Couples who dress alike: ‘It looks like we’re from the same cult’

Do partners who dress together stay together? Five stylish pairs weigh up their wardrobes

Jimi Phgura, 38, performing artist, and Simran Dhiman-Phgura, 38, freelance stylist, Hertfordshire

Jimi I’ve always worn classic clothes – I love the fabrics and weight that old clothes have. Growing up, I was introduced to them by my older brother, whom I perform with as the Twilight Players – we dance to music from ska to Prince to Stevie Wonder, and we always wear original clothes: the two-tone brogues, the baggies. I’ve had my quiff since I was 13; Jimi the Quiff is what they call me.

When I was growing up, I used to get a lot of hassle for being into vintage stuff. As I’ve got older I’ve thought, no, it’s good to be different. And being with Simran has given me more confidence to dress that way. It makes it more exciting to have both of us wearing it, as opposed to her wearing tracksuit bottoms or something.

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I’ve been aware of us dressing similarly since we got together in 2005. When we went out, people would say, “Oh, you guys look amazing.” But it wasn’t until last year, when we decided to start selling a lot of our stuff to fund a trip to Thailand and did Portobello market, only then did I think, oh, people really dig our style. People would see us together and take photos.

I don’t really see it as couples dressing; it’s not as if we sit together and think about what we’re going to wear. Nine times out of 10, we just end up wearing something that matches or complements each other. And now that we’ve got a baby on the way, we’ve started noticing baby vintage stuff; I didn’t know that existed before.

Simran I’m a secondhand queen, I like to shop on eBay and all the apps, from Depop to Vinted. The 50s and 60s are my favourite eras, but at the moment, because I’m pregnant, I’m doing flowy 70s style to accommodate my growing bump.

We influence each other. Jimi has a great eye and I’ve got a great eye, so we do ask each other for advice. If I’m going to a wedding or something, I’ll plan my outfit. We’re of Indian descent and if I’m wearing a vintage sari, he’ll try to complement it with a vintage suit in similar colours. But we never intentionally match. It’s cute sometimes. It just depends on the mood I’m in – sometimes you don’t want to look like your husband.

The baby won’t necessarily look matching; but if I’m dressed in a classic outfit, I might dress the baby in one, too.

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Malcolm Mackenzie (in blue top), 43, editor of We Love Pop magazine, and Matthew Wilkinson, 35, architect, London

Malcolm Mackenzie and Matthew Wilkinson

‘It looks like we’re from the same cult or boy band.’ Photograph: Harriet Turney/The Guardian

Malcolm Matt and I have been going out for 13 years, but we probably only started to dress more similarly when we moved in together eight years ago. I was more subtle before.

We’ve grown to like the same things. I like 80s-inspired stuff, from Duran Duran to Miami Vice, Buffalo. Harrison Ford as Deckard in Blade Runner is a key look, as is Kurt Russell in Overboard and Richard Gere in anything. I like clothes that evoke memories, of a holiday, for instance. We’ve got racks of amazing shirts that conjure up the Mediterranean or the Riviera, but through the prism of the 80s. It’s a fun wardrobe.

We’re not matchy-matchy – if I’m wearing a sweater with a cat and he’s wearing one with a dog, it’s a bit much

We’re not matchy-matchy – if I’m wearing a sweater with a cat on, and he’s wearing a sweater with a dog, then it’s a bit much. I don’t want us to go out looking like overgrown twins or a Little Britain sketch. Sometimes I say, “We can’t both go out wearing a denim shirt”, like Britney and Justin. And I don’t want people to think, because I’m a few years older than Matt, that it’s a Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle thing, or Liberace and his chauffeur. I think it looks like we’re from the same cult or boy band: we’re not dressed identically but we do make sure that we look OK together.

We can share clothes only from the waist up – I have legs like spaghetti, he comes from a family of rugby players. We don’t share underwear for the same reason.

Matthew In the 80s, Peter York wrote a book about different tribes: one of them was Babytime, or people who like childish things. We might like a sweatshirt with Bambi on it, or primary colours. To say that we both like cute things is a bit simplistic, but we are quite silly. We’re both happy to be slightly ridiculous.

Colour-blocking is the core thing that describes how I dress. In terms of what I wear, it’s actually pretty classic. I’m not stirring up fashion madness with culottes or anything like that – it’s more about the colours and the textures.

Malcolm is probably a bit wilder than I am, more daring. He has quite a lot of zeitgeisty culture statement T-shirts. He’s got a Golden Girls one that I would never wear – not that he would ever let me. When I was a kid, I would always get my mum to buy me things – orange trousers or stupid rainbow jumpers – and then I would be too scared to wear them. Malcolm has given me the confidence to wear what I want.

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Ben Langlands, 62, and Nikki Bell, 58, both Turner-nominated artists, London and Kent

Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell

‘I wouldn’t go back and change if we were too matching.’ Photograph: Harriet Turney/The Guardian

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Ben We have been collaborating for 40 years, so I do talk about what we wear as a “we”. We’re artists, so we’re free to choose whatever we want to wear; we don’t have to meet other people’s expectations.

Work is our main priority, so we dress to be practical and comfortable. We generally wear jeans and white shirts, occasionally suits, or a jacket with jeans. We’ll wear a single-coloured shirt, like pink or blue, with jeans. Neither of us ever wears dresses – it’s always shirts and trousers.

I don’t think there’s really anything I would wear that she wouldn’t, or vice versa

I remember once, when I first got to know Nikki, we visited the parents of a childhood friend of hers and they showed us a Super 8 film of their daughter’s 12th birthday party. There were about 30 little girls in frocks and one little girl in pink flared trousers. That was Nikki.

We never attempt to match, it just happens naturally. But we’re not terribly self-conscious about it. I don’t think there’s really anything I would wear that she wouldn’t, or vice versa. It’s all quite androgynous.

Nikki My clothes are very simple to wear, wash, pack, maintain. I’ve always been a trousers person.

We met at art school in 1977 and started collaborating in 1978. When we first got together, I don’t think I was conscious of the similarities in the way we dressed. We came together through our work – a piece called The Kitchen, in two halves. I made the old kitchen and Ben the new; they were mirror images of each other.

I wouldn’t try not to match – it’s an individual decision and I wouldn’t go back and change if we were too matching. If that’s what we both wanted to wear, then that’s what we’re wearing.

Langlands & Bell’s Internet Giants: Masters of the Universe opens at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham in March 2018.

Brittany Bathgate, 27, blogger, and Dean Khalil, 32, builder/artist, Norwich

Brittany Bathgate and Dean Khalil

‘She’s a bit too small for us to share, but I have worn women’s clothes in the past.’ Photograph: Harriet Turney/The Guardian

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Brittany We were really different when we first met. Dean was into DIY clothes – he’d dye his own T-shirts, cut them up, write on them. I was massively into Alexa Chung, so my style used to be quite indie It girl – lots of blazers, brogues, peacoats with miniskirts. It was a little bit 60s – sometimes I would wear my hair in a tiny beehive.

In 2013, we went travelling and spent a year in Australia. Before we went away, we didn’t dress similarly, but something switched: after a few months of living near the beach, you give up on wearing anything nice and just live in shorts and a vest out of necessity. So by the time we came home, we had a blank slate, clothes-wise, and got to start building our wardrobes back from scratch.

Dean’s a bit more rough around the edges. His skateboard style is too dirty for me. I iron everything

We’re quite aware of our couples dressing – we do often have to ask what the other is wearing so we’re not too similar. Sometimes if we’re going out, I’ll have got dressed and Dean will be like, “Oh, I was going to wear my blue jacket.”

My style is quite clean and classic. I find it fun to play around with pairings of classic pieces with, say, some crazy, wide-legged trousers. Dean’s a bit more rough around the edges. His skateboard style is too dirty for me. I iron everything and am quite particular.

We both have a lot of stripy tops, navy jackets, the same Levi’s. I’ve always been inspired by men’s clothes, but look for a women’s version – because I’m so small I can’t really wear them.

Dean I like a lot of classic British style – labels like Fred Perry and that sort of 60s look that’s fitted but not fitted. This Is England is a good style reference.

Nine years ago, when we first met, we were both at art school and I was a bit more flamboyant. In the early days of our relationship, I used to wear these black jeggings with bleach on them. I had some big builder’s boots. Our tastes have changed, but in the same direction – we’ve grown together. Sometimes we will literally have the same outfit on.

Brittany’s a bit too small for us to share clothes, but I have worn women’s clothes in the past. I used to wear girls’ jeans – when I was younger I couldn’t get jeans tight enough.

But I also have a lot of clothes that Brittany wouldn’t wear. I have Converse that are about eight years old; once white and now brown. I love them, but Brittany won’t wear shoes once they’ve got a mark on them. Every day when the shoes come off, they are stuffed and go back in the box on the shelf. Everything gets ironed.

Joel Bird, 42, carpenter/author of The Book Of Shed, and Sara Chew, 37, graphic designer/illustrator, London

Joel Bird and Sara Chew

‘We drifted together, but not consciously – I can’t remember ever thinking, I’d like to dress like Sara.’ Photograph: Harriet Turney/The Guardian

Joel I class my style as 30s/40s. My family thinks that I dress a bit like Indiana Jones. I didn’t set out to dress like this, but I wanted functional clothes for carpentry, and the high-waisted trousers with braces are comfortable. Plus I am interested in that era – I like jazz, and dance swing and balboa.

Even at school I dressed quite unusually – I’ve always been interested in craft. As a lad in Liverpool, I always had a sewing machine, and now I do make some of my clothes. I buy dungarees from eBay or secondhand sites like Rokit and cut the tops off to make them into high-waisted jeans. I often buy old army braces because they’re stronger than fashion braces.

Sara and I have been together for 11 years and living together for nine. I think until about five years ago, Sara dressed more vintage than I did, then we kind of drifted together, but not consciously. I almost don’t like the idea of dressing the same as my partner – it’s my paranoia at the lack of independence. But it’s inevitable – you take influences from each other.

We do sometimes share clothes. Sara steals my stuff, and if I’m desperate I can wear her trousers; but it’d have to be a bad wash day.

Sara I think Joel and I have come to dress the same because we both like things that are practical and well made.

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I’m different from Joel in that I’m totally happy for us to dress the same; I’m a graphic designer and illustrator, and I like things to look right. If we go out and we look similar, to me that’s good, because we’re not clashing. I wouldn’t make us go out in matching shellsuits, though.

I’ve been wearing vintage stuff my whole life. For me it’s about the way they fit – because of the type of body I’ve got, I don’t suit a lot of modern clothes. It’s about the cut, the fabric – and the fact that they last better.

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