Guitar Aficionado

Def Leppard's Phil Collen Suits Up


By Richard Bienstock | Photography by Pamela Littky
Originally published as “Suit to Thrill” in Guitar Aficionado, Fall 2009 Issue

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Def Leppard lead guitarist Phil Collen models the newest suits by timeless designers Dolce & Gabbana, Zegna, Ralph Lauren, and others.

Though his band’s sartorial tastes at one time ran towards Union Jack–emblazoned tank tops and short shorts, Def Leppard’s Phil Collen is, in fact, quite the fashionable man—these days, at least. “Back then, we wore whatever we’d pick up at [London flea market] Camden Lock or could borrow from our girlfriends,” the 52-year-old British guitarist says of his band’s Eighties style. “Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a label whore, but I’ve got so many clothes, I’m as bad as any woman!”

Collen states a preference for sleek, tailored fits, as well as designers who exhibit a rock and roll flair. “I have tons of Dolce & Gabbana in my closet,” he says, “and I also really like John Varvatos. After that, it’s all the usual suspects—Gucci and Versace, and also Prada, though I think they’re very much a European thing and a bit more conservative.”

He has a similarly discerning eye when it comes to guitars. From his black, three-pickup Ibanez Destroyer—the model he made famous in Def Leppard videos like “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages”—to his 1954 Gibson ES-175 to his signature Jackson PC1, Collen’s instruments are defined as much by their tone as by their by bold lines and striking designs.

In addition to these instruments, Collen brought to this shoot several other selections from his 150-plus guitar collection, including the mid-Eighties “cracklejack” Jackson he used to record “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” a refurbished blond 1977 Fender Telecaster, and a prototype of the PC Supreme, the next iteration of his signature model. “I wanted something that felt and sounded like my PC1 but had the look of a classic archtop,” he says of the new guitar, which is set to be unveiled next year.

Collen, who is currently working on an album with Man Raze, a side project that also features Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, reports that Def Leppard will reconvene to record a new album in 2011. “And then we'll tour for pretty much the rest of the year,” he says.

As for what he’ll be wearing onstage for those shows, the guitarist, who has over the past several years transformed his body through a strict diet and exercise regimen, laughs. “Anyone who has seen me play recently knows I’ve been wearing less and less at gigs,” he admits. “So probably just a pair of pants.”