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Men of Style
As told to Stephanie Davis Smith | Photo: Derek Blanks | | March 27, 2014
In Atlanta, clothes make the man. Here, sartorial superiority is about reinventing the classics, adding your own special touches and sticking to your guns. As these seven standouts clearly show, Southern style is about sophistication topped off with that little added something. They each prove that dressing the part is what separates the men from the boys.
Founder, Ascension Aircraft
I grew up in Augusta, Ga., and took my first flight at 12. After that, I was hooked! I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. My first solo flight was at age 14, and I was one of the youngest pilots in the country. I started my first company at 15 to start paying for flying lessons. I sold books and videos to local pilots, and created a website to sell them online. Over the next 10 years, it grew into buying and selling airplanes. That’s what we primarily do today at Ascension Aircraft. My fashion sense came later in life. For me, I began picking up a little bit of style in my mid-20s. I started wanting to take better care of my appearance. A large part of that had to do with both my profession and the dating scene. We began selling planes to a clientele that could afford multimillion-dollar planes—it made me want to step up my game a bit. My style varies depending on where I am at the time. On a Friday and Saturday night, it’s totally different than on a weekday. There’s an office me and a weekend me. When I first started meeting with Astor & Black, I thought: I don’t think I can pull that off. But, then, it works. The thing with custom clothes is that you can’t try them on beforehand, so you’re nervous. You see a couple of little swatches, and you have to envision the whole look. But now, there’s nothing like walking into a convention in a custom suit—people notice the difference.
First style splurge: I bought a custom suit from Astor & Black.
Chef, Author, Restaurateur and Top Chef Judge
More and more in the last few years I have found myself working outside of the kitchen, and it has allowed me to branch out clothing-wise. It used to be just jeans, a chef’s coat and Birkenstocks, but now I’m trying new things. My sense of style started young. I was just a little punk-rock kid in Canada. I carried that through into my adulthood. I like the bright socks and pops of color; I think it gives a sense of personality to an otherwise relatively simple palette. I’m more into enjoying pieces that are really well made—sort of smartly done designers like Billy Reid. But the Gucci men’s suits are just stunning. I love Sid Mashburn too. He’s a master at figuring out what fits your body type. You can have a $3,000 suit, and if it doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t look good. The internet has become a whole new thing for me as far as shopping goes. Hugh & Crye is an excellent shirt-maker and their shirts fit like a glove. Finally, we’re getting away from this frumpy-looking man thing. You know, bad pleats, the low-slung trousers, the dress shirts that are four sizes too big—it’s just wrong. Doing the show, people give us clothes all the time, so that’s always nice. I have an apartment in Atlanta to be close to Empire State South, but I live in Athens. Athens is laid-back, but with really stylish people there like Susan Hable Smith and Michael Stipe. My style icons are old-school guys like Björn Borg or Steve McQueen. Björn was great, right?
First style splurge: I bought two or three nice suits from Billy Reid.
Co-Owner, Guffey’s of Atlanta
I’ve always had an interest in clothes, but when I was exposed to this ultrahigh-end level of style at Guffey’s, it was amazing. We do a lot of exclusive pieces; for instance, one line we carry, you can only buy in six stores in the country, and it’s the only suit Robert De Niro will wear. But we also have entry-level lines that offer custom clothing to guys just getting in the game. Personally, I wear lines from every price point, and I love shoes with coloration. I’m not afraid of color. I mean, I’m wearing a kelly green alligator belt right now. I also like to take tailored clothes and pair them with jeans. It’s very Southern. I grew up in the Carolinas and went to Georgia State University, but after several years of working and going to school, I decided to go work for my uncle. It was a great decision. The best thing about getting a custom suit is that I get to design it and express myself. There are a lot of details you can change up, such as the linings, the buttons—we do a mother-of-pearl button that’s gorgeous—and I’ll do a little color thread on only one button hole. The trend now is to get a button-fly dress slack. It’s just seamless. I’m all about the irreverent accessory—like the colored loafer or the flashy pocket square that makes the whole look. I have three daughters and a son, and he’s starting to get interested in fashion. He’ll be third-generation Guffey’s.
First style splurge: I bought three custom suits at Guffey’s as a starter wardrobe. That was my investment for a new career.
Consultant, Saks Fifth Avenue
This jacket is probably 14 years old. My advice? Buy well. It’s important to buy pieces that transcend time. I purchase by collection. I shop for pieces that are a good investment and can broaden or replace something in my wardrobe. I’ve been at Saks for 18 years. I would’ve been able to retire three times over by now if it weren’t for my wardrobe. It’s sort of like art that you can wear, and I think fashion can transform you. I have clients that have been transformed. You can be anybody in fashion. You can make yourself anyone or anything. I get so aggravated when someone says, “I can’t do that.” Why can’t you? It’s just clothes. You can take them off. It’s a costume! The best is when I pick something out for someone that they would never have picked for themselves and you see them light up, and they get happy because fashion is all about feeling good. The first expensive suit I bought was a Gucci double-breasted suit with flared legs for a funeral. It had epaulets on it with a double platform pony-haired Gucci loafer and tie. I know it was for a funeral, but it was fabulous! I still have it and won’t get rid of it. A sense of humor is just as important in fashion as it is in life. Your personality comes out in your wardrobe. That’s why I have so many different looks—for all my different personalities!
First style splurge: A Dolce & Gabbana forest-green pony-haired jacket that was $7,000. I gave it away to someone on whom it looked better.
President, SE Region of Wilmington Trust
I think it’s extremely important to have your own sense of style. I care what others think, but I don’t dwell on it. We’re all individuals. I surely don’t want to march to somebody else’s rhythm in the clothes I choose. It’s as much a part of who you are and how you’d like to be perceived as almost anything I can think of. I’m most comfortable in shorts and a golf shirt—by far—but I have to wear suits for my job, and I almost always wear Hugo Boss for what I call daytime dress-up. I like their flat-front pants because they are more flattering and they make me look trimmer. I definitely have a lot of pocket squares—not for business though, but just for playing around. For black-tie and evening events, I am crazy about the Versace collection. I ordered this Versace jacket in London that I’m wearing. I have a guy there and give away his number to friends and clients. I wish I could pretend to have my own personal style aesthetic, but I don’t know that I really do. I just like what I like. I grew up in Albany, Ga., and even back then I loved blue; it’s my signature color. Ever since I was young, I’ve always had strong objections to form over substance. It drives me crazy to see guys in their cookie-cutter obligatory rep ties and sport coats. I like a little bit of surprise in things.
First style splurge: In high school I was working two part-time jobs, and saved and saved until I could afford a Glen plaid camel-hair sport coat.
Since I was a child, I have always loved fashion. In the ’70s during that whole hippie thing, I refused to wear jeans. I thought they were very déclassé. Jeans have come so far since then. I remember we went to the symphony as a class, and I was mortified because everyone arrived in their regular clothes, and I wore a little suit and tie. I just knew then. I grew up in Asheville, N.C., and I started in retail there with a small men’s store—it was a very Sid Mashburn type of place. I went on to study journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have never used my degree even one day! I went to work for Ralph Lauren in New York and London, instead. Then I moved to Mexico, and I worked for myself doing interior design and owned a furniture store there. Eventually, I moved back to the States and worked for Façonnable in Miami and then had an opportunity to move to Atlanta. I live in SkyHouse in Midtown now. I do visual merchandising for a luxury clothing and accessory brand. Each day I imagine the window displays, make the store pretty and make sure you want to buy everything. There’s an art form to it. Whether it’s purses or suits, it’s all about the visual impact and branding, and what you wear is also like personal visual merchandising. You’re presenting yourself to the world.
First style splurge: In the ‘90s, after the first freelance job I did, I spent the entire check on a pair of Gucci brown suede loafers.
News Anchor, 11Alive
I like color. Being a man, we’re taught to wear basic colors like brown, gray and black, but we’re in a new era now. You can play with a pocket square or tie that will bring light to a newscast. Viewers always say to me, “Love the tie!” Of course, a conservative white pocket square is fine, but personally, I like to be daring. People notice a well-dressed man. There’s a difference between dressing up and looking good. It’s easy to dress up to do the news and just put on a suit. Everyone expects me to have on a suit, but no one expects me to have swagger! I’m from Tulsa, Okla., originally, but I lived in New York City and Miami before coming to Atlanta. Miami is where I really developed my fashion sense. I was one of the youngest anchors there, and I had to bring something to it. One thing that made me stand out was a sense of style. They dress there. I mean, dress. I’ve been in Atlanta for two years now and live in Midtown. It’s trendy. You get everything: Your eclectic folks, gay and straight, fashion-forward—all of it. It feels like New York. It’s the perfect place for a bachelor like me. Because I’m in suits every day, I love to go against the grain when I’m not at work. My style on the street is Lenny Kravitz meets John Legend. Put a scarf around your neck, and it’s like—yeah, this brother’s cool. Anchors get stuck with the cornball thing sometimes, and I don’t want that.
First style splurge: Ferragamo shoes and a Louis Vuitton duffle bag at Bal Harbour in Miami. I thought I was on top of the world.
Grooming by Ana Bui, Jourdan Loving and Nyssa Green for The Green Room Agency
On location at Mathews Furniture
Styling by Brylan Leviston, Tim Richey, Leonardo Santaiti and Kam Throckmorton