Clothes & Personal: Billy Reid

A few lessons on the art of dressing sharp and living well

February 7, 2017 9:00 am

This is Clothes and Personal, in which we sit down with one of the brightest names in menswear to talk about the articles every man should have in his closet.

Fresh off debuting his Fall/Winter collection at Men’s Fashion Week, we recently caught up with Billy Reid, the best-dressed man south of the Mason-Dixon, for some insights on everything from the perfect starter suit to his favorite Rolex to the one thing you should always overspend on.

Oh, and man capes. Velvet man capes.

Here’s what we learned.

On the first thing he ever designed …
My first real design job was with Reebok and I was working on a project for Greg Norman, the golfer. We were making leather jackets for a golfer.”

If he weren’t a designer, he would be a …
“Coach. I coach my son’s baseball now. We went to the Little League [World] Series. It was incredible.”

If there’s one thing you designed that you would like to see stricken from the record …
“The men’s velvet cape was a little much. To get to the good ideas, there are a lot of bad ones that fall off the truck. Well, hopefully the bad ones fall off the truck.”

If a fella only owns one piece of clothing, it should be …
“Blue jeans.”

Favorite pair?
“Probably my old Levi’s.”

What’s a huge style mistake that fellas make?
“The fit. Wearing things that are either way too big for them or way too small. That can be a mistake. And I think the other is that you should shop quality over quantity. It’s better to have one really really nice jacket than three sort of average jackets that don’t fit.”

(clockwise from left to right) Lexington jacket, $399; Holt dress shirt, $99.50; Slim jean, $225; Anderson boot, $199.50

What’s the cornerstone of a man’s wardrobe?
“A navy blazer. It’s kind of old school, but with a pair of blue jeans, a great trouser, a white shirt and a great pair of boots or a great wingtip, you can pretty much get through all the situations.”

What shouldn’t you overspend on?
“That’s a great question. We love for people to overspend. Just kidding. There are certain things, like coats for instance, that you should go for it because it’s going to live with you. You’re not going to just wear that one season. You should look at it like you’re going to live with it — almost like furniture.”

Walton suit, $695

On the perfect suit …
Whether you have something made or tailored it should be something that fits right and in an all-year-long weight. It’s great to have a flannel suit, but depending on where you live that could only be a three-month item for you. So, find the right weight. And I like things with a little bit of texture, so it’s not flat. I also like suits where the pant and jacket can be individual pieces. Some suits look good just as a suit, but I see a lot of men buying a suit and mixing it up.”

On a color that looks good on everyone …

On a color that looks terrible on everyone …
“Cream can be a tough color.”

On his favorite watch …
“The Rolex Submariner that my wife gave me right before we got married.”

On his drink of choice …
“I’m pretty democratic on the drinking. I like good bourbon. I don’t really like bad bourbon. But I like beer, I like wine, I mix all that up. Well, not all at one time.”

On the best thing you can bring to a dinner party …
“A good attitude.”

John Besh apron, $95; Big Besh Easy Cookbook; $15

On one thing every man should know how to cook …
Jambalaya. I know how. I’m from Louisiana, so I’m not sure what else I would say. It’s a family thing.”

On the best place in the world to eat …
“New Orleans.”

Where in New Orleans?
“One of my favorites is Middendorf’s. It’s right off I-55 as you’re driving into New Orleans and it’s been there for about 82 years now. If you want great Louisiana seafood, it’s fantastic.”

The last thing he Googled …
“Jazz master series Gil Scott-Heron.”

The last song he listened to …
“‘Winter in America’ by Gil Scott-Heron … uplifting.” [Laughs.]

“Hell no” or “Hell yes” …

Capes? “I gotta give it a hell yes. If you’re into it — do it.”

Suspenders? “Hell yes.”

Suspenders with shorts? “Hell no.”

White after Labor Day? “Hell yes.”

Red to a wedding? “Sure, hell yes.”

Fur Bowery coat, $1495; Kurt jacket, $399

Fur coats on men who don’t have to chop their own wood to stay warm? “Hell yes.”

Fake glasses? “Hell no.”

Supreme’s collab with Louis Vuitton? “Hell yes.”

Man jewelry? “Oof — that’s a fine line. I’m going to say hell yes.”

Three Doors Down? “Mmm, they’re one state over. I’ll give ‘em a hell yes.”

Sandals in the city? “Hell no.”

And finally, one book, film, place and person that inspires him …
Haunter of the Ruins by Clarence John Laughlin, Stop Making Sense, New Orleans and Kris Kristofferson.”

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