It winds from Chicago to LA, more than two thousand miles all the way. Route 66 was, and continues to be, an American pop culture icon that brought life to the lonely heartland of the Midwest. Artists like Bobby Troup, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode, as well as many towns along the old route, refused to let it die. After six months in the American heartland back in the ’80s, Tina and Ross Waddington brought home the Mother Road to create Route 66 store. Route 66 has been a hub for vintage clothing for 36 years—30 of them in Darlinghurst, Sydney. If you ever plan to motor West, the store has moved to larger pastures in Newtown. We caught up with Leroi Waddington, son of Tina and Ross, to talk music, moving, and how people still get their kicks at Route 66.
TEO: A few months ago, Route 66 shifted from Darlinghurst to Newtown. Tell us a bit about the move and what it’s meant for the store.
Leroi: It’s been really good actually. There’s other small businesses that’ve been popping up. A lot of family businesses on the strip. Cool cafes, a couple of cool vintage shops, couple record shops. My space is like 200 square metres now! Blessing in disguise, you know? It was a good time to leave that area [Darlinghurst]; it was worth it.
Is a website update on the horizon?
I’m actually hiring someone to do it now. Doing a bit of a rebrand on the website … at the end of the year it will be fully functional. Expect a lot of vintage jeans, vintage tees, and even some new stuff like Rolla’s and Levi’s.
Does music influence your choice of stock?
100 per cent. I think it’s the style of music [musicians] as well. Sometimes you see a musician who wears a style you think is cool, you know?
What music are you into to?
I’m into everything, I collect a lot of records. ’60s, rock ‘n’ roll, early rock, ’70s, ’80s—even new stuff.
Route 66 has a long, 30-year history, but as your ethos states, Route 66 “transcends age, status and gender.” What do you recommend to young people trying to find their own style? Beyond fast fashion?
Do what you like—whatever influences you. Wear what your favourite musicians wear, or a musician or artist or actor from a different era. Buy something to be someone, and express yourself that way.
What’s the vibe of Route 66, in a few words?
It’s soul. Rock ‘n’ roll. A bit left field. Old-time in a new world. Maybe old America with cowboys.
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Photo: Axel Gerber