Elements of Style

Elements of Style: Jeff Shell, Face of the Neal Hamil Agency

Chickens, metallic platform shoes, coconut oil, and other essentials for the modern Houston man.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen October 2, 2017 Published in the October 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Todd Spoth

Jeff Shell is insistent on making breakfast for a visitor to his Montrose bungalow—but first he has to find some eggs. He heads outside to check a few hiding spots where his heirloom-breed chickens might have laid them. Soon, he’s whipped up some organic sweet and savory French toast.

Between the chickens, the cooking, the quirky, art-filled home, and Shell’s own laid-back off-duty style, it’s a different vibe than one might expect from the charismatic and stylish face of the Neal Hamil Agency, which his family has owned for nearly 25 years.

But according to Shell, that’s not uncommon among fashion types. “All the designers I know, like Carmen Marc Valvo, they all have secondary properties, and they garden, and they’re really into nature,” he says. “They need that balance. We all do.”

Favorite thing in your closet?

I just got these platinum metallic shoes—I love them, but they’re leather, so, oops, can’t be 100 percent vegan. I want to be, but my car seats are leather, my shoes are leather.

What’s something you’d never be caught dead in?

At this point, I personally will not wear a logo. I’ll wear a message—“Save the Whales”—but I don’t want to wear a logo.

What’s the most important part of your grooming routine?

Coconut oil. I never use lotion, I use coconut oil—or olive oil, almond oil—plus a drop of lavender, which is antimicrobial. Because I’m a swimmer, I used to get a lot of fungal infections in my toes. Once I switched from lotion to oil, I never had a fungal infection again, ever. I tell people, don’t ever put lotion on. My advice is when you get out of the shower, don’t even towel off, just put oil everywhere and throw on a robe or walk around naked until it’s dry. And then my skin is glistening.

What’s something you like to splurge on?

I like to splurge on nice hotels. I’m not going to stay in a cheap accommodation; it’s not my thing. … I love a staycation—have a nice date night or friend night, go stay downtown. It feels luxurious. And then have a nice breakfast in the morning.

Where do you find all those amazing bold blazers that you wear to events?

ASOS, I think?


You just buy a couple nice jackets and an expensive pair of shoes. It just depends. Shoes are important, or a jacket—a nice statement piece. And accessories elevate the quality of your style.

What’s a style habit that a typical guy might have that drives you crazy?

Not learning how to tie a bow tie. You’re going to have to dress up your neck. You’ve got to be embellished. This younger generation is like, that doesn’t mean anything to me; I don’t need to dress up. Yeah, but you do.

Whose style do you admire?

I do love Ken Downing [the fashion director of Neiman Marcus]. I just love the way he layers his pieces and also the way he accessorizes and mixes things up. There’s no rule for fashion, there really isn’t. You can almost do anything, and if you do it big enough, then it works.

What are the drawbacks of your industry?

I want to consume less. That’s why style is so important—you don’t need the newest of everything at every season, you just need to continue to work your style and evolve. … I’ve had to find that balance between this hyper-consumerism and this, you know, farming lifestyle that I have. Come home to the chickens, and life ain’t so bad. 

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