CultureMap readers have rendered a verdict on their favorite Houston Stylemaker and it wasn't even close.
In September, we introduced you to the 12 semifinalists in our second annual CultureMap Stylemaker Awards, celebrating the Bayou City's most stylish, as nominated by our savvy readers and selected by a judging panel. From those semifinalists, six finalists emerged: Alfredo Rojas, Travis Cal, Kavya Pernankil, Gregg Harrison, Michael Pearce, and Chiara Casiraghi Brody.
Before they moved on to the final round of public voting, we treated each to a photo shoot with noted Houston fashion photographer Jay Marroquin. We also scooped up some style secrets from the bunch that you can read here.
At last, the voting has ended and a clear favorite emerged: Our readers selected man-about-town Michael Pearce, who garnered more than two-thirds of all votes cast. Pearce has a unique sense of style, which voters noted, and an extensive social media network of supporters. We caught up with the winner and here's what he had to say:
CultureMap: How does it feel to be the Stylemaker Award winner as the most stylish person in town, as selected by CultureMap readers?
Micheal Pearce: Humbling. Getting nominated was an honor, especially with Houstonians I admire and respect, but I was truly taken aback to see so many people and organizations sending out emails and posting on Facebook asking others to vote for me. You never realize how many lives you touch until something like this happens. I once heard “a man who has friends is never poor." Well, today I feel like the richest man in town.
CM: You are senior legal counsel for an oil company — a conservative industry that isn't usually associated with style. How do you dress for the office and stay true to yourself?
MP: I don’t know about that. The oil industry has come a long way from the “Beverly Hillbillies” days of black gold and Texas tea. There are a lot of Houstonians working in oil and gas I consider fashionable. While it is true I don’t typically go to the office dressed the way you see me about town, on TV or at events, even at the office I will wear a bold tie and snappy shoes.
I’m not going to lie. I do respect Jed Clampett’s commitment to always wearing jeans and a blazer, so maybe I am still a little Jed — just with better shoes. Please note before you take back my title, I did let go of the tattered hat and rope belt.
CM: How would you describe your style outside of the office?
MP: Much like my years in college I will have to go with “experimental.” I’ve transformed several times since college: coming out of rehab for alcohol addiction; moving to a state where I didn’t know anyone to start law school; coming out of the closet; and most recently, going through a mid-life crisis and losing more than 100 pounds.
Those transitions taught me to take risks and not to be so serious. A large portion of my life I worried too much about fitting into a role or perception of who I should be. I hid behind my clothes. Now, in my 40s, I’m not hiding anymore. I’ve walked the red carpet with a champagne glass glued to my butt a la Kim Kardashian (my hashtag was #TheInternetWasUnharmed) and done a faceplant a la Amy Schumer, all to promote charitable causes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been told those risks don’t always pay off. I’m sure there are people wondering if a sighted person picked out my outfit on occasion. That’s okay. I’m wearing my clothes for me, not anyone else.
CM: You are so busy with work, husband, kids and a busy social life. How do you stay stylish?
MP: It’s taken me a while, but I’ve learned I don’t have to do it all. Instead, I find time for the things that matter to me. Now I am drawn to things that include my children. The same is true with fashion. My daughter is very involved in picking out not just what she wears, but also what I wear. More than once she’s clocked me getting dressed for a night out and remarked, “No daddy, not that tie!”
I love that she’s found her voice. I hope she does the same with her fashion and doesn’t wait until she’s in her 40s to listen to it like I did.
CM: Where are your favorite places to shop in Houston?
MP: If you asked my husband, he’d list some pricey boutiques and department stores, but honestly I’m not that fancy. I don’t spend a lot on staples like jeans or dress shirts. I spend my money on accessories (ties, shoes and belts). A white T-shirt doesn’t have to cost $100.
Houston has a lot of remarkable choices for men’s clothing. It’s no secret I’m a Lucho devotee. I won a Tie of the Month Club at a charity fundraiser a while ago and have been smitten with them ever since. I also love The Webster, M Penner, Festari for Men, as well as Zara and H&M.
For the record, I just checked my bank account to see what clothing stores I shop at the most, and it seems most of my money goes to Starbucks and Home Depot. Now that’s telling.
CM: What makes a person stylish?
MP: Abraham Lincoln once said, “Fashion is what you buy. Style is what you do with it.” Well, to be fair, I read that on the internet. While you can’t always believe what you read online, Honest Abe was right. The people I think of as stylish don’t look like anyone else I know. They aren’t buying entire looks off the runway like Garanimals. Stylish people have a clear voice and fearless devotion to it.
CM: Who do you think has style - both in Houston and nationally?
MP: There are a lot of people in Houston that could make that list. I don’t dare try and list them all. Instead I’ll just go with the first five that come to mind: Fady Armanious, Vivian Wise, Nick Florescu, Staci Henderson, and Beth Muecke. They are most definitely Stylemakers to me.
Nationally, I’m going to go with Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. That guy has more looks than Kanye West’s mirror.