Q&A with Cathal aka Carl aka @calgeary on Instagram

According to a quick Google search, less than 2% of the world’s population. That makes it the most uncommon hair colour.

A scientifically questionable blog post from Cosmopolitan also lists some of the common ‘facts’ about redheads, like how climate change is a bigger threat to us redheads? It is true, though, that we get sunburns more easily.

One of the redheaded Blue Bloods I’ve come to know through Instagram is Carl, who also goes by @calgeary. Here’s his story.

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What’s your story

Name: Cathal Geary

Birth Year: 1983

Location: Freiburg, Germany

Profession: Administration in a cold-room construction company

I grew up in Cork, in the south of Ireland. Eight years ago, I decided to uproot and move to Germany, having visited once a few months previous to that. It’s been a hell of a journey;  learning the language, meeting new people and doing all sorts of jobs to jump-start my life here. A lot of stuff you don’t learn about in school! ?

Music and books have been a massive influence on me since my early teenage years. I was always an avid reader and songwriter. Sadly, I find I don’t do much of either anymore, but I am constantly threatening to!

My wife and I live in an apartment in Freiburg, in the southwest of Germany. It’s a nice but small city, @fort_box_ knows it well, he grew up not far from here. There are quite a lot of denimheads in Germany, now that I think about it.

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How Carl Runs His Instagram Feed

Thomas: How did it all start with your Instagram feed?

C: I started lurking around Instagram a few years ago but really only focused my feed on denim and boots in the Spring of last year. Previously, I had used it to browse tattoo, travel and interior decor blogs, but now I use a more “personal” account for that stuff.

I also always wanted to get into photography, so this feed was a way of combining that with the denim and boots thing. In the early days, I used the camera on an old crappy phone (it was awful), but have since upgraded to a Nikon DSLR, much to the relief of everyone viewing my feed. Occasionally, I’ll use my iPhone too.

T: Why Instagram? What are your goals?

C: There aren’t any concrete goals, so to speak, besides wanting to deliver better images of boots and denim as they get better with age. That’s what I look to contribute.

Being part of the denim discussion and community is fantastic and I’m always learning. I’ve gotten to know so many great people in this short time. I’m also finding out about makers and brands I would otherwise never have known about.

T: How much time do you spend on Instagram on a daily basis?

C: I’d estimate a couple of hours. Between posting, chatting and browsing, the time gets eaten up quite quickly!

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T: How do you take your photos?

C: Some of the indoor shots I take myself, sometimes with a timer or remote. But I prefer to do the photo shootings outside, in the nearby streets when it’s quiet, although that requires the motivation to leave the sofa and the assistance of my very dedicated wife. I would never manage it on my own, so when it comes to taking photos it really is teamwork ?

I like to incorporate nice backgrounds or scenes into the shots too if they help set a mood or give an impression of my surroundings. It was a lot of fun in Japan and Seoul, for example, taking shots in the streets there. When you’re abroad, you’re less self-conscious about being photographed anyway.

T: Which tools do you use?

C: About three months ago, I upgraded from a Nikon Coolpix camera to a D7200, and just recently purchased a 35mm f1.8 lens to use with that.  The difference it makes is incredible, but you have to learn how to use it too.

For editing, I use Lightroom, both on my laptop and phone. Every now and then, I’ll use VSCO too, but that’s a rare occasion. Usually, I’ll upload the photos from my camera to the laptop, sort through the ones I want to keep, and then import them into Lightroom. That way, I have access when I’m on the go and can edit on my phone.

T: What’s your editorial flow?

C: Ideas come from everywhere really (and some days they don’t come at all). More often than not, I get inspired by the gear itself and its character and features. Or maybe a particular setting or even a vibe I have in mind too. It might be other Instagrammers, scenes from a movie, or photos from a magazine.

Nowadays, I pay more attention to things when I’m walking around. Maybe that all sounds a bit pretentious, but that’s how it happens.  When I develop an interest in something I tend to go all in, and the creative process is the most enjoyable part.

In summer, with the long evenings, we have a lot more time for photos, as well as on the weekends. I’m already dreading the 4 pm darkness in winter ?

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T: Do you make it a priority to post on a regular schedule?

C: I rarely post seven days a week, but more often than not I’ll manage five days. Usually, I post during my lunch break at work. I figured lunch time is convenient because it’s early morning time in the US (at least on the East coast) and evening time in Asia, so you’re pretty well covered in terms of online users. But early morning time is good too.

T: What are your favourite locations to take photos? And why?

C: I love shooting on a long, empty street. It’s easier to get that shallow depth of field, which really puts the outfit in the foreground. Plus, it always reminds me of that scene from 28 Days Later with Cillian Murphy, I love that scene.

Recently, we did some photos in an underground car park. It was a last-minute idea after doing shots outside and we were about to head home. But they worked out better than the others!

There are a lot of locations I’d love to shoot in, like a desert or somewhere completely remote.

T: Do you repost?

C: No, I’ve never reposted. There are a few others doing that, so I don’t think it’s necessary for me do it too, especially considering they are much bigger accounts.

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Carl’s Denim Style and Preferences

T: How did you get into raw denim?

C: Through boots, initially, but my first pair of raw denim jeans was a pair of Nudie Lean Deans. I guess that was over three years ago now. Years before, I had read about their raw denim philosophy on their site and I found it fascinating. So when I got the chance to try them on, I took it.

After signing up for Instagram, I slowly discovered there was a very active denim scene on there. Instagram suggested users to follow and my interest grew from there.

I remember being astounded at the prices of selvedge denim initially. It took a while to swallow that pill. But when you understand the craft and standard of work involved you appreciate it a lot more.

I came back from holidays a couple of months ago with two pairs of Japanese denim, Momotaro and Pure Blue Japan, and I think it may be a long time before I buy a non-Japanese brand of denim again. They are simply outstanding in quality and workmanship.

T: What is your favourite feature of jeans?

C: My starting point for picking out new denim is the weight, usually. Am I looking for a pair for summer? Or winter?

Then, the first feature I check out is the fabric. It’s one of the main selling points really, and it’s definitely one of the most important factors when buying raw denim.

I also love the hardware details on my Pure Blue Japans, the lasso stitching detail on my Rogue Territory SKs, and the gold selvedge ID on my Naked & Famous Chinese New Year jeans, to name a few.

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T: How do you wash your denim?

C: It’s usually two soaks and after that a no-spin cycle in the machine. The first soak usually comes around the seven or eight-month mark, depending on the amount of wear and the state of the jeans. I’m not overly precious about waiting to soak or wash the denim, to be honest.

T: What’s your favourite fit? And what’s your least favourite fit?

C: I go through phases, to be honest. I used to like a very slim, almost tight, tapered fit, but I’m moving away from that slowly. I think it works well for black denim, and it works very well if you’re slim,

I’m not particularly tall or skinny, so I try to keep the fit flattering—not loose but not figure-hugging either. I’m starting to feel a more slightly relaxed fit with a taper works better for me now. My next pair will probably be more of a classic fit.

I really dislike the bootcut fit, but 15-year-old Cathal loved it ?

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T: Which boots and leather goods do you wear with your denim?

C: So far, it’s been strictly Red Wing boots. That was the entry into the whole denim and boots world for me. I fell in love with Iron Rangers. They were my dream boot, but as with selvedge denim, it took a while to get my head around the price.

Now I own 5 pairs. I’m happy with those though and I’m not sure I’ll be buying any more for a long time. I’ve also run out of excuses to justify the purchases to my wife, to be honest (suggestions are welcome).

Other leather goods of mine include an indigo dipped veg tan wallet by the amazing Pigeon Tree Crafting. Isaac also makes amazing belts, which reminds me, I need to order mine now that he’s open for business again.

I also have a leather bracelet from Aegis Handcraft, which I love.

Suggested reading: Jess Murray of Aegis Handcraft of on my list of must-follow ladies in denim on Instagram. Read that post here.

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T: Which sneakers do you wear?

C: It’s a very rare occasion I wear sneakers. But I do own a pair of black 70s Chucks. I’ve been admiring some Vans lately too, so who knows.

T: Favourite item that’s not denim or leather?

C: I have to confess, I’m slightly obsessed with Chup socks. I love those designs and colours; they provide a nice contrast to all the denim I wear.

Also, my Momotaro herringbone work shirt falls into this category, so I have to mention that too. It feels amazing and is probably the best shirt I own.

T: Where do you buy your gear?

C: Online, although I do prefer visiting brick and mortar stores like Stuf|f Fine Goods in Düsseldorf, or B74 Selected Goods in Frankfurt. I hope to visit the Clobber Calm store in Sheffield one day too. Cultizm is obviously one of the most well-known and reliable online stores, but there are so many really.

T: What styling tips would you give to your followers?

C: It’s not much of a style tip, but I have learned one thing: It’s worth saving up and get that holy grail jacket or a pair of boots you’ve been yearning for instead of buying less expensive alternatives. Unless you have immense willpower.

I’ve made this mistake once or twice in the past and always ended up still wanting the original. Other than that, just do lots of research into brands, what they do well and their history. Pay attention to comfort and fit and have fun with it. It’s not life or death.


Thomas founded Denimhunters in 2011 and built it into a voice for the denim industry and community. Today, he helps companies grow and gain market shares using his STORY/SELLING BLUEPRINT.

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