instagram to snap a picture from her neck down of “WIWT” (aka What I Wore Today). In fact, she is doing something that most of us have never seen in the menswear community. She’s painting, using what she sees in men’s jackets/suiting and transferring it onto a blank canvas. There’s a simplistic & elegant manner in which she presents her true passion through her artwork. Inspired by symmetrical lines and vibrant colors, Sam has been painting for most of her life. Her artwork has been given the nickname, “Sammo“. I contacted her within minutes of browsing through her collection and received word that she was interested in sitting down with A&H Magazine to discuss her work, life, and everything in between.

There’s this electric and vibrant attitude I got from her voice on the phone. The first thing I noticed on her website was, “80’s Baby. Born in Montreal. Lives and works in Toronto. Paints, everywhere.” I  honestly wanted to meet her at some hole-in-the-wall pub with a glass of scotch (Rolling Stones in the background, dimmed lighting, et cetera). Well, that wasn’t going to happen since I am in Cincinnati and she is in Sarasota, FL (and flights are ridiculously expensive). So, next best thing was a phone interview (although I must admit, the phone is a terrible way of connecting with a person). We chatted for about an hour or so, discussing everything from music to art to her future aspirations as an artist. What I found intriguing was where her initial fascination with men’s suiting and jackets came from. “I used to watch my dad wear blazers all the time. I thought it looked very proper and masculine,” Sam added (finally, a woman who appreciates a man in a jacket).  She spent most of her elementary years doodling on any piece of paper she could get her hands on. “The lines of the jacket are what fascinate me the most. Looking at a jacket from Tom Ford–his lines and the way his lapels sit are truly beautiful.” (I’m thinking a collaboration with Ford sometime soon?) She dabbled post high school in theater production and cinematography, but soon learned that she had difficulty finding her place in the field. She hopped around, working with production companies within their budget and casting departments. Art had always been a hobby of hers and she finally decided that it was what she wanted to truly pursue in life.

The first thing we discussed was her growing popularity in the fashion community. She’s shocked, humble as can be, and a bit unaware of the fact that she has such a great deal of notoriety (Ralph Lauren’s site just posted her work). I think that’s what I most admire about Sam: Her appreciation for what we do as writers and journalists mixed with a blend of humbleness for the art she creates. Sure, she’s promoting her work, but at the same time she is continuing to disconnect from the masses and concentrate on art. I find that most are looking for that “instantaneous over-night celebrity status,” which Sam could honestly give a damn about. She genuinely wants to create. There is no “box” in which she must think outside of. To Sam, there is no such thing as a box.

The colors you use in your paintings are loud, bright, and honestly eclectic. What decision  process is there when identifying what colors you want to use in your work?

SS: That’s a neat question.  Choosing colors is a pretty detailed process for me–I like balance, but I want to be entertained, too. If there are a lot of bright colors, I like to  make the point of focus darker, or vice versa.  I find I am attracted to color-balance, if that makes sense? I’ve never had to put these feelings into words…but I don’t like things if they’re too bright or too dark.  There needs to be the “perfect” amount of “busy” if you can understand. The same goes for my line-work; I will paint over it if I find it too detailed, or if I feel it distracts you from the rest of the piece. I don’t want anyone to be pulled too much in one direction. A mix of primaries, pastels, and Earthy tones would be ideal. Haha.
Sam Sammo Shuter artwork,art,menswear
Mainstream American men have lost touch with the importance of a well-fitted blazer. Why do you think this is?
SS: I think our generation grew up alongside a heavy hip hop culture…where “bigger is better.” Throughout the 80’s all kinds of extra fabric was being used; shoulder pads were “it” and MC Hammer pants were “in.”  Not to mention Grunge music, ripped T’s, and baggy jeans. The whole, “I don’t care” vibe was catching on. The last decade has been the laziest ever.  I was recently told, “A man shouldn’t be able to throw a football in his suit.” That makes complete sense to me.  A woman’s dress shouldn’t be loose on her, just like a man’s suit should be appropriately tailored. Luckily, there are so many places to cater to these needs now more than ever, and for less!
I think we’re experiencing the switch now.  If you pay attention to art and fashion over the last couple of years, you’ll notice how companies are using older, iconic characters to influence today’s trends.  Like everything, a lot of it is recycled–but who cares.  They’re bringing back the gentleman! I hope.
Sam Sammo Shuter artwork,art,menswear
Who are some artists that inspire you and your work?
SS: I am such a huge fan of so many artists.  I think this year, for me, is the year of Conor Harrington and his girlfriend, Chloe Early.  I’d buy almost everything they’ve made if I could. Otherwise, I naturally gravitate toward fashion photography and music. What I am listening to can completely alter a painting.

Now, to be honest, I could continue on and supply our readers with “my take” on her art. That’s not what is meant to be done with a piece of artwork. You and I will have a completely different outlook on her work. What I take from it, you will not (and so on). I let the paintings speak for themselves. They inspire us at A&H Magazine to truly pursue our passions in life and to be constantly looking ahead. We can’t thank Sam enough for her time, passion, and true talents. Oh, and Sam, remember us when you’re collaborating with Mr. Ford.

Photography by Joel Yum



Christopher Dam

Christopher Dam is a senior writer/photographer with A&H Magazine