Lyle Lovett talks runways, Robert Altman and ring-spun denim

Lyle Lovett talks runways, Robert Altman and ring-spun denim
Lyle Lovett on stage. He also knows his way around a catwalk. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

In interviewing Lyle Lovett for a piece about his Western shirt collaboration with  Hamilton  (which  appeared  in last Sunday's Image section), the singer-songwriter-actor and I covered a lot of ground, touching on topics that ranged from his earliest runway experience (at the age of 10) and the appeal of partnering with the 130-year-old custom shirt maker (preservation of family) to what steps he takes to tame that trademark head of hair.

Below are a few additional excerpts from that conversation.


We've talked about how you like to wear a suit when you're performing on stage, but what's your everyday "off-stage" wardrobe like?

Ariat [denim] -- which sponsors a lot of the equine events I’m involved with -- their [jeans] use a really nice ring-spun denim. It’s lightweight yet it’s strong so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing canvas jeans. So during the day I’ll usually wear a pair of my Ariat jeans and one of my Hamilton shirts. And if I’m working in the recording studio I’ll wear a Prada sport coat. But there’s not a lot of variety in what I choose to wear.

As a celebrity, you could probably have partnered with any company you wanted to -- or even launch your own line altogether. Why Hamilton -- apart from the fact that they were already making your custom shirts?

David and Kelly Hamilton -- who took the business over from their dad -- are the fourth generation of Hamiltons  to run the business, which appealed to me because I've spent my whole life trying to hang on to my grandpa's farm and keep our family place in the family that's existed since the 1840s, so I appreciated their whole spirit of wanting to hang on to the family business.

Do you have any favorite places to shop for clothes in Los Angeles?

I don’t really have very much time [now] but I first got to know  [Comme des Garçons  designer] Rei Kawakubo’s clothes from shopping at  Maxfield and  Barneys [New York in Beverly Hills].

I know you walked in a Comme des Garçons fashion show in Paris in 1992 -- along with people like Peter Weller and Brice Marden. Was that your first catwalk turn?

Actually, my mom -- who was a model -- got me on the runway for a department store in San Antonio called Joske's back when I was 10.

Any other memorable forays into the fashion fray?

One thing that exposed me a lot to the world of fashion was the Robert Altman film "Prêt-à-Porter" [released in the U.S. as] "Ready to Wear." It was set around the [spring/summer 1994] shows and he shot it at the actual shows and we were around a lot of those folks a lot for three months straight --  Altman took the entire cast to Paris for three months.

Do you follow the men's runway shows or keep abreast of the latest fashion trends?

In the last few years I've really seen my taste departing from the current fashion trends -- I'm finally starting to feel like an old guy. There are a couple of guys in the band who are in their 30s shop at H&M and they look like they're right out of Prada ads -- in skinny jeans with their shirts untucked. I can't wear a shirt untucked because it takes me back to Lutheran school where we'd get sent home. And I see these young hipster types with hair that looks like they just got up but they look good somehow. I see that and objectively think it's a good look -- but just not for me.

Speaking of hair, you do have a very distinctive 'do. Is it very labor intensive -- or does it look like that from the minute you roll out of bed?

I just put a little gel in it when it's wet just to make it controllable -- it sort of keeps the sides from sticking straight out [and] I let it dry on its own and then I just sort of run my hand through it and it expands.