Knickers: How Gentlemanly of You
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
A greatly matched pair stands the test of time: peaches and cream, wind and waves, golf and the Golden Bear, and even Knickers and Harbour Town, where the resident classic clothier has been dressing gentlemen since 1971. As the adage goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. In the early days, Knickers’ customers meandered their way in from a round of golf on the newly minted Harbour Town Golf Links, or strolled by after having had enough of the beach’s sand and sun. Primarily on vacation, these chaps stopped by to bolster their vacation attire or replenish their work wardrobe, all while enjoying a companionable respite overlooking the harbor’s iconic red and white-striped lighthouse.
Forty-five years have sailed by, and gentlemen can still be found enjoying a bit of their vacations at Knickers, sprucing up their attire in the shadow of the Sea Pines Resort lighthouse. “The men who are here on vacation don’t have a lot of time to shop normally,” said Jock Miller, the shop’s manager and buyer. “It’s very easy to shop at Knickers, and they have a little extra time to shop here because they’re on vacation.”
History happily repeats itself today, as a well-curated selection of clothing and accessories can be found—perfect for a Lowcountry family vacation, or to be packed away in the suitcases headed for home and the realities of off-island time. “In the 1970s, Knickers was a very traditional men’s store with coats, ties, suits, and some resort wear,” Miller said, who started working at Knickers in 1981. “It was a different business back then; it was a time when people dressed for dinner. Last fall we did three sport coat patterns; in the 1980s, we had 40 different patterns and silk jackets in all the colors. Over time, the shop moved away from the coats and suits and focused primarily on sportswear. Miller sees that changing again, “We’re carrying nice men’s sportswear, and we’re bringing back a limited number of sport coats. While everything is a little more casual now, there’s still a need for something a bit more elevated.”
Today’s Knickers hits the sweet spot of just the right look for the modern gentleman. Miller’s 50 years in retail, along with his impeccable eye for what their customers are going to want and need, makes the destination worth the journey. Owners Jack and Joan Shea know that Miller’s annual buying trips will garner just what the customer craves. “Buying is interesting. The biggest test is to get the colors down and make sure we’re on target,” Miller said. “We live in the South, so we’re going to have a little more color; you don’t often see people dressed all in black down here. The colors make it a lot more fun.”
Lines by Bobby Jones, Peter Millar, Tommy Bahama, Vineyard Vines, and Southern Tide fortify the clothing, footwear, eyewear, leather goods, and accessories that provide an excellent model for how a modern gentleman should dress. There’s a comfortable transition happening every day at Knickers, where men of a certain distinguished age may find attire that suits their sensibilities, and where a more, shall we say, youthful movement is handsomely represented as well.
The stories of Vineyard Vine and Southern Tide represent the newer generation of clothiers who bring with them a passion for what they do. Launched in 1998 by two brothers who grew up spending their summers on Martha’s Vineyard, the energetic colors and patterns of Vineyard Vine couldn’t be more apropos for Hilton Head Island and its upscale beachy vibe. Hating their desk jobs in Manhattan, they trusted their intuition and set out to have a good time, work only for themselves, and build on the casual Friday momentum they saw in their corporate work environment. Sounds a bit like many Lowcountry entrepreneurs who have made lifestyle a deciding factor in their career choice. Knickers carries Vineyard Vines’ imaginative ties (the brothers’ first foray into the clothing business and their answer to casual Fridays), along with a full line sporting the company’s whimsical whale logo.
South Carolina-based clothing company Southern Tide was founded from a desire to make and sell a shirt that was designed to fit and move like the superior quality clothing the founder saw on a trip to Italy. Their Skipjack polo anchors the line at Knickers, where a full array of Southern Tide is sold, from T-shirts to shorts, swimsuits to sandals, and boxers, belts, and hats.
For this spring and summer, both Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide are producing a Hilton Head Island branded T-shirt just for the Knickers customer. Miller is also thrilled to be carrying an all new Knickers branded line of shirts. “We want to build a Knickers label and put some nice things out there that people will come to us for,” he said. The line includes polo shirts in eight colors, T-shirts in several colors, and long-sleeved washed linen shirts in 10 shades. The charming Knickers golfer logo will be a prominent feature, and depending on the style, the logo will be heat-stamped on the inside, and will have a one-of-a-kind Knickers hang tag.
“The formula in the store is to have fun, to talk to people, find out where they’re from, and enjoy their company,” Miller said. “Everybody on vacation wants to talk about where they’re from, and nine times out of ten, they’re from somewhere else.” Much like the Harbour Town lighthouse and Knickers, some things just go together. Aren’t we fortunate that the more things change, the more they stay the same?
Knickers is located at 149 Lighthouse Road, Suite L in Sea Pines Resort. For more information, please call (843) 671-2291 or visit knickersmenswear.com.