U.S. Southern men’s style is spreading around the country

U.S. Southern men’s style is spreading around the country

It isn’t seersucker and white bucks. The look is preppy with extra colour and a little mischievous humour

“No matter what time of year, it’s a pair of loafers, khakis, and a gingham button-down shirt with sleeves rolled up,” says Dale Parker, co-owner of J Parker Ltd, a specialty store in Savannah, Ga. J Parker carries a wide selection of gingham and otherwise check-patterned button-down shirts. “We’re a button-down kind of town.”

Southern

Specialty retailer Sid Mashburn opened a store in Los Angeles last October, its first out West, after noticing an uptick in online orders from shoppers there. The popular Atlanta-based retailer opened its original store in its hometown in 2007; it has since added Houston, Washington, D.C., and Dallas.

Southern Tide, a Greenville, S.C.,-based clothing brand, opened a store in Naperville, Ill., last fall. Over the past decade, it had just two stores, in GreenvilleSouthener 3 and in Kiawah Island, S.C.

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Peter Millar, a Raleigh, N.C.-based clothier, gambled that New Yorkers would cotton to Southern style when it opened a flagship store in Manhattan in 2014. The brand has stores in cities including Palm Beach, Fla., Austin, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., Denver, and Atlanta and is carried in select country clubs. “It’s classic merchandise, with a little bit of a Southern twist, and whether you’re talking about New York, Chicago or San Francisco, that style carries,” says Scott Mahoney, chief executive officer.

SouthenerIn the South, men aren’t afraid to wear sherbet-or lemon-colored pants. “We bear hug color,” says Sid Mashburn, founder of the retailer. “We like Hermès ties and Ferragamo ties.” The European luxury brands are known for liberal use of color and sometimes whimsical patterns on their ties.

Southern men’s style also incorporates a little ruggedness, referencing traditional outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and boating.

“I’ve had duck boots since I was in middle school and I wear them consistently, even with a tie and jacket,” says John Paul Rowan, vice president of the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah. Barbour (a British brand) waxed jackets count as a staple. “It’s a point of pride if your Barbour jacket has a little bit of a tear in it because it means you didn’t find it in a vintage store. You just have had it for so long. That type of authenticity and tradition is important for men’s Southern style dressing.”

The Southern aesthetic could be taking off now because it offers an alternative to men tired of the fashion industry’s relentless pushing of athletic and streetwear-inspired styles or looks that mix sporty and tailored. The style offers an alternative to trendy European brands, when flashy dressing seems out of touch to many Americans. “Flamboyance is certainly out, whether it’s gaudy watches or clothes,” says Mr. Mahoney of Peter Millar.

Polo shirts are a casual staple down South and Southern Tide adorns its with a logo of a skipjack, a type of tuna mainly found in the tropical areas of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. The logo signals to others that the wearer is a Southerner or is somehow tied to the South.

Polo shirts are a casual staple down South and Southern Tide adorns its with a logo of a skipjack, a type of tuna mainly found in the tropical areas of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. The logo signals to others that the wearer is a Southerner or is somehow tied to the South. Photo: Southern Tide

Rugged Barbour jackets are the go-to outerwear for Southern men whether they are wearing them for hunting and outdoor roasts or to work with a blazer and tie.Southener 4

Rugged Barbour jackets are the go-to outerwear for Southern men whether they are wearing them for hunting and outdoor roasts or to work with a blazer and tie. Photo: J BARBOUR AND SONS LTD

The look works well in business-casual settings. It also is deeply rooted in and proud of its heritage, a voguish concept right now. Southern Tide, for example, is named to evoke the water, says Christopher Heyn, chief executive, though the brand doesn’t mind if University of Alabama college-sports fans think it refers to ‘Crimson Tide’ teams. Its logo is the skipjack, a type of tuna mainly found in the tropical areas of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. It adorns Southern Tide’s popular polo shirts.

The brand also uses an ambassador program in which college students at schools throughout the U.S. host events to promote the brand and receive credits to buy its clothes.

SOUTHE_Mark Tucker, who lives in London and works in law enforcement, became a fan of Southern Tide after seeing it on family vacations to Florida. Buying Southern Tide polo shirts was a way to fit in. What’s more he and his family “love Southern hospitality and Southern people,” says Mr. Tucker. “I feel like I’m buying into a lifestyle.” He stocks up on Southern Tide on vacation.

Sid Mashburn stores sell a mix of clothes he designs and other labels. Employees are taught the retailer’s history, philosophy and Southern aesthetic so they can relay that to new customers in conversation.

Geoff Shackelford, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based contributor to Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” and “Golf Central,” had heard about Sid Mashburn from a friend. When he visited the L.A. store, he felt “the vibe wasn’t quite so imposing as other stores in L.A.,” he says. “It’s a little friendlier treatment.”

The fit of Southern men’s clothes generally is more relaxed, but not baggy or sloppy. “You don’t necessarily wear things as tight as you do in the Northeast,” says Kathryn Serra Valentine, chief operating officer of Southern Proper, an Atlanta-based clothing company. “Partially out of modesty, but also because you need a lot of breathing room or you’re going to die,” due to the hot weather. Southern comfort, if you will.

Southern Proper started in 2005 with bow ties and, like a number of other Southern men’s brands, a reverence for, and sometimes irreverence about, Southern culture. Its top selling bow tie is the Sweet Magnolia, which uses the flower motif on the tie as a symbol of the South and to signify “old-fashion courtesy with contemporary style,” Ms. Serra Valentine says. The company also makes tongue-in-cheek T-shirts that blare “Dress for the Grand Old Party” and “Party Animal” which features a Labrador with a blue upper half and tail, a red bottom half and white stars. Its “Gentleman’s Jacket,” a blazer, has a pocket to hold two cigars, which, she says, “by the way, doubles as a flask pocket.”

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