Men With Personal Style Series – Bill Charman
From a continuing series of interviews with men who have cultivated a unique personal style reflecting their lives and passions
From the study of Italian classic literature to smuggling vintage guitars to providing real estate services for an eclectic clientele Bill Charman’s personal style has taken as unique an evolutionary course as have his careers.
Where are you located and what do you do?
I’m the founder and CEO of Gimme Shelter, a boutique real estate agency serving the San Francisco Bay area since 2003. We specialize in helping artists, writers, musicians, first time buyers, and the self-employed to buy in without selling out.
How would you describe your style?
Down and out playboy, or louche classics professor. Not that those are mutually exclusive categories, come to think of it…
What are some of your major interests and talents?
I have perversely catholic interests. One of my finest talents is putting my foot in my mouth. Hence my aversion to horse bit loafers.
Why do you wear what you wear?
For my own pleasure and amusement.
Who or what inspired your sense of style growing up?
I have no idea why this should be, but I would say that my personal sense of style is essentially innate, unlearned, and even to some degree a genetic aberration and/or diagnosable symptom.
Even in preschool I insisted on a different, themed get up every day. Mailman, Astronaut, Boy scout, Frontiersman, etc. A veritable toddler village person, I was. These were elaborate, detailed, and accurate costumes, by the way. To be candid, it caused some concern about my, eh…stability. Whereas my father, although a very successful pathologist, literally lives in florid Luau print surgical scrubs. He would not hesitate to wear them anywhere or any time.
How has your style evolved?
Apart from the precocious work wear fetish, I grew up, playing in bands - jazz, punk, rockabilly, country, and psycho-billy, all of which had arcane dress codes. Later I lived and studied in Italy, and was made over/enlightened, Pygmalion style, by various young Italian countesses and such (a long story, for elsewhere). My first real job involved smuggling vintage instruments into Italy and Japan (this is also a story for elsewhere), an occupation which had its own style requirements, and then I spent 14+ years in the music business and owned Univibe, a cult guitar shop serving underground and national bands. Most guys retire and can’t wait to ditch the suit and walk around in jeans all the time; coming from the rock world, I couldn’t wait to go the opposite direction. Perhaps it’s a reverse midlife crisis.
Favorite article of clothing or accessory that was as a gift?
I’m lucky to have wonderful, generous friends. My wife never fails to give me spectacular gifts or to root out the classics long before they make it to the mainstream. Of particular note are my Stubbs & Wooten slippers, which she gave me over a decade ago. They feature monkeys riding seahorses, and are irreplaceable. Also my bespoke Olatz pajamas of the kind that Mr. Schnabel never takes off. (Size…cozy. His, not mine). An amazing straw Borsalino for my last birthday. Others have given me gorgeous pocket squares. Some especially grateful and/or guilt ridden clients once delivered me an unbelievable pair of A. Testoni Crocodile wingtips. They are truly perverse.
Worst fashion mistake?
As part of a negotiated compromise, and to be allowed to graduate from high school, I was conscripted into the marching band. On electric bass (they were short a tuba). This entailed tramping around on a football field, strapped to an amplifier, and wearing a kind of polyester pirate/mariner costume of catastrophic hideousness. The mistake was in agreeing. In retrospect graduation from high school was not that important an achievement.
If your home was burning down and you could only grab one big armload of clothing what would it be?
By which I assume you mean, what is my ideal wardrobe for such an occasion.
Escaping from life threatening situations is an perfect opportunity to demonstrate ones verve, without, of course, appearing to do so…which is the actual definition of sprezzatura, by the way. The exact reverse of the way that “Sprezz” is practiced on the internetz in 2013…but I digress.
A midnight blue shawl collared tuxedo jacket would be my first choice. This would lend an excellent Weegee sort of a look to any news photos of the disaster. Thank god Weegee died before he could get a Tumblr account.
Where do you get your inspiration today?
Brian Ferry continues to set a good example, as does Nick Lowe.
Do you have a favorite store?
The Church Mouse, in Palm Beach, which is a thrift store for the 1%. This is where Bernard Madoff’s bisque stained Cucinelli slacks went after he was arrested.
What is your approach when getting dressed?
I strive to look appropriate for business, but without looking like I actually have to go to work. As though I may be on my way to or from the next aperitif. Possibly by boat.
What do you like to wear and carry with you while traveling by air?
I used to have this Grahme Fowler Prince of Wales suit that was as slouchy and comfortable as pajamas, but I gave it to someone skinnier recently. Dramamine and champagne, AKA the Jimi Hendrix cocktail, always adds a pleasantly woozy indifference to the annoyance of modern flight.
3 ingredients or fewer. Or a good grappa. (not an oxymoron)
I love the Internets as much as the next guy, but gents, remember who you’re dressing for, and why. Is it to one up your fellow style geeks, to belong to some “approved” secret society of OCD rule enforcers, or is it to turn, say, the ladies heads?
Right, that’s what I thought.
- Gus Walbolt ABITOFCOLOR.Tumblr.com