29 March 2012

Billy Reid & the Tallahatchie Bridge

Water Rat lined coat - What do I know

Better you than me -- That's what I know

20 years ago, I was having dinner at Bistro 110 in Chicago with an ex-college roommate who's a screenwriter and film producer. He asked what I thought of his recent film, a sequel to a movie four years earlier. I slathered baked garlic on my bread and told him I wasn't sure why he did it. He looked visibly hurt and said, "I personally made over one million dollars on that film." I replied, "What the fuck do I know."

I look at Billy Reid and feel much the same as I did all those years ago. "What the fuck do I know." Today, as it was then, not so much as a question but as a statement. Reid's press release makes much of how recent travels to London and Europe inspired this collection for F/W 2012. You can take the boy outta the South but it's hard to take the South outta the boy... as they say.

A shoe with everything on it

The expression, 'Less is more' tends to thrive best north of the Mason Dixon Line. Of course, I'm General Izing but then, I'm an Army man. The South has always like the idea of 'everything on it.' Not that I advocate the minimal black trouser/turtleneck dude living with three pieces of Danish furniture in a Mies van der Rohe apartment. There is a middle ground.

It's just not here. The Blue Velvet suit ($2,195) threw me back to Charlotte, NC where drug store developed pictures of velvet clad prom boys in ruffled shirts with sideburns extending from their ear lobe to the corners of their mouths, sat proudly on stereo consoles all over Mecklenburg County. I'll never tell you what to wear, but if this is the look you're after, you can find it at Goodwill for considerably less.

I liked the Tweed suit ($2,295) with peak lapels. Not an entirely smart choice if last Winter is any indication of the global warming to come but damned good looking. Refreshingly center vented with a Daks waistband and the tweed is butter soft.

Camel hair sport coats ($TBD) are everywhere in the South. I'm not sure why I've never owned one. They're great looking with all matter of trouser: grey flannel, tartan, jean, cords...just stay away from khakis.

This one's incredibly well made but has peak lapels and side vents. This is exactly what an insurance agent from Charleston would come up with on Savile Row while visiting London for the first time. I'm guessing he would wear it in June with a Vineyard Vines tie.

The "Big Raincoat" ($795) or Duster, a la J Peterman, is a reminder that some men can pull stuff off that others can't. It's a great look if you're tall. Not so much if you're living in a world of boobs and belt buckles like some men I know (and am).

Billy's belts offer width over the narrow straps and Tiffany buckles so loved by the South (and me). Everybody is doing cheap versions these days: J Crew, Tommy H, Rugby... the usual suspects. The Reid buckle is distressed and that's silly. Made in Italy, it's got some heft and so, while never with a suit, it would show well with a sport coat. Monogram it with something witty like, "DRINK?" and you'll be miles ahead of the LOSER, Andy Spade.

Not very funny are two double breasted suits of such tire screeching anachronism that they belong in a Bobbie Gentry song. There's long been speculation over what Billy Joe and his girlfriend threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. Whatever it was, I wish Billy Joe was wearing one of these suits when he jumped.

A grey wool DB called the Anderson ($1,695) comes with peak lapels and balanced button holes. As it should. The fabric is reflective of the price and I can live with that. Problems start with a patch breast pocket and end with a center vent. Things start getting weird with a jacket that buttons right to left.

Next is a cashmere grey DB ($3,295) that has peak lapels but the right lapel is missing a button hole. This is common in countries like Germany -- where apparel design is like watching someone hammer nails with a Stradivarius. The patch pocket stays and like the Anderson, throws off the stream lined DB aesthetic that is so London. The center vent remains but at least it buttons left to right.

I'm guessing that these two d-b's are cut for tall skinny guys with no ass. Hard to tell. If so, it's a look that the youth should enjoy. In the mean time, I'm looking for 1970s Soviet magazines that featured suits like these -- almost exclusively worn by mustached civil engineers in Estonia.

My bang-the-table favorite is this Engineer ($?) boot. I was told the leather has been through some sort of wash. It reminds me of my father's elephant skin wallet he bought in Vietnam. There's a crinkle finish that looks like an elephant butt with cracks that give it character. Simple. Soulful. Worn easily by anyone. Only problem is...no one knows how much it is or if it's even being made. The one thing I really like...but then, what the fuck do I know.

Update on the boot: Received following from Billy Reid's p.r. firm, "You can credit the boot as price upon request because it's not being produced. However, if someone was interested in purchasing it, they could contact the New York store at 212-598-9355 to inquire if they have a similar item or if the boot could be made for them.


Makaga said...

Patch pockets - Can you tell me why some designers prefer them, Tintin? Patch pockets always look like an afterthought to me.

gentleman mac said...

The first pic looks like a Members Only jacket with a mullet.

Anonymous said...

Down South, we love Billy. He's one of us! ME

tintin said...

Makaga- I've always associated patch pockets with a casual look. Navy or Hunter Green doeskin blazer. Or, linen, seersucker, whatever is casual. Menswear designers have lately (last 7-10 yrs) been about contrasting formality with casual. A severe chalk stripe DB jacket but with rolled up jeans over Redwings and a denim shirt. Get it? Neither do I.

gentleman mac- I wish I wrote that.

ME - You mean, he's one of y'all. I think I have a pic of Cliff wearing a center vent DB at Parents Weekend.

Anonymous said...

Looking at these pictures I reminded of the time I saw a transvestite fixing "her" makeup in the subway. I thought what the hell are you doing. You're only making matters worse.

I didn't say anything because it wouldn't have changed anything. I suppose the same thing happened here. I'm sure there was someone who wanted to say what the hell are you doing, but like the transvestite, it wouldn't have made a difference.


BCM said...

For those prices you could get a Paul Stuart or Hickey Freeman suit and actually look like an adult. I appreciate Billy Reid and his souhtern heritage-inspired design aesthetic, but when it comes to men's suits and outerwear......less is definitely more. Unless you're an NBA star, of course.

stephen said...

Tintin - do you really like the boots or are you just jerking the proverbial chain? I don't think I could pull them off.

Heidi Rettig said...

You. Fascinate. Me. The combination of water rat and Army....

Oyster Guy said...

This may surprise, but I am prepared to be open minded about this. I wouldn't ever wear it myself of course, but the elements are understandable to me in the context of civil war uniforms and related period dress. I think the P R about London and Europe is total misdirection. If a young gentleman of the South wore this without irony and with a mature measure of regional pride, I would be inclined to give props and at least applaud the attempt. On some punk-ass hipster from Brooklyn? Uhhhhhh...no.

Either that or I am all tuckered out from being negative (justly, imho)so often.

tintin said...

Matthew- Nice NYC - Subway metaphor.

BCM- With huge revival in menswear, insane pricing by big and small comapanies, nothing today is better value than bespoke tailoring and shirt making. It's a steal.

Stephen- I don't like 'em so much as I'm used to them. Writer & pal, Wallace Stroby has been wearing 'em since we met in college.

Heidi- Got a source for Ylang Ylang?

Oyster Guy- You do negative well. Consider US citizenship.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Love the Engineer boots...I still have a pair that I wore in High School...purchased at Sears. The things were/are indestructible...and helped a high schooler channel his James Dean.

Members Only with a Mullett is a keeper.

Sheik of Araby said...

Don't elephant butts usually have cracks? For character?

Anonymous said...

I never comment here but really appreciate your blog. True to conventional wisdom, one only hears from others when they've a bone to pick. So here goes: I feel I must point out that you completely mischaracterize Charleston. We do have a Billy Reid store (ironically, directly across King Street from Ben Silver), but his style appeals more to nouveau riche "come'yah" from New York who want to look "Southern but hip" (contradiction in terms) than for the native population (and particularly those of Old Stock). While there is an element of the great unwashed, disaffected youth, and "artists" who make puzzling wardrobe choices, by and large Charleston is an extremely dapper (and quite proper) town (white tie and tails are costume de rigueur at evening weddings, for example). Caveat: Charleston suits tend more towards a London cut (two-button silhouette rather than three-button sack, and one would notice a few more pleated pants than in other parts of the South). Keep up the good work, and Cheers.

Andrew said...

This is inspiring me to sew a little tag that says "Heirloom" into all my jackets. Some thrift store dealer may get a few extra bucks for them someday.

Brummagem Joe said...

The patch pockets with flaps were too much when Ralphie did them a couple of years back and with peaked lapels they're double too much. One wonders who would wear any of this stuff but then I was wandering around Bergdorfs a few days ago and they had summer jackets at five grand plus for around which you can buy a bespoke suit in London. Tourists from exotic locales I suppose.

db said...

BR™'s cashing in on kitsch in an authenticity-starved market, so good on him, I suppose. As for myself, I see only a po-faced parody of purported "Southernness" (already a woozy confabulation of half-fantasy, half redemptive violence), and no amount of bourbon bonhomie, "distressing" or awkwardly cradled shotguns will ever grant Billy any unique discernment or innovative execution — either being the only largesse any culture (real or imagined) can offer its bastard offspring.

Cathleen said...

I have so much to learn . . .

Heidi said...

How much Ylang Ylang are you looking for? A little? Or a lot?

Christina said...

I love the design of the first coat. I want to have it and wear it.

Christina @ Cheap Suits For Men