Outside a Starbucks on the corner of Pine Street and Fourth Avenue, fashion expert Daniel Billett is right at home — sitting at a...

Share story

Outside a Starbucks on the corner of Pine Street and Fourth Avenue, fashion expert Daniel Billett is right at home — sitting at a outdoor table, critiquing men’s outfits as they walk by.

He notices one man wearing a blue two-button suit with a crisp white shirt, mostly because he stood out from the dozens of ill-dressed passersby.

“I would rather see someone spend more money on one great suit, than two or three mediocre suits,” he says.

A longtime corporate project manager, Billett, 38, has always been a fashion buff. As a boy, he’d visit the library to check out books on the fashion industry.

But for the past three years, he has put his knowledge to work as the men’s fashion and grooming columnist for about.com.

As part of his job, he’ll attend this year’s New York Fashion Week to see designers promenade their vision of what’s in for spring ’08.

But the subject today is also the title of his humor book: “Mistakes Men Make.” In his lighthearted tone, he calls out the common male fashion faux pas: baggy clothes, mustaches, chest hair. Here in Seattle, a city that barely registers on the global fashion scale, Billett finds lots to comment on.

He spots one passer-by wearing socks and sandals, his No.1 pet peeve. Another strolls by in a Mariners jersey.

“You only wear the jersey once and that’s at the game,” he said. “You don’t go on dates or casual outings in a jersey.”

Billett’s golden nugget of advice for men is to tailor their clothes to fit them.

“Make clothes look like they fit you. Tailoring is key,” he says. Tall and thin, Billett is wearing a black fitted button-down shirt, dark skinny jeans and limited edition Jack Purcell sneakers.

Billett credits his family background — his mother is from England — as a fashion influence more than growing up in Portland.

“The fashion [in Portland] was very Northwest, the whole outdoorsy, REI thing going on,” he says. Seattle, where he’s lived on and off for the past 20 years, has the same aesthetic with hints of leftover grunge.

But on a optimistic note, he admits that Seattle men are starting to dress better.

“A city that can support a Barneys New York — that says something,” he said. “Fashion consciousness is changing in Seattle.”

Billett traveled to London and Paris while he was a project manager for American Express, and the sartorial knowledge he gleaned from those fashion centers helped his sideline as a style guru.

“If you overprocess wool, it becomes shiny. … Suits are the one item that make your body look good. … Your lifestyle has to dictate what you wear, but if you are on your feet all day, there are fashionable choices.”

Billett also advises that it doesn’t make you less of a man to care about what you wear. Fashion is more about self-respect than vanity, he advises.

“America’s one of the few cultures that has allowed men to put minimal effort into what they wear,” he said. “I think it’s an old idea. David Beckham is a fashion icon. He loves to play with haircuts and fashion, and it doesn’t diminish his masculinity.”

Taya Flores: 206-464-2220 or tflores@seattletimes.com