Setting the Bar

Luxury retail veteran H.B. Nelson has been helping men dress their best for over 14 years at New York's premier shopping destination. He shares with us how he’s navigated luxury retail all these years and how the rules are changing for Big and Tall style.

Words by Good Counsel

Portraits by Justin Bridges

First, tell us about your background, you’ve been part of men’s fashion for some time?

When I first moved here I did musical theater for four years and then began working in luxury retail—I was in a gospel ensemble for ten years concurrently—that allowed me to go to Japan, which stands out—and several other places. I’ve been in high-end menswear for almost fifteen years now.

When you encountered Good Counsel for the first time, what were your first impressions?

I was surprised, I didn’t realize it was geared towards a big and tall client. It was refreshing to see the guys in the clothes and the brands providing those sizes. I wasn’t expecting it. You don’t realize it until you see the site, what’s happening. When I looked it was, “This is really cool, there’s some things I’d like to wear myself.”

How has shopping experience been, being big and tall? What are some of the challenges?

My main challenge has been my arms. I have a 38” inch sleeve length. Can’t find shirts for the life of me. Sometimes, depending on the way something is cut, I’m either the very last size or I need one size bigger than what the designer’s largest available size is.

What are some tips or tricks you’ve used to make certain styles or pieces work for you?

You have to look at what you feel are your strongest features are and work around that. For me, I can play with proportions pretty easily because I’m so tall—I look more slender than I actually am because of my height—my long neck helps as well.

How much style is about confidence?

I think when you own something you own it. People will appreciate it if you have a lot of confidence and if you feel like you look good in it, others will feel like you look good in it.

What’s your style, if you could distill it into a few words?

I’d say it’s sophisticated but it’s also a little bit eclectic—a combination of the two. I like color, but I also like black. I think “sophisticated” because I really like tailored clothing, I like things to fit a certain way. I like the fit to be conspicuous. I want people to know how I want it to fit. If I’m wearing a boxy blazer I want people to understand I did it on purpose, I didn’t just throw it on.  It depends on my mood, that determines the style I’m going to portray or put forth.

What’s the eclectic part?

I like funky jewelry and big statement pieces sometimes. I like eyewear… I don’t wear one particular style—I don’t know how many different shapes and sizes of glasses I have—I love scarves. I love to throw those things in to kind of spice up what I’m wearing. I’m not eclectic for show but I do like to make things a little more fun.

What’s your perfect shirt look and fit like?

The perfect shirt for me… well, first off, it’d depend on the season. Come to think of it, I’ve got three or four Dries shirts that I wear. And they’re mandarin collar—long—not to the knee but pretty long, so oversized but not too oversized. They drape. That’s been my favorite silhouette lately because I can throw it on by itself, I can put a jacket on, I can put a leather jacket over it… the shirt creates dimension and levels.

How did you discover that tunic shirt silhouette as the one for you?

It’s funny, as we were trying on some of the clothes today I remember having these jeans or a similar pant on and maybe even these boots on.  A friend of mine bought me a Rick Owens jacket, it was cropped, it was leather. I tried that on, I had the shirt on, the jeans, everything—and I honestly didn’t think I could wear that proportion. But because the jacket was a certain length…not too cropped, because the shirt was long but not too long, because the jeans were skinny and the boots were cool, it all worked. It was, “You know, I can wear this look.” You can wear whatever you want if you know how to put it together.

Why the particular focus on proportion for you?

I think where I work has played a big part—I was exposed to so many different designers and aesthetics—different points of view on fashion and how you should wear it. Over the years, I’ve seen people wear things that I’ve really liked and I’ve seen people wear things that I couldn’t stand. And I always try to figure out why it is that I did or didn’t like it. It usually comes to back to proportion or color… or a combination of the two. 

As someone who experiments with different shapes and silhouettes what’s your ideal pant fit like?

I like something that for me is skinny, has a little stretch. That way it’s not too tight, it’s a little cleaner and more sophisticated. Neat and clean… I do wear distressed, some rips… but not too destroyed, it just doesn’t work for me.

What do you think is Good Counsel’s potential?

I think it’s a resource to find the things in stores that just don’t come in your size. The quality of the cashmeres, the wools—the flannels, the coats—they’re comfortable but yet super stylish… and they’re fun. You’ve got to put them on to see what they do for you in particular. There were a couple of things that I never would have tried on—I put them on—and the thought was, “Wow, I didn’t think I could do this.” I think that’s what Good Counsel does, it helps people to find themselves and some of these fashions that they think, maybe, they can’t wear—and shows them how to do it.

What are some of those things that you tried on that surprised you?

I fell in love with a few things. That herringbone robe coat was amazing. I expected it to be nice when I put it on but I didn’t expect it to be so chic—that was cool. The olive mockneck poplin shirt… in black too, the cashmere cardigan—and that long-zip bomber jacket. Pretty much everything that I had a chance to try on.

What would you say is the style philosophy you live by? 

I look out for what draws my attention in the wrong way. I also try to find one thing that I really like, focus on that and leave it at that. I try not to spend more than seven minutes putting a look together. Listen to your intuition—don’t make it look like you got dressed up.

I’ve at some point felt too skinny or other times too big. I’ve come to conclusion that I’ve got to work with what I’ve got and try to wear things that put forward as best of an image of myself as possible. My personal style, I’ve heard from others that I that never wear the same thing twice—or that I always have a different look. Whatever that look is, it’s me and it’s my personality, and it’s a mood. I’m really into mood and energy – I believe in a an energy telling you what you need that day. I can’t look at a particular style and say that’s what I’m going to wear, but I can look at my mood and tell you that I dress for my mood and to have fun—that’s what people see in me and that’s why they can relate to what I wear.

What would you tell others about Good Counsel?

Good Counsel has a really great scope of different styles, shapes, fabrics, colors—you’re covering several different genres. This is a place where somebody can come and catch all the looks they might want without having to go to four or five different places and know what to pick out. Just like I did, you have a chance to be incredibly surprised by what you might find when you try it on—and you have it all—right in one place. And it fits. I’ve never been in one place where I’ve found so many things that I could put on, that look great—without having to tailor them, lower the sleeves, shorten this, lengthen that—it already fits. I think most guys want to shop like that, you walk in, find things that look good on you—and Good Counsel definitely looks good on me.