Rhinestones Free Zone
Menswear with a twist: Three Houston shops for the hip H-Town man
They say that everything is bigger in Texas. In Houston, this rings true for restaurants, the arts, traffic — and, according to Forbes magazine, shopping as well. Unfortunately, the retail options for guys can still be rather limited.
Sure, there are a decent amount of men’s clothing stores in town. But most cater to either the guy who wears a suit to work every day or the guy who wants his outfit to include lots of rhinestones. Beyond large, national chain stores in the Galleria, there are few places to go for classic, well curated collections of American streetwear with a modern twist.
I had lost all hope for men’s retail in Houston, until I discovered three great stores:
The store: In March, Sacha Nelson, Iris Trent-Siff and Carly Webster combined their collective talents and retail experience to open Mortar. Now in its second location, Mortar is situated in a small shopping center at the corner of Westheimer and Hazard.
“We designed the store for the guy who thinks of shopping as just a check off the to-do list,” Trent-Siff says. “We organized everything by category, so that you come in, you’re looking for the blue shirt, they’re all in one place, you go directly to the blue shirt, you get it, and you get out as quickly as possible. We chose this location, rather than a big shopping center, or one of the more specific shopping areas of Houston, simply because we wanted that comfortable, relaxed, neighborhood, laid-back, personal experience.”
The clothes: Mortar focuses on smaller, emerging designers that design and manufacture their products in the same place. Highlights include collections by Woolrich John Rich & Bros., Woolrich Woolen Mills, Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, Nice Collective, Kai-aakmann, Apolis, Riviera Club, Sunny Sports, and Rogan. In addition, the store features one of the best premium denim collections in town, including brands like Kicking Mule Workshop, Left Field, Raleigh Denim, Earnest Sewn, Triple Works, Baldwin, and Gilded Age.
As far as accessories go, Mortar features leather goods from Billykirk, apothecary products from Baxter of California, fragrances from Odin, and shoes by Common Projects.
Don’t be fooled by the long list of brands: Mortar’s collection is extremely well edited. The common thread is clean, simple, high-quality designs that will never go out of style. Shirts are generally $100+; jeans, $150+; accessories, $85+.
New in 2011: The Rag & Bone spring collection will be featured at Mortar. Founders Marcus Wainwright and David Neville were recipients of the 2010 Council of Fashion Designers of America Menswear Award. Trent-Siff is also ecstatic about bringing in Taylor Supply Co., a brand new Americana-inspired collection designed and manufactured in New York.
Tips: In a rush? Visit Mortar’s awesome website and have merchandise shipped to you or held in the store. You can also follow Mortar on Twitter for a new 50-percent off sale item each day until Christmas. So far, the “Christmas Countdown Sale” has featured Woolrich cashmere scarves, Sunny Sports organic cotton shirts, and Gilded Age straight leg jeans. Be on the look out for an amazing after-Christmas sale as well.
Holiday gift picks: Three-fourth sleeve Paulie oxford shirt in chambray, by Baldwin ($149); tan wallet card case, by Billykirk ($85); Formula Four cologne by Odin New York ($110); raw slim straight jeans, by Left Field ($189); brogue oxford wingtips in brown, by Common Projects ($552.00).
The brand: Hamilton Shirt Co. is a Houston institution: They have been making bespoke dress shirts for more than a century. Last year they launched a ready-to-wear line, Hamilton 1883, that features casual button-down shirts and pocket squares. David and Kelly Hamilton are the fourth generation of Hamilton’s to oversee the company. All of their products are still manufactured in their factory on Richmond Ave. using the highest quality fabrics from Swiss and Italian mills.
“At whatever price point we offer a shirt, it has to be the best,” David Hamilton says. “At this price point, this is the best shirt there is.”
The clothes: The 1883 shirts fit impeccably and are designed to be worn tucked in or out. The collection features Oxford and broadcloth buttondowns as well as field shirts and utility shirts. According to Gail Rubin of Studio Communications, which represents Hamilton Shirt Co., there’s little to no lining in the collars, cuffs, and front plackets, which gives the shirts more of a relaxed, rumpled feel.
In addition, each model has a signature detail: An opening in the pocket for a pen, western pockets and yokes, contrast stitching on the buttonholes. Available in a variety of patterns and colors, pocket squares are the perfect way to make a suit or blazer stand out. Shirts range in price from $195 for basic oxfords to $225 for utility shirts; pocket squares are $35.
New in 2011: '60s beach culture will play an instrumental role in the spring collection — think lively patterns along with bright pinks, greens, and corals. In addition, the 1883 collection will borrow several elements from Hamilton’s custom shirt division, including engraved buttons and monograms.
Tips: Michael Williams, purveyor of all things Americana, is a big fan of Hamilton Shirt Co. He has teamed up with them to offer an exclusive twill utility shirt on his blog A Continuous Lean.
Holiday gift picks: Long sleeve blue oxford ($195); long sleeve white oxford ($195); blue Field Shirt ($225); bingham poplin broadcloth ($225); blue solid chambray pocket square ($35)
The store: Located in River Oaks Shopping Center, 310 Rosemont features both men’s and women’s clothing. The store is classy and refined without being pretentious or stuffy. Even more importantly for men, the store is not girly. The décor is chic and elegant, and the bar is well stocked with whiskeys and scotches. The owners have found a way to make the store appeal to both male and female shoppers without displaying a visible bias towards either.
“We work very hard to ensure that we not have only right the selection, but the right staff and ambiance,” says Evelyn Gorman, a New York City-based consultant and buyer for 310 Rosemont (who formerly owned the chic Houston women's store, Mix). “It’s more than just throw something on a rack – people really do want to hear about the story, the designers, and the fabrics. It’s not just about having products, It’s about being able to express that to the customer.”
The clothes: "We are somewhere in the middle between a guy’s guy and fashion-y guy," Gorman says. "I think we appeal to both.”
310 Rosemont features collections by Rag & Bone, Johnnie-O, Haus of Howe, Adriano Goldschmeid, James Perse, Life After Denim, Shipley & Halmos, and Gypsy 05. Not to mention that this is the only store I have discovered in Houston that carries Levi’s Vintage Clothing, a collection of shirting and denim inspired by classic American work and western wear.
310 Rosemont’s denim collection includes Naked & Famous, Levi’s Made & Crafted, Joe’s Jeans, and the highly sought-after Japanese brand EDWIN. The store also carries a fantastic selection of beautiful boots by Red Wing and Austin’s own Helm (which, by the way, can only be found at six other stores in the United States.). 310 Rosemont has a great selection of unique accessories, including socks by OW Socks and Happy Socks and bags by Rag & Bone.
New in 2011: I can’t wait to check out the new offerings by Hartford Shirts, an emerging brand founded by a former Hermes designer who draws his inspiration from British culture of the 1960s. Remember B.D. Baggies, from the '80s? The brand has been re-launched by the Italian company W.P. Lavori and is now headed up by David Mullen, who redefined the chino pant to critical acclaim at his label Save Khaki. Next year, you will be able to find Mullen’s fantastic shirts at 310 Rosemont.
Gorman is excited to bring Carlos Campos, an Ecuadorian designer who sources all of his cottons in South America, to the store. She also thinks she may have found the perfect board shorts and beach towels from a San-Francisco based brand by the name of Quit Mad Stop. The store will also feature hats by Tracey Watts of New York, graphic tees by Scrapper, belts by Orciani of Italy, and Earnest Sewn’s newly launched ready-to-wear line in January.
Tips: When I visited 310 Rosemont last week, they had almost an entire wall of shirts, denim, and other items marked down by 40 percent. Several of the items listed below were included in the sale.
Holiday Gift Picks: Red Wing 6” iron ranger boot in amber ($310); Levi's '60s shirt in dice blue; fade out gray sweatshirt, by Gypsy 05 ($115); happy socks ($10); Rivington waistcoat in ash grey, by Rag & Bone ($255).