Community, Authenticity and a Return to One's Roots

16 May 2024

Grit General combines fashion, inspiration and a sense of place through its unique collection

Summer/Fall 2024

Written By: Jessica Smith | Images: David Bowers

If you take a stroll through Jackson, just a block off of the Town Square and its famous antler arches, you’ll come across the inviting doorstep of Grit General. A local business founded by Billy “Zeb” Smith and his wife Kate, Grit General is a place where city meets mountain, by way of high-end fashion.

In this store, Zeb has manifested his own personal identity — a childhood split between the wild landscape of his father’s cabin in nearby Wilson, Wyoming, and the iron wilderness of New York City with his mother, a revered fashion designer. When he moved to Jackson Hole with his family several years ago, Zeb wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do to leverage his professional expertise in filmmaking and fashion — he just knew he wanted to be involved in the community.

In July 2022, Grit General opened its doors, and Zeb has been pouring himself into it ever since. Zeb utilizes his knowledge of the fashion industry to curate high-end, authentic and stylistic clothing that goes beyond what you would find in a conventional clothing store. “That first summer went by quicker than any of us expected,” Zeb says. “Now we are about to enter our third July, with more racks on the walls, more tables on the floor, a few more brands, a few more pieces of art, and lots more unique products and special collaborations that really set us apart. It was always important for us to create a space with pieces you couldn’t find anywhere else.”

We recently took some time to talk with Zeb about his history, his community, and his goals for Grit.

JHStyle: How do you describe your connection to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the West?
Zeb: My family and I are deeply rooted to this place. My great-grandfather had a small ranch on Little Goose Creek in Sheridan, Wyoming, a hundred years ago, where he taught my grandfather how to hunt and fish as a small boy. The clothes one wore back then mattered. A rancher’s kid didn’t have three sets of clothes, so his pants had to be able to take him from the duck blind to the church pew. My dad taught me the same hunting and fishing skills down on Fish Creek when I was a boy, back when you could still go for ducks and geese in Wilson. And dressing in well-made wools, downs and waxed canvases was the only reason I didn’t lose a toe or two.

I also grew up most of the year in a very different world, with my mom in downtown Manhattan. My personal style was born out of a rugged utilitari- anism that reflects both sets of roots: the city and the mountains. Years later, honing my eye and my chops in the design offices of Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs, the influence of the American West on fashion kind of became my thesis. Now, I travel about a week a month, going to source the best hides from Japan, or natural dyes from France, but always with those same influences and themes at play. The hope is that it all comes together to create a peak version of the “Jackson” aesthetic, and one that exemplifies my own heart, soul and style, too.

JHStyle: Tell us about the clothing you’ll find at Grit General.
Zeb: The brands we stock represent this same sense of community. Whether they’re from Montana, Maine, Italy, France, Scandinavia or Japan, the vast majority of our brands are made up of teams of 10 or less folks themselves. This means we aren’t just friends with the wholesale reps, but with the designers, and the sewers, and everyone in-between. This grants us incredible access to all of the details that make each of our pieces so special and unique.

Separately, about our offerings, we really aim for authenticity. There are so many folks out there who create these garish, faux-Western caricatures, that we really strive to separate ourselves from com- pletely. At Grit, we curate, cultivate, and make pieces that exemplify a classic aesthetic and style, while also stocking items that can be worn hard and tough like a true Jackson lifestyle might at times demand.

JHStyle: What is one of your favorite things about working in the store?
Zeb: Getting to share these stories, and introducing new customers to these brands and their attention to detail, is one of the best parts of running the shop. And, if customers want to go deeper, we often style full looks for people, or couples, or even entire wedding parties, and can craft fully custom pieces that we design with you from the ground up.

JHStyle: What story are you hoping to tell with your clothing?
Zeb: Everything we sell is meant to embody this place. And as a source of style, Jackson Hole works as well at the Cowboy Bar as it does in New York, Paris or Tokyo. It’s real, it’s authentic, it embodies a cool confidence, and it tells a story. Whether you live in Jackson or you’re just visiting, when you buy something from us, we want you to take it with you as a piece that represents and honors this place’s indelible spirit, everywhere you take it. We don’t sell trends. The pieces we sell are heirloom items that will look good, feel good, and last forever.

 

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