LOWER EAST SIDE WARRIOR
Standing at 6’1″ and 200 lbs, Dutch Welch is a New York City resident that you will more than likely see if you are on the Lower East Side – primarily on Orchard Street, a block that features eclectic shops like The Great Frog and The Cast. Dutch has heavily tanned skin and a very muscular frame, with a large percentage of his body filled with extraordinary colorful tattoos. He is quite the dominant force, strolling up and down the busy street, while onlookers do a double-take or stay clear of his immediate pathway. And for good reason; his appearance can be quite intimidating. But getting to know Dutch, we found that underneath that extremely tough exterior, he is quite kind and well-liked in the neighborhood, a local colorful character. One immediately feels as though they are in a bizarre movie or TV show when hanging out with him. So it’s only natural that, as of late, he has been focusing on an acting career. We loved shooting and styling Dutch, collaborating our clothing looks with some of his own designer/vintage pieces. And we hope to see more of him on screens everywhere in the future! Photography/menswear stylist Alexander Thompson. Photographed in New York City. https://www.instagram.com/tommy_2_wolves/
PONYBOY: Dutch – Where were you born? What was your upbringing like?
DUTCH WELCH: I was born in Batavia, New York. My upbringing was rough…a warzone at best. My mother was a heroin addict, a malignant narcissist. And my father was a biker. So basically, there really was no childhood. I always had problems socially connecting. I felt alien and never really felt a part of anything. That is until I found punk rock. But even there it was kind of the same issue. I spent most of my adult life trying to figure out my childhood. And all the traumas that came with it.
I spent a lot of time in and out of varying institutions as a child – from placement homes to mental hospitals to Department of Corrections juvenile facilities. By that time, everybody had given up on me. I ended up getting away from all of that when I was 14 years old. I’ve been on my own ever since.
PONYBOY: You’ve also battled personal addictions. Tell us about your journey and how you became sober.
DUTCH WELCH: I fell into a nightmare at a very young age. As I said, drugs were always a part of my life. The relationship with them has always been there. Whether it was my mother overdosing on heroin in front of me when I was seven years old, or just people doing cocaine or shooting dope in front of me as a kid. I thought somehow drugs were something that adults just did. And there was some sort of respect or camaraderie with it, primarily because my parents had held drugs in such high regard, even over us kids. So when I got the opportunity to try heroin, I understood what all the fuss was about. I remember walking down Market Street in San Francisco with my arms around two punk rock girls, puking on myself and just thinking that I want to feel this way for the rest of my life.
I am what is known as a lifer. I had no control when it came to drugs. I could not have one day sober. 17 years ago I ended up in Austin, Texas, right after Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans. I had a firm resolution with myself that I wasn’t going to shoot any more dope. But, within 24 hours I had a needle in my arm. But something was different this time around. I couldn’t hide it anymore. The drugs just weren’t doing their job anymore – they just weren’t working. I couldn’t see my life with or without heroin.
I was staying with my friend Matt who just got diagnosed with liver failure. I watched him slowly die for four months while I sat next to him, getting high the entire time. One morning I heard his girlfriend crying and I walked into the room and he was just lying there dead. Two days later I scored some dope, split it with my girlfriend and gave a guy we were staying with the rest. Within minutes, they both dropped with organ failure; there was a bacterial infection in it. But nothing had happened to me. I ended up having to steal a car to get them to the emergency room. And they were in ICU for two weeks. At that point, I just couldn’t function anymore. I knew my number was coming up eventually. A week before somebody had given me my old friend Mike’s number and had said that he was sober. So I ended up calling him. When I saw him, there was something different about him. He looked good, had a fine car, and was dressed in nice clothing. He seemed to have a purpose, as well as peace of mind. That looked really attractive to me. He got me into a detox and rehab facility. And that was when my journey with sobriety started.
PONYBOY: How did you end up in New York City?
DUTCH WELCH: Well, as I said previously, I’m originally from New York and ended up in New York City when I was 15 years old. I was living on the Lower East Side – Alphabet City in the squatty punk rock community. New York is the only place I’ve ever felt normal.
PONYBOY: You’re an actor. Did you study acting or just fall into it?
DUTCH WELCH: No, like most things in my life, opportunities just show up. I accidentally fell into it.
PONYBOY: Your look is so terrific, and you dabble in modeling. How did you get into modeling?
DUTCH WELCH: Well, it was actually modeling that led me into acting. And like acting, somebody just saw me and asked me to model. Helmut Lang 2018 was my first runway show.
PONYBOY: We love your very unique personal style. Where do you get your inspiration to dress?
DUTCH WELCH: I grew up at a time when style was very important culturally, and at a time before the Internet was born. I was able to develop my own unique sense of style outside of the influence of any trends. So I would say my style is intuitive and transcends any trends really.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your love affair with the Gucci label?
DUTCH WELCH: I’ve always loved Gucci. There is something undeniably punk rock about Gucci, even though it’s the most expensive and sought-after brand out there. To me Gucci is art. I like mixing designer clothing with secondhand thrift store clothing. Developing your own unique style as an individual. But I think Gucci speaks loudly and speaks across the board. Anyone can wear Gucci – it’s timeless.
PONYBOY: What other designers are you a fan of?
DUTCH WELCH: Currently YSL, Fendi and Versace. But I’m also a big fan of Wrangler, Lee and LAAMS.
PONYBOY: Where do you find your vintage pieces?
DUTCH WELCH: Everywhere and anywhere. Vintage stores, Goodwills. Some of the coolest pieces I’ve found are from the most obscure places.
PONYBOY: Do you have any upcoming acting projects that you are working on?
DUTCH WELCH: I do have a couple of film projects that I’m working on. One of them is called Sold, written and directed by the talented Chris Thompson.
PONYBOY: You’ve lived such a colorful, interesting life. Do you keep a journal? It would make a terrific book or screenplay.
DUTCH WELCH: I did not journal, but I have a very good memory and I’m currently working on a show called the Dutch Files where I tell stories of my life. It gets very animated and it’s narrated by yours truly.
PONYBOY: Do you plan on staying in New York?
DUTCH WELCH: Yes, New York is home. It will always be home no matter where I go. I always pack up. However, I always end up back here on the Lower East Side.
PONYBOY: What personal goals/dreams do you aspire to in the future?
DUTCH WELCH: I plan on taking over the film world. I plan on taking over the fine art world. I plan on accomplishing anything that I put my mind to. Anything you put your mind to, just let it happen. Follow any opportunity, it will come your way. It may not always be what you thought it would be or what you even like, but you have to find out.