Cruz Cortez, owner of Cruz Cortez Clothiers, 2227 Postoffice St. in Galveston’s downtown, learned fashion at an early age.

“I was preppy before preppy was cool,” Cortez said. “My father and grandfather were in the laundry business, so when I went to school, I always wore pressed khakis with madras shirts.”

Cortez’s retail career began at the age of 16 when he went to work for Sam J. Williams Clothing Store, next door to where he operates his own business today.

After stints at J.C. Penney and Pierson’s Clothing, Cortez opened the first factory outlet store in Galveston across from Eiband’s.

“My grandmother was a seamstress at Pierson’s and my uncle worked at Star Drug Store for 45 years,” he said.

Both Cortez and his father graduated from Ball High School.

Calling himself a traditionalist when it comes to fashion, Cortez doesn’t go in for trends. His store carries a huge selection of Hawaiian shirts by Jams World and Paradise Found, among others, as well as Indonesian batik shirts, guayabera (Mexican wedding) shirts, straw hats, suits; Cruz Cortez Clothiers also offers tuxedo rental. Primarily catering to men, women’s fashions are available as well.

Cortez and wife Jeni live in League City, where his own closet is full of Hawaiian shirts and some surprises.

“I’m a white shirt guy,” he said.

His closet holds plenty of them, as well as blue and pink pinpoint Oxfords, one fun plaid shirt, gaberdine slacks, several traditional suits in black, navy and gray tweed, all mixed in with denim, silk shirts (one with an Elvis guitar) and various rayon and cotton shirts in bright colors.

He prefers Johnston & Murphy cap-toe shoes and changes out his closet depending on the season.

Q: Since your store is close to the cruise ship terminal, do you sell a lot of clothes to the cruise crowd?

A: Yes. My motto is: “See Cruz for your sea cruise.”

Q: So what does Cruz take on a cruise?

A: A black suit, tux, Johnston & Murphy shoes for dress; Hawaiian shirts and shorts, and river shoes for casual wear.

Q: Name a quirky fashion thing you’ve done.

A: Growing my hair long, like now. I’m doing this until I get a ’55 Chevy for my third midlife crisis. Then I’ll cut my hair.

Q: So, other than clothes, you have a passion for cars?

A: Yes, hot rods and drag racing.

Q: Describe your most outrageous shirt.

A: I have two: my Jams World Picasso fish shirt and my hot rod shirt with the ’55 Chevy.

Q: Your most outrageous pair of shoes.

A: Burgundy and black saddle oxfords. People think I’m a lawyer when I wear them.

Q: Do you favor a particular designer?

A: I carry a lot of tux rentals with labels like Calvin Klein and Givenchy, but in reality, there are only three mills that make the fabric; then designers add their names. Labels really don’t mean a thing. I sell a lot of my own private line of shirts made in Cleveland, Tenn., the good old USA.  

Q: What is your favorite accessory?

A: Ties with matching pocket squares.

Q: What are the worst fashion mistakes that men make?

A: They procrastinate and wait until the last minute to buy clothes.

Q: Best fashion advice you have to offer to customers.

A: Clothes don’t make the man; man makes the clothes. You have to shine from within.

Q: What is the best thing that has happened on the island regarding fashion?

A: We finally have a Hawaiian shirt day!

Q: Name the worst fashion trend you’ve seen in your career.

A: Nero suits.

Q: Who is the best dressed male personality you admire?

A: Ralph Lauren. But also, Fred Astaire. He truly had style and he was slim.

Q: Who is the most famous celebrity who has come into your store?

A: Jerry Jeff Walker, but I didn’t recognize him.

Q: Words you live by.

A: Ka la hiki ola. Make this day your day and the best day ever.

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