Road Trip to Billy Reid Florence (or, How to Shop For Clothing You Can’t Afford)

From the unlikely headquarters of Florence, Alabama, native Louisianan Billy Reid has taken menswear by storm. This summer he won the CFDA’s Menswear Designer of the Year Award, which is the clothing equivalent of winning an Oscar.

Needless to say, my friend Sean and I were up for a road trip down the Lee Highway to Court Street in downtown Florence where Billy Reid was having a sample sale. A sample sale is a type of clearance sale when various odds and ends, including clothes used for display or clothes that never went into production, are sold. The key here is “sale,” as Billy Reid at full price is not for the light of wallet.

The Florence Billy Reid store is a work of art (the ambience is included in the price of the goods). We were ushered to the back room, which is normally for storage and design. Tables and racks filled with shirts, sweaters, ties and jackets beckoned. This is the sort of thing usually reserved for the folks up in New York City, not those in northern Alabama.

The highlight wasn’t the clothes, but rather a chance to meet the man himself. Billy Reid was kind enough to stand for a photo (and even complimented my shoes–L.L. Bean white bucks thrifted new a couple of years ago). Billy Reid seems like a nice fellow, and we won’t hold it against him at all that he’s an LSU fan. Reid is to be commended for staying in the small town South rather than moving his base of operations to New York. He adds a great deal to the cultural atmosphere of Florence by sponsoring concerts, supporting local Southern bands and promoting local vendors. His very presence in Florence inspires monthly coverage from national and regional magazines.

Quite a bit of Reid’s clothing is aimed at a younger (and hipper) market than yours truly represents. The middle aged gentleman must be careful not to be a fashion victim. When the sorting and sifting was finished, I left with a casual shirt, a long tie and a bow tie. Not a lot, but at retail they would have been quite expensive. I bought them for about 75% off. They’re versatile pieces that can be worn for years (in fact, I wore the long tie yesterday).

This is a good example of how to approach shopping for quality pieces that are otherwise outside of your budget limitations. Be patient, buy on deep discount and go for classic versatility, buying items that will maximize your dollar paid to times worn ratio. Through a prudent picking of your spots you will add more and more high quality items that will transform your wardrobe without destroying your budget.

Oh, and when you’re done at Billy Reid walk on down Court Street to Trowbridge’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Bar for a scoop of orange and pineapple ice cream or a malt. It’s on the 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die list.

(For a good list of basics, along with some fun, suggested by Billy Reid take a look at his Top 10 Must-Haves at the Daily South. I endorse all but No. 4.)

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