Allow me to reintroduce you to Mike Grady. You may remember him from an earlier post. I felt it was a good idea to reconnect with him to do a full photo shoot and interview because I was really interested in what he had to say about fashion and his style. But this meeting was extra special for me because I've actually known Mike since the second grade, so we go wayyy back. It was great catching up with him. In this interview, we'll cover everything from woodworking to finding jeans that make your butt look good and his wardrobe malfunction from hell.
26 years old
Billy Reid Salesman, Freelance Wardrobe Stylist
Resides in Downtown Charleston
Chinos & Cheesecake: Who and what inspires your style?
Mike Grady: I don't think there was one particular person. Its funny, growing up, my mom always encouraged me to express myself however I wanted to. I had every haircut possible as a kid, from a rat tail to a mohawk. She always just let me wear whatever I wanted to school and she never really placed any parameters on me. And I feel like that's really what set the groundwork for me having my own taste and my own style. I remember I used to flip through Vogue and other women's magazines with my mom—we had this game every September: when the big issue came out, I would make her hair look like the cover of the magazine. It was so much fun. And I think my mom instilling that creativity in me is what lent itself to expressing myself in fashion. My mom made a lot of clothes growing up. I was always really inspired by the matching outfits my grandma used to make. My mom and her brother and sister would always take photographs together in those outfits, and I used to love that. And I really got a lot of inspiration from handmade homemade, and it's funny I didn't even really like it at the time. I always wanted stuff bought from the store. But the older I got, the more I appreciated that I learned how to sew as a kid.
C&C: In your opinion, what are the top five essentials that every man should own?
MG: First, every man should have a suit. I think it should be a navy three-button or two-button. Preferably a two-button just because its easiest for most guys to wear. But a nice fitted navy suit is really important. Number two: I think that every man should have a pair of jeans that he feels awesome in, because I don't care what any guy says—straight or gay—when you put on a pair of jeans that makes your butt look good, you feel good about yourself.
C&C: They shouldn't sag by the way.
MG: No. Pants are meant to be worn around the waist. Not halfway, like my grandmother would say, halfway down your a$$. Pull your britches up.
C&C: Well, not talking about the waist but I mean, around the seat area.
MG: Yeah, I mean, you should be able to see your legs. Why would you want to walk around in a tent of fabric. It makes you way hotter, you move slower, and if zombies are chasing you, you won't be able to get away. You can get away from zombies much faster if you're wearing fitted pants.
On that note, I think every man should own The Zombie Survival Guide. It's the most hilarious book I've ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed theorizing how to escape zombies during the apocalypse. I just think every guy should own that book.
The other four essentials: I think every guy should have a grooming routine. If you don't like fragrance on your face, there's a company called Every Man Jack. It's all organic fragrance-free facial care products. And I think every guy should have a good shaving cream and a really good razor—nothing disposable. You should be using a razor that's good for your face. It shouldn't be hurting you. Every guy should have a really comfortable, good pair of loafers because there's nothing more universal. You can wear them with jeans, you can wear them with a suit. And depending on where you live, the fifth item could be one of two things. I think that every guy should own a really great overcoat and/or a good bag. Get one that fits you and that's functional.
C&C: Name a time when you've had second thoughts about what you had on or were like, "I messed up. I really don't like this. This is wrong. But I gotta just roll the rest of the day."
MG: Oh my goodness! Just one time? I've had that moment more than once.
C&C: Well, just tell me about the worst one.
MG: The worst one I ever had... I was living in New York. And once you leave the house you have to commit. Because once you get on that subway, and you're on your way to work there's no going back home. It would take an extra hour to get back to your apartment. So I was on my way into the city, and it was snowing. And everything had turned to gray sludge. That's what happens when it snows in New York. Everything is pretty for about 5 minutes and then when the cars start driving through it turns gray. And I was like "You know what, I'm going to wear all black today." So I got dressed. I put on my black jeans, and I have a lot of denim, a lot. And it was really dark in the house that morning. I put on my black jeans, I put on a black shirt, I put on my black cowboy boots, and I put on my black pea coat. And these big crazy Armani glasses that made me look like I belonged on a spaceship in some crazy post-apocalyptic world. And my hair was platinum blonde. When I lived in New York I just went nuts. And I got on the subway and I was playing on my Ipod and I looked down and I realized my pants....... had no crotch in them.
C&C: Oh wow!!
MG: They were a pair of black jeans that I had busted the crotch out on months before when I was out. So I looked down and my first thought was "Well, $#!*, what am I gonna do about this?" And my second thought was, "Well, at least I wore black underwear." It was awesome! So I went to work looking like Invader Zim, or some crazy cartoon character with crotchless jeans on. It was pretty embarrassing. I caught hell for it at work all day. And that same day I got splashed by a car and was covered in dirty water. So I not only looked like a ragamuffin, but I smelled like a hobo, too.
C&C: When you get dressed is there a certain piece that you build around?
MG: Shoes. I've always started from the ground up. I always start with the shoes and then I think about what I'm gonna plan around the shoes. I've always loved shoes as a kid. I probably have about 45 to 50 pairs of shoes in my closet, including sneakers (I went through a sneaker phase for a while). I just think you can have the simplest outfit and throw on some really nice shoes with them and it just looks awesome.
C&C: How has your style changed from high school to now?
MG: I haven't worn American Eagle in so many years, but back then... I was obsessed with wearing that brand. It was all about the brands you were wearing and kids are still like that. Now, I hate anything with logos on them. The polo logo is the only thing that I find acceptable to wear. My style has completely changed. My pants actually fit, I don't wear puca shell necklaces anymore—I definitely had some of those. Or hemp necklaces. It was a shameful time for my fashion sense. I wish, I wish that being gay would have been more acceptable when I was in high school and I could have come out in high school, because I feel like I would have dressed differently and had more fun. This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy high school, because I did enjoy the experiences I had there. I just wish I would've done a few things differently. But doesn't everybody?
C&C: Hobbies and interests?
MG: I work so much. I mean, I'm really into building furniture. I've been building and refinishing furniture in my house since I moved there in November. I love working with my hands. That's something that a lot of people don't know about me. They see fashion guy and building furniture isnt the first thing that comes to mind. I've been re-sanding and refinishing a lot of antiques that I've collected. My dogs are a huge part of my life. I have two Alaskan Malamutes, Athena and Atlas. They are my babies and take up a lot of my time. I love television and I love movies. And I don't care if people think that sitting around for five hours watching TV is lazy. I love to do it on my day off. Someone put a lot of hard work into making that television show. Some wardrobe stylist worked really hard to style those looks. And coming from working on a television show and working on films, I know how much work goes into it and I appreciate it that much more. I love it. I love watching movies. My Netflix is always rolling. I've got a DVD actually, I have Walking Dead Season Three, disc two waiting at my house. When I leave here I'm staying up all night and I'm finishing that disc because I don't have to work tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it. I love to read. Currently I'm rereading The Great Gatsby. I really love magazines—I love flipping through them and getting inspiration. I love taking walks. I love hiking. I love the mountains—I go a lot. Recently, I've been spending a lot of time hiking in the swamps of the Francis Marion National Forest. I get a lot of inspiration from the world around me. I try to participate in everything. And you can't not be obsessed with food when you live in downtown Charleston or Charleston in general. The food here is so incredible. I love wine. I love good beer. I love socializing with friends. I love going out. I'm a very social person. That pretty much covers the basis of my hobbies. I don't collect spoons, or coins, or anything weird like that. I like gardening. I did my own herbs this year and I'm planting some winter vegetables next weekend. I'm really into working with my hands.
C&C: Before I get to my next question you said you were rereading The Great Gatsby. This Christmas a new film version is being released. In the blog world, whenever the trailer got released there was this loud outcry that they just took this classic and they made it too modern, too Hollywood, if you will, and a lot of the old school guys really, really hate it. What do you thing about it?
MG: Here's my take. If they truly understood The Great Gatsby then they're being completely hypocritical when they say they made it too Hollywood and too modern. Because the book itself is about the indulgence of that lifestyle. It's about excess. That's what the whole book is about. You look at the roaring '20s when all these people were throwing these huge parties and spending all this money on clothing and wearing the most absurd things. That's what that time period was about before the great depression. When my great grandmother was alive that's what I talked to her about growing up. She was my age in the 20s. She was in her 20s in the 20s. It was really cool to talk to her about it a hear all the things she got to be a part of and that's what the books about. It's just about complete indulgence. The movie, from what I understand, still expresses the themes of the book and that's what important. No book is ever gonna translate perfectly into a film. I don't know any film in the history of mankind that's based on a book that mimics the book perfectly. And there's always gonna be somebody that's pissed off. But if it brings people entertainment and people enjoy it, I don't see a problem with it. And I'm looking forward to seeing it. It got postponed, though, and isn't coming out until next Summer. I think it's gonna be a great film. I think people are gonna love it. That's why I'm rereading it just because I wanted to get my bearings to see what's different from it. The people who are obsessed with the book won't go see it. and the people who see it who haven't read the book aren't gonna care. They're gonna just see the movie. And the people who have read the book who go see the movie they're just gonna appreciate it for being something other than the book. Someone else's visual interpretation of the book. And I think it's wonderful. It's reminding people that the book exists. In a time that we live in where the classics don't exist anymore. I mean, lets think, what novels have come out in the last 10 years that's gonna be a classic? Twilight? Harry Potter? Like Walden or The Great Gatsby or any of the classics, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. We don't live in an era where classics like those are written any more. And I think that it's great that its gonna remind people of a different time.
C&C: In your opinion, what's the most stylish movie?
MG: Marie Antionette. Hands down. I love the costumes in that film. That and Edward Scissorhands. They're two of my favorite films to watch when I'm feeling uninspired or I just need to be blown away visually. Every time I watch them, I'm like holy $#!*. Every time. Incredible costumes. Almost any Tim Burton film. His costume designer, she's amazing. She's so talented.
C&C: It's funny you say that because I grew up watching Edward Scissorhands but I haven't seen it in 10 to 15 years.
MG: Watch it again. It will blow you away. And I got to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I was there for work when I was there and I saw it. And I got to see all the costumes from it. And it was incredible. Tim Burton never lets me down. That was definitely an easy question.