Get on board with the new antiquarians or be left in the... past?
Text by Pete Anderson Photos by Albert Thomas.
OK, Billy Reid word association time. The capital-S South, naturally. Tailoring. Beards. Bourbon. Hunting. (Maybe not bourbon and hunting simultaneously, but then again...) The Billy Reid selection I checked out at (capsule) lifted Reid's countrified gent clothing out of the exquisite setting of his stores, which are outfitted like a Savannah scion's dressing room, and placed them in a sea of men's brands that averaged around a couple of seasons old. Reid has been doing his thing, in one way or another, for over 10 years, and the maturity of his collection was remarkable. Where other brands are finding their feet and still working out the kinks of cutting a sportcoat, Billy Reid's Italian-made jackets are tailored with clean lines setting off the hazy, tweedy fabrics.
The rest of the collection follows suit, with graph-checked shirts, heavy outerwear, and a range of shoes mostly adhering to a theme of sharp edges worn down by caring use over time.
At capsule I had on a bad plaid coat, but Reid's plaid was badder and arguably plaider.
One of a couple of waxed outerwear pieces.
Mixed wool lining on a waxed trench.
Reid's stuff put tickmarks in a lot of (capsule) boxes--cartloads of plaid/checks, patched elbows, waxed cotton, boots, narrow trousers. Whenever I saw a Reid item, though, I immediately recognized it. Reid's tones are warm. The fabric patterns are sophisticated; he eschews basic stripes in favor of checks that blend and shift colors. A few years ago Reid's shirts were stuck on stripe island, but he's moved on to better things. The dress shirt fabrics are light and densely woven, and shirt collars are refreshingly untrendy--it would be tempting to make all those plaids soft-roll button downs, but Reid's dressier stuff maintains a stiffness that complements a jacket collar well. I take for granted these days that shirts at Reid's price point will use quality fabrics and trims and will be constructed well, but sometimes I'm disappointed. He hits the right notes on details. Buttons are mother-of-pearl or horn, sewing is neat; everything is as it should be. And while the tailoring is classic and the look decidedly not avant garde, Reid is rarely retro--maybe antique.
"It makes me sad because I've never seen such - such beautiful shirts before."-Daisy
No straight buffalo checks around.
A subtle check that would be overwhelming in bolder colors. I guess that made me smirk.
With a navy patch pocket jacket and tan moleskins? Yes!
Casual shirts take a softer collar.
A jacket in heavy, treated, oily leather was Albert's pick of the selection.
A borderline teddy-boy jacket sports a zip collar notch.
When closed, it more closely resembles a packer coat.
Reid's shoes may be the most versatile part of the line. Distressed leathers and slightly exaggerated lasts work with his wool trousers but could also work with the more forward fabrics of a line like Nicholas K. A pair of saddle shoes in a muddy, natural leather stood out to me. If it weren't for the Billy Reid tag on the commando sole I might have mistaken them for a prop vintage piece. The saddle is part of the washed shoe line, for which the shoes go through a washing process after construction (i.e., it's not washed leather, but a washed shoe). A wingtip boot in grainy leather is more shaped than I generally prefer, but I generally prefer austerity to edge. The Reid reps (and Reid's Web site) refer to many of the shoes as cordovan, but it's not immediately clear what sense of the word they mean--shell cordovan, horsehide, cordovan color? That ambiguity doesn't take anything away from the look and feel of the shoes themselves.
The saddle from Billy Reid's washed shoe line, which is carried at Odin.
Soft but tough, not unlike quality paper towels.
A captoe combat boot ideal for tucking.
Fok, Albert, and I also had a chance to stop by Reid's Bond Street store and see his current stuff (and munch on some jellybeans). For anyone who's hesitated to jump on the Billy Reid bandwagon of the last few seasons (count me in), the store and the new merch will win you over. Billy Reid is sold through his eponymous stores and billyreid.com.