Billy Reid & Alabama Chanin Take Cotton From Seed to Store

NPR’s Morning Edition did a nice segment on an organic cotton experiment by North Alabama’s Billy Reid and Natalie Chanin (of Alabama Chanin). Not only did they grow organic cotton like it would have been two generations ago, they also took the cotton from field to store within the same community. Listen to the story here.

And while you’re at it, watch this lovely video by Jennifer Davick on Natalie Chanin’s cotton.

Organic Cotton: Grown to Sewn from Jennifer Davick on Vimeo.

Billy Reid Featured on CBS This Morning

Billy Reid (and especially his Florence warehouse sales) is regularly lauded at Pinstripe Pulpit. The CFDA award winning designer found a bit bigger audience with a very nice feature on CBS This Morning yesterday. It tells Reid’s story of business failure after 9-11, only to rise from the ashes as the South’s hottest menswear designer and active promoter of Southern music and food.

Billy Reid & Florence, Once More

BR shop wall

My time in Alabama short, I had the chance to visit one more Billy Reid Warehouse Sale in Florence a few weeks ago. I’ve enjoyed the trips, and the sales have been good to me (as has the nearby Salvation Army).

This sale was around the corner from the main shop, the third location they’ve had for the sale during the short time I’ve been going. Prices were better than last time but selection was more limited.

BR sale 1 BR sale 2

Ties and t-shirts were plentiful, but as it was a warehouse sale available sizes could tend toward the extremes (XS or XXL). I was sad the Alabama Shakes t-shirt wasn’t in my size. I grabbed a Billy Reid bow tie, which I think are some of the best around.

BR t-shirts BR tub o ties

The new spring merchandise was out in the main store, which is always fun to visit.

BR shop belt BR shop bows BR shop monks BR shop shirts BR shop tote

My co-conspirator Sean and I were excited to try a new restaurant a couple of doors down called The Pie Factory. Despite our (very real) disappointment that it was actually a pizza place we went anyway and tried the Boss Hog special. If you need pizza in Florence, it’s worth a stop.

Pie Factory

Pie Factory pie

My visit complete, I bid farewell to Florence and its native son W.C. Handy, who had the good taste to wear a bow tie.

WC Handy

Back to Florence: Billy Reid Warehouse Sale & Trowbridge’s Ice Cream

BR Warehouse SaleThe semi-annual Billy Reid sale heralds the change of seasons and also draws my friend Sean and me off to Florence. I love Billy Reid’s goods, but at full price it’s too dear for my budget. The warehouse sale is a great way to pick up a few odds and ends and still be able to eat at the end of the day.

Past sales have been in the back room behind the regular Billy Reid store. This year the sale goods were in a separate storefront next door. The sale seemed to have more items available than in the past.

BR sale door

Racks, boxes, & piles of sale clothes:

BR row

BR shirt boxes

BR t-shirts

Possibly my favorite item was this quilted vest, which wasn’t available in my size or I would have left with one.

BR vest

There were many ties, both four-in-hand and bows (confession: Billy Reid bow ties are my favorite, and at sale price I can indulge):

BR ties

BR bows

And some shoes. I like them, but the elongated toe box is just too much for me:

BR Savannah

Restraint and budget limited me to these two purchases, both of which I like very much, an indigo sweatshirt and batwing wool bow tie:

Billy Reid sale purchases

Next door, the new fall Billy Reid gear was out, and browsing is always fun.

BR window

BR hats

The Billy Reid ‘James Bond’ peacoat was available (note leather detailing):

BR Bond coat

BR Bond detail

There is a large display of Billy Reid K-Swiss models:

BR K-Swiss

And the Billy Reid double-monk with asymmetrical toe cap:

BR double monks

Billy Reid excels with his tote and bag designs:

BR tote

BR bags

BR bag

We moved down Court Street and stopped by another favorite destination in Florence, one more in keeping with my budget.

Salvation Army

I was not disappointed, as I left with a Brooks Brothers button down (USA made), ties from Zegna (wool blend), Ben Silver, and H. Stockton Atlanta. Oh, and a vintage LP.

SA haul

Fatigued from shopping, Sean and I moseyed down to historic diner Trowbridge’s.

Trowbridge's sign

Trowbridge’s is a genuine throwback, maintaining an unselfconscious mid-20th century vibe. The food is standard, but tasty, diner fare. Prices are low.

Trowbridge's menu

The ice cream is the highlight. Don’t leave without trying one of their flavors like the signature orange pineapple. That day I went with the red velvet–again, restraint: only one scoop.

Trowbridges - Red Velvet ice cream


Atlanta Road Trip: A Visit to Sid Mashburn

Sid frontThere have been few menswear stores as hot as Atlanta’s Sid Mashburn over the past few years. Mashburn has been a darling of men’s magazines and universally lauded by what a SM salesman referred to as “corny blogs” to a customer when I was in the shop recently. I had hoped to stop in for some time, and finally had my chance during my recent visit to Atlanta.

Mashburn carries a carefully selected range of top men’s brands bolstered by his own label of goods. It’s classic menswear with a hipper, slimmer vibe. The Mashburn look of (unbuckled) double-monks or tassel loafers with no socks has become iconic, or cliché depending on your perspective.

Official Mounted Heads Shot

The store atmosphere is clubby. It was busy on a Saturday with alterations tailors hard at work in the back. Salesmen are young and energetic. Customers were younger with deep pockets (or crushing credit card debt).

If your pockets are not deep, which mine are not, Mashburn is still worth the visit. You will find items rarely seen most Southern cities. The quality is high, the taste is good even if not everything is to your particular liking.

Where else are you going to find Globe-Trotter luggage, for example? I’ve admired these online for awhile.


Finding a Drake’s pocket square at Sid Mashburn is quite the #menswear “Mash-up”:


As mentioned, the shoe options are impressive, including Mashburn’s own made in England standards as well as offerings from Alden and Edward Green.

Double monks

These bone bucks are outstanding.


As are the brogues and boots:

Brogues & Boots

Mashburn also likes his Tretorns.


And you have to enjoy Mashburn’s sense of humor.

Gator glasses

Sid Mashburn is a fun store, and one that Atlanta is lucky to have. The prices are not for the faint of heart, but if you pace yourself, target key items, and hit the sales, the “normal” shopper could pick up items from time to time.


Alas, the weekend vacation budget didn’t allow any purchases this time, so I strolled back by Billy Reid’s shop:

Billy Reid

And met the girls for some frozen yogurt. That was expensive enough for the day.



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.)