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Curating a wardrobe for the modern gentleman

In an age when many men are still working from home in sweatpants, William King believes there’s always a place for the well-dressed man.

“We obviously still believe in the art of dressing up,” says King, owner of William King Clothiers in Bristol, Tennessee.

Since opening the doors of his store in 1981, King has seen plenty of changes to men’s styles and dressing habits, but there are a few things about the way he does business that have kept him firmly in place as the key tastemaker for his customers.

At Ease

Men can be tough customers for one simple reason: many of them don’t like to shop. Over the years, King has mastered the art of getting customers to let their guard down so he can help freshen up their
wardrobes.

It all starts with creating a space where men feel comfortable browsing and spending time. King’s store is spacious, well-lit, and isn’t overstuffed with merchandise. A lounge in the back features a well-stocked bar and nicely-styled seating area.

“Our store is easy,” he says. “We like people coming here and just hanging out.”

Once the customer is comfortable, King gets to work learning about the man’s needs and personal sense of style. The conversation typically starts with what type of work the man does or what occasion he needs to dress for.

In many cases, King says men aren’t fully comfortable in what’s in their closet because styles and trends may have changed since they bought those garments.

“A customer will put on his coat and pants and he may be wearing a pleated suit that he had 10 years ago,” King says. “And we can immediately say here are the five things we would change.”

Often, it’s the details that men think aren’t a big deal that can make an old suit look dated. A coat that’s too long. Sleeves that are too full. Shoulder pads that are out of proportion. Pleated pants that are too baggy.

The solution, says King, is to walk his customer through several try-on garments to get a feel for different cuts and fits. That’s when the magic happens.

“He’ll look in the mirror and be like, ‘Wow! Yeah, this is a big deal,’ and the whole look is more flattering,” King says. “After we spend some time with them, they’re excited as hell to get a new suit.”

Adding Variety

Then, after educating his customer on what’s in style, King introduces him to pieces around the store to help him have a more elevated closet.

One of his best-selling pieces is Turtleson’s Fusion Vest, especially for customers who need a versatile layering piece as the seasons change.

“The Fusion Vest was originally designed as part of Turtleson’s golf line,” King says. “But not all of our customers play golf, so they’ll wear that vest to work and they won’t take it off. It’s more of a clothing piece than an outerwear piece.”

King also encourages his customers to explore different models of the pieces they’re used to. For instance, while many men stick to crewneck and quarter-zip sweaters, King also stocks shawl-neck cardigans from Ralph Lauren that are incredibly versatile, even taking the place of a Navy blazer for men who lean toward more traditional looks.

King displays the shawl-neck cardigan prominently in his store, styled with a Turtleson chambray sport shirt and Breuer club tie.

A Simple Recipe

If there’s one certainty in the clothing business, it’s that styles and trends will change. But over the years, two guiding principles have kept King’s customers looking smart.

First, “dress better than you have to,” he says. And second, “Buy less, buy better quality, and you’re going to be happier.”

William King Clothiers is located at 534 State Street in Bristol, Tennessee. You can find them on Instagram at @wmkingclothiers or visit their website at www.wmkingclothiers.com

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