Style Icon: Kyle Kruse


Kyle stands in a loft condominium in The Whitmire, one of his renovated buildings. Brooks Brothers slim fit shirt, Perry Ellis pant, Kenneth Cole belt.

Kyle stands in a loft condominium in The Whitmire, one of his renovated buildings. Brooks Brothers slim fit shirt, Perry Ellis pant, Kenneth Cole belt.

Redeveloper / CFP / Craftsman / Handyman

Written and styled by Tracy James

Photography by Chuck St. John

 

Kyle Kruse says his latest business ventures have included doing everything he can to get out of the suit-wearing business. The real estate redeveloper, whose latest projects include the Whitmire Lofts in downtown Birmingham’s theatre district, says his personal style is similar to his building design tastes. “I like things that are a little rough around the edges,” he says, favoring building designs that bleed out into the space and objects around them, that adapt to the surroundings. So it is fitting that Kruse describes his wardrobe as “rugged yet adaptive.” He doesn’t mind putting on a suit and shiny black shoes for a special occasion, but his comfort zone is flat-front slacks and a slim-cut button down from 8–5 for his day job as a certified financial planner at Elyton Partners, which he cofounded; but he can be found in jeans and a T-shirt on nights and weekends, when he enjoys building furniture, riding his mountain bike or motorcycle, and seeking out new renovation projects. “My favorite piece of clothing is a perfect T-shirt,” he says. “The right fit, weight, texture, material, etc. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Casual attire doesn’t mean a lack of attention to detail. Kruse’s style pet peeve for men is the no-belt look. “Whether jeans, slacks, or shorts, is it that hard to put on a damn belt?” he asks rhetorically, adding, “But I’m obviously behind the trend on this because every male model I see in magazines is without a belt.” Weighing in on women’s fashion, Kruse confesses his distaste for capri pants (amen) and sequins. “Why do women think they need to wear clothes with light reflecting material attached to them?” he asks.

If he’s honest, Kruse has to admit that his shopping is limited to emergencies (like when a dog ripped a hole in a favorite pair of grey slacks) or necessity (like an upcoming trip or event). For those occasions, Banana Republic is a go-to destination, as are the Kenneth Cole and Perry Ellis lines at department stores. On his wish list, however, is a quality leather weekender bag from an Italian manufacturer like Floto or Cenzo.

On his modified Suzuki TU 250, Kyle wears his Red Camel motorcycle jacket, "World's Fastest Indian" Lucky t-shirt, Lucky jeans, True Religion cap, Von Maur aviator shades and watch.

On his modified Suzuki TU 250, Kyle wears his Red Camel motorcycle jacket, “World’s Fastest Indian” Lucky t-shirt, Lucky jeans, True Religion cap, Von Maur aviator shades and watch.

While he may incorporate some of the latest building techniques in his renovation designs, Kruse doesn’t consider himself a trendsetter when it comes to fashion, preferring a classic, “no fuss” look. “I’m not a ‘bolder is better’ kind of dresser,” he explains. Think Bradley Cooper, whom Kruse mentions as having that rugged-yet-sophisticated look he admires. “I’m definitely not a fan of the hipster look,” Kruse says. “No skinny jeans for me, but no baggy, saggy garb either. I like well-fitting clothes.” As in architecture, proportion is key.

Just as there are trends in fashion, so are there trends in architecture and design. Those Kruse has noticed lately revolve around the use of raw, reclaimed, and natural materials. Every new bar has reclaimed wood furniture and finishes (Carrigan’s, for example) or raw steel elements (Paramount) worked into the design. “I’ve always love to take things that are old or obsolete and rebuild, repurpose, or remake them into something new or interesting or useful,” he says.  “I wanted to build something that brought modern architecture, style, and people back to the street.”  When people walked past his Whitmire Lofts building, he wanted them to ask, “Is this really Birmingham?” The corten steel facade harkens back to Birmingham’s days of yore as a steel city and the subtle pattern is taken from a molding found in the Lyric Theater at the other end of Third Avenue.

When asked whether his personal style has evolved over the years, like most adults, Kruse responds that his dress has become more refined. But on second thought, he revises, saying, “Actually, the best evolvement is that today I’m more comfortable wearing what I have always worn.”

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