There's no place on Earth like Charleston, South Carolina. The homes look like something out of a movie, the waterfront views are picturesque, and it just oozes tradition and history.
So of course Charleston has its own unique style too, and who better to school us in its essentials than Southern Charm's K. Cooper Ray? Not only is Cooper always caught in nothing less than a dapper ensemble on the show, but he's been a major sartorial mover and shaker for years. He's a former vice president of Bottega Veneta, and he designed a line of bow ties for Brooks Brothers. Cooper also just opened up his third pop-up shop in Charleston and his fifth ever under his Social Primer brand. The pop-up features men's accessories, antiques, and other merchandise.
"One of the reasons I first got noticed as a blogger was because I had a bow tie party in L.A., and that was just an anomaly, that that was the funniest thing they had ever seen. But in Charleston, you are really encouraged and nurtured as a man, which is rare," Alabama native Cooper told The Lookbook about the Southern city's style. "It's a very freeing environment for someone who likes to dress."
And it's not just the men that are dressing up to be seen; the women of Charleston are also using King Street as a runway. Cooper gave us the lowdown on some of the style archetypes you might find in Chucktown, which he and his fellow Charmers perfectly illustrate.
1. The Uniform
First and foremost, you'll often see men sporting what's called the "Charleston Tuxedo," which Cooper described as featuring a blazer, khakis, white shirt, and bow tie. Craig Conover suavely wears one — plus a casual backwards baseball cap — in the photo above. It's "the uniform everywhere you go," Cooper said.
2. The Prep
You'll often find younger ladies adopting the classic preppy style, according to Cooper. Think fitted blazers, Oxfords, and cardigans, white jeans, loafers, riding boots, shift dresses, plaids, pearls, and pastels. For a sportier look, a polo dress is always a winner, as Landon Clements demonstrates above while wielding a croquet mallet. It doesn't get much preppier than that.
3. The Dandy
"Charleston is sort of this mecca for all Southerners, particularly for dandies," Cooper told The Lookbook. "I've never seen men dress the way men in Charleston dress outside of maybe Rome, where Italian men are peacocks. They dress for each other, and Charleston men definitely do that." Cooper perfectly encapsulates the dandy style in the photo above with his seersucker suit and white bucks. Get him a straw boater hat, and he's ready for the chicest garden party ever.
4. The Blast from the Past
If Cooper had to name an item that defines women's style in Charleston, he would say a 1950s-style dress with a fitted bodice and little skirt. Kathryn C. Dennis sports a more minimalist, modern take on the '50s silhouette in the above photo, letting her glamorous fascinator do all the talking. You can also get a bit whimsical with it by wearing a frock in a poplin material or having it decked out in an eye-catching pattern, too. Cooper said this look is all-around "clean" and "polished." "That's my, obviously, quintessential favorite style," he said.
5. The Hunter
Even when Charleston men dress down, they still dress to impress. Their affinity for the English hunting aesthetic proves that. This style is all about layering underneath a waxed vest or jacket, and of course, a good pair of boots that can withstand trekking through the outdoors. You can jazz up your Earth tone-heavy outfit with stand-out accessories like an ascot or a feather in your cap, as Cooper shows in the above photo. Just be careful not to wear anything to scare off the game — or get mistaken for it.
6. The Grand Dame
Last but certainly not least, there are the grand dames, a.k.a. society ladies, of Charleston. Since Patricia Altschul is the grand dame of the metropolis, basically anything she wears epitomizes this style, from long coats to matching tunic and pants sets. And as Patricia has showed on many occasions as well as in the above photo, you can never go wrong with a bright, bold caftan.
The Lookbook is Bravo’s celebration of personal style. We keep you up to date on the inspiring looks from trend-setting stylistas, test and report on the most-coveted fashion and beauty products, and offer solutions to all your style-related conundrums. Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.