Style Profiles

Style Profiles: Sam Ku of AG Jeans

As part of our fall 2014 Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 4 real men of style and substance. Here, AG Jeans creative director Sam Ku.

In taking the reins at AG as the denim brand’s creative director, Sam Ku not only followed in the footsteps of his dad, who helped build the business from the ground up—he also took on the legacy of famed designer Adriano Goldschmied, AG’s original namesake.

In the years since, Sam has met and exceeded those high expectations, establishing AG as a leader in the technology that drives some of the most comfortable, stylish jeans on the market. Keep reading for his insights on USA manufacturing, keeping it simple, and the step-by-step craftsmanship that occurs at AG’s L.A. factory.

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As part of our fall 2014 Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 4 real men of style and substance. Here, prolific Chicago restaurateur Donnie Madia.

If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at Chicago restaurants like Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, Big Star, The Violet Hour or Nico Osteria, you know that Donnie Madia (the man behind them and co-owner of One Off Hospitality Group) has achieved a sizable portion of success in the Windy City restaurant biz.

Not bad for a guy who claims his first foray into hospitality was a trial by fire. Keep reading for insights on creating atmosphere, collaborating effectively, and learning the ropes while on-the-job—from the visionary behind multiple James Beard Award-winning watering holes.

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As part of our fall 2014 Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 4 real men of style and substance. Here, award-winning menswear designer Billy Reid.

The best clothing designers approach their craft like a mix of art and science: part aesthetic sensibility, part structural engineering. Louisiana-born Billy Reid excels on both counts, offering meticulously crafted, tangibly soulful classics for men of all ages.

Beyond informing our aspirations of what to wear, Reid also serves as a solid role model for how to live. Keep reading for wise words from a man who finds time to coach baseball, sip bourbon and dig Bob Dylan, all while doing the best and most rewarding work of his career.

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As part of our fall 2014 Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 4 real men of style and substance. Here, Blue Note recording artist Robert Glasper.

Whenever we interview a world-class chef, a pro BMX rider—or, in this case, a Grammy-winning jazz composer who works alongside the best musicians in the business—our goal is not to offer you life hacks to follow in their exact career path. Instead, we aim to inspire you with a glimpse inside the mind of a guy who’s at the top of his game—and to discover and share wisdom of a more universal nature.

In chatting with multifaceted jazz man Robert Glasper, we found out a thing or two about conquering writer’s block, learning from your dislikes, and documenting ideas even at inopportune moments. Keep reading for the full Q&A, and to hear our favorite examples of Glasper in action.

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Style Profiles. As part of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 3 real men of style and substance. Here, self-made lensman Joshua Woods.

Joshua Woods is no stranger to readers of Men’s Shop Daily; he gave us an inside view from the European Men’s Fashion Weeks and popped up in our Street Etiquette at NYFW coverage. The 27-year-old has been getting a lot of attention for his work, and it’s obvious why. Woods possesses a unique point of view that’s evident in his photography—and, we’d say, his personal style (you don’t see nearly enough men sporting a bucket hat these days). Keep reading to learn more about Woods’ signature headwear, his style icons, and how basketball influenced his career path.

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Style Profiles. As part of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog, we profiled 3 real men of style and substance. Here, photographer and menswear blogger Tim Melideo.

Tim Melideo has taken #OOTD to a new level: The shots on his menswear blog, Stay Classic, go well beyond the run-of-the-mill mirror selfie. There are two reasons behind that: 1) He and his wife are both professional photographers, and 2) Tim has an eye for elevating everyday menswear, masterfully mixing patterns and textures to create relatable yet inspirational looks. Keep reading to learn about Tim’s influences, his go-to clothing picks, and the biggest mistake he sees guys make when it comes to style.

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Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, cool-under-pressure chef Shaun McCrain.

Every man should know his way around the kitchen: how to take over the tongs at a friend’s barbecue, pull off your grandma’s family-secret marinara, whip up a chivalrous morning-after omelette…you know—the basics.

Professional chefs like Shaun McCrain, on the other hand, can turn the simple act of eating food into a mind-altering experience. Visit McCrain’s Seattle restaurant, Book Bindery, and although the humble maestro insists his MO is simplicity, the five-way flavor combinations in his modern twists on comfort food are enough to induce a quadruple take—and general feelings of astonished well-being.

We spoke to chef McCrain about paying dues in Paris and New York, design principles as applied to plating, and real-life kitchen tips that every man can use.


[Chef Shaun McCrain at his Seattle restaurant, Book Bindery.
Scotch & Soda sweater, coming soon | Wallin & Bros. shirt
J Brand Jeans | Onitsuka Tiger sneakers]

FARM TO TABLE. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. We lived on a small farm, raised our own meat, had a lot of vegetables. I was always around food without realizing it. My dad doesn’t cook. He was like, ‘I’ll just let Shaun do it, and if he messes up, we have more we can go pick.'”

TRIAL & ERROR. “Book smarts help you understand what you’re doing. Street smarts get your hands and body moving in the right direction. It’s hard to be able to physically do what you’ve read. You’ve gotta burn some things before you figure out how to cook them right.”

 

AMERICAN IN PARIS. “I sent my résumé to what I thought were the top 20 restaurants in Paris and got four responses. Three of them being, ‘Sorry, we don’t have room,’ and one being, ‘Sure, show up, work for free.’ That was my foot in the door.”

LIVE AND LEARN. “I left Seattle thinking I knew everything. I was 19 or 20 years old. I went to a bigger city, a nicer restaurant, and realized how much I didn’t know. It was very humbling…but I decided that if I really want to progress and learn, that I need to constantly be humbled—so I can learn from the best.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS. “Plating and presentation are important, because they’re the first thing a person sees. I like to do bright colors, clean lines, something that’s very appealing to the eye. And then, when you do take that first bite—it should taste even better than it looks.”

CONTRAST AND COMPLEMENT. “I think items should complement each other. It’s a lot about textures, so if you have one thing that’s soft, then I want something else that’s gonna bring some crunch…a little burst of pickled onion, or a crispy crouton.”

WHY I LOVE MY JOB. “The craziness of it. Every day is different. You don’t know if the truck carrying your lamb up from Oregon broke down, and you’re scrambling to find a replacement, or your dishwasher breaks, or you have a high-profile guest coming in who you know likes to eat certain things. So it sparks that fuel, that drive of always keeping busy, always trying to stay on top. It’s easy to fall behind in the kitchen unless you have that ‘stay on top of it’ kind of attitude.”

THE BEST THING I EVER ATE. “It was at a Japanese restaurant in New York, called Masa. Simple sushi rice, rolled in shaved Italian white truffle, with just a pinch of fresh-grated yuzu and a little salt. Just simplicity at its best, but the ingredients were prepared perfectly.”

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MY MORNING ROUTINE. “A cup of coffee…and maybe a Pop-Tart. Strawberry. Frosted. I spend all day walking around tasting things; it kind of curbs your appetite. [The staff and I] don’t sit down and eat a family meal until about 4:00. So in the morning, I just need to put something in me, whether it’s sugar or coffee or whatnot.”

WHAT TO PACK FOR LUNCH. “When I think of lunch, I always think of sandwiches. They don’t need to be boring. Go to the store, and buy some great charcuterie and good bread. Most of the time, those items are sold in portions that are more than one sandwich worth, so you’ll have enough for a couple days—or a very large sandwich.”

THE SECRET TO A GOOD SANDWICH. “The bread. The crust…whether it’s more of a rustic style with pieces of grain, or if it’s just a nice, crisp baguette that kind of snaps in your mouth when you eat it.”

 

HOW TO IMPRESS A DINNER DATE. “First, find out what they like. Nowadays, there are so many dietary restrictions, food allergies. Subtly figure out. Ask questions. Have an idea, rather than going in like, ‘Hey, I like steak, so I’m gonna cook steak’—and then finding out she’s pescatarian. That’s a date that’s not gonna end well.”

AND IF YOU BLOW IT… “Part of learning and growing with someone is making those mistakes. It could be the best meal they’ve ever had, or it could be terrible—but the whole experience of going through the process of doing something for someone is what it should be about.”

—  —  —

Next time you’re in Seattle, be sure to sample Shaun’s work at Book Bindery.
(We recommend the steak. And the duck.
And definitely the Stumptown-coffee semifreddo.)

—  —  —

Shop: Shaun McCrain’s favorite items
Read more: Style Profiles

 
 

[Food photos courtesy of bookbinderyrestaurant.com.]

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Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, our own Nordstrom Men’s Fashion Director, Jorge Valls.

The shelves at your local Nordstrom? And the stylish cyberspace on Nordstrom.com? They don’t stock themselves. Dozens of dedicated buyers hand-pick every piece—and one man sets the tone and coordinates all their efforts: Jorge Valls, the Nordstrom Men’s Shop Fashion Director.

We caught up with Jorge (it’s pronounced the same as “George,” by the way) recently, to learn a bit about his worldly background, hear which fall trends he’s looking forward to, and get a sense of what it’s like hopping from show to show during Fashion Week. Read our Q&A below—accompanied by some of Jorge’s own Instagram shots from the spring/summer ’14 shows in Milan and Paris this past summer.


[Nordstrom Men’s Fashion Director Jorge Valls,
photographed at Milk Studios in NYC.
Paul Smith London tuxedo | Levi’s Made & Crafted shirt]

MEN’S SHOP DAILY: What does your job as Men’s Fashion Director entail?
JORGE VALLS, NORDSTROM MEN’S FASHION DIRECTOR: “It’s a mixture of things. I work with our product development team, as well as our merchant teams, to get everybody following the same vision. Working with the buyers involves deciding trend direction, color palettes, key items for upcoming seasons, and working with them at market, walking shows, and going to vendor appointments to see what kind of product is available that matches what we’re trying to say at Nordstrom.”

How did you get to this point in your career? What did you study in college?
“I had a double major in English and French literature, then I got a master’s in business after that. As far as favorite authors…I really like the old British classics—Thomas Hardy, but even Shakespeare. My favorite Shakespeare is probably one of the comedies, like Twelfth Night.”

How did you get started at Nordstrom?
“I started with Nordstrom as a temp, working odd jobs. I worked in the mailroom. I worked as a receptionist. Eventually, I worked in the PR department as the assistant; that was my first full-time role, and that opened the door for me to get into advertising and marketing…eventually, I became the men’s designer buyer, and now I have this job.”

Do you you have a “uniform” of sorts—office essentials you frequently turn to?
“I’m a big fan of a crewneck sweater, a navy blazer, denim, and a dress shoe. That’s kind of my go-to.”

What do you think Nordstrom Men’s Shop does better than anyone else?
“We have something for every customer out there, from traditional to more fashion-forward. We have in-house tailors, personal stylists, a lot of our stores have shoe-shines. We try to offer everything a man needs.”

What would you say to a guy who thinks our Personal Stylist service is not for him?
“A Nordstrom Personal Stylist is an expert on everything we have to offer. They’ll set up a room for you with everything you need. They make your life easy. And it’s free.”

We’re doing this Q&A, in part, to help kick off our Fall 2013 Men’s Catalog [hitting mailboxes and online soon]. What else is special about this year’s catalog?
“We [compiled] Ten Essentials—classics that every man needs to have in his wardrobe, that’ll last forever. We also wanted to acknowledge some real men out there who are doing it right, and share their insights with our customers. And, we’ve touched on some trends that are of-the-moment, but at the same time, totally timeless.”

One of those timeless trends is “University.” Any insights?
“I associate the ‘University’ look with preppy styling, heritage, plaid shirts, navy blazers. Classic items every guy should have in his wardrobe, but updated and new.”

Another fall trend is “Moto.” Can guys who drive four wheels to work pull this off?
“The ‘moto’ trend is a classic, too. It’s a leather biker jacket, it’s denim, it’s T-shirts…It’s very James Dean, very Steve McQueen. It’s cool, it’s accessible, it’s very masculine.”


[L: Marais Arrondissement, Paris | R: Diesel Black Gold spring/summer ’14, Milan]

Your title being Fashion Director, what does the word “fashion” mean to you—especially in the context of menswear?
“Fashion, or style, is how you present yourself to the outside world. I think men understand that now. They’re not afraid of it, and they want to express themselves. They want to look appropriate, but they also want to look like individuals.”


[Canali spring/summer ’14, Milan | R: Tables turned on the fashion-week photographers]

What are you seeing as a key color for this fall ’13?
Grey. It’s a very masculine color, and also a neutral one, so you can wear it with black, with brown, with navy, with camel—any broad range of colors. So it’s a good basic. And with grey as a main color, it’s good to maybe have a pop of something a little bit bolder.”


[L: An ivy-covered building in Milan | R: Gucci spring/summer ’14, Milan]

You often attend fashion shows in Paris and Milan. What do you enjoy about Fashion Week?
“The shows, the production, the vision of what the designers want to show you is all very exciting to experience in person. And now, the street scene is also a big thing. People really dress up. There’s a lot of people trying to express themselves and get photographed…It’s almost as big of a circus outside when you leave the show, as it is inside the show.”


[L: Cerruti spring/summer ’14, Milan | R: Walking into the Thom Browne show, Paris]

How often do you travel for work?
“Quite a bit. I’m home, I’d say, 50 percent of the time—maybe 60 percent, depending on the season. I spend a lot of time on the road.”


[L: Outside the Lanvin show, Paris | R: Givenchy spring/summer ’14, Paris]

You work at Nordstrom HQ in Seattle. Have you always lived around here?
“I’ve lived all over the world. I was born in New Jersey. I moved to Portugal when I was two. Then I moved to Mexico, then Belgium, then Pennsylvania, then Spain, then back to Pennsylvania. Then, my family moved to Italy, and I went to graduate school in France. I moved to Seattle in 1991.”

 
[L: Dries Van Noten spring/summer ’14, Paris | R: Jean Paul Gaultier showroom]

Fashion shows, at times, can verge on the bizarre. How do you suggest the average guy interpret some of the things designers send down the runway?
“Fashion Week is a show. I don’t want to say it’s theatre, but—it’s the purest expression of the designer’s vision, so sometimes there will be things that are, you know, hard to wear for the average guy. But those are the ideas that develop into a new proportion, or something being a bit shorter, or tighter, or looser. When you go to a showroom after a show, they have the runway collection, which is the ‘pure’ statement, but the rest of the showroom supports that—usually with more digestible ideas that the average guy can buy into, and maybe dip his toe into some of those [emerging] concepts.”

—  —  —

Read Jorge’s insights from the spring ’14 trade shows in Las Vegas here.

Shop: Jorge Valls’ favorite items
Read more: Style Profiles

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Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Here, Big-Apple BMX rider Nigel Sylvester.

Growing up in Jamaica, Queens—where dirt tracks are a rare sight, to say the least—a young Nigel Sylvester says few people supported his obsession with BMX bike riding. He doesn’t mind though, insisting it just gave him a thicker skin for criticism.

After getting his start pulling daredevil burnouts on Big Wheels, Sylvester soon graduated to two wheels—helped pioneer and popularize a unique East-Coast, in-city, free-form riding style that grinds on NYC concrete rather than launching off So-Cal clay—and despite (or perhaps because of) his alternative approach, has risen to the forefront of his sport.

We caught up with Sylvester to find out what every man can learn from a BMX master—like how to fail with dignity, sweat the small stuff, and follow your gut at all costs.


[Pro BMX rider Nigel Sylvester, photographed at Gas Works Park in Seattle.
Kenneth Cole New York leather jacket | 1901 shirt
Naked & Famous jeans | Nike sneakers]

STICK WITH IT. “With BMX riding, you want to be the first one in your neighborhood, or even in the world, to land a trick. You’re going to fall down. It’s all about getting back up. I feel like those setbacks just help build character. If you’re determined enough, you’re going to get back up and do it again.”

LEARN NEW TRICKS. “I’m competitive by nature, mostly with myself. I always want to outdo myself and be better than yesterday. So I’m always looking at, how do I progress? How do I learn new tricks—on and off my bike? Be a better brother, better son, better person in general.”

KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL. “Being a pro BMX rider means that you ride on a professional level. You’re doing tricks on a professional level. And you conduct yourself in a professional manner off your bicycle, as well.”


VISUALIZE SUCCESS. “Bike riding, for me, is very mental. I like to think about what I’m doing, envision what I do before I do it. I want to make sure it looks good. Presentation is so important. The details are what separate the good from the great.”

MY TRAINING REGIMEN. “Riding is my training. I don’t go to the gym and life weights or whatever. I do some cardio, a bunch of stretching, push-ups, sit-ups, but mostly bike riding is the actual exercise and training. When I go out on a ride, let’s say I’m bunny-hopping. I’m lifting up my body weight, plus the weight of the bike—so that right there is 200-plus pounds every time—and I may do 100 bunny hops in a day.”

MIND & BODY. “Riding is a full-body exercise. You need your full body to go out and ride. As well as your mind—so it’s like [exercising] everything.”


FULL CIRCLE. “It was crazy for me, because the first time I saw the X Games on TV, Dave Mirra won. And I guess it kind of came full-circle for me when it was him who turned me professional. He signed me to his company at the age of 18. This is my childhood idol, and then he comes and starts off my professional bicycle career. I’ll never forget that.”

SEE WHAT HAPPENS. “The advice I give people is to follow your heart and do what you love. Don’t let anyone deter you from your dreams and your goals—because you already know what’s going to happen if you don’t do it. So you might as well find out what’s going to happen if you put your mind to it.”

GOING GLOBAL. “As professionals, we strive to be the best at what we do and to do things that stand the test of time. So if I do a trick here in New York that people in Japan or Beijing or Africa are going to go on YouTube, watch it, and then talk about it around the world, that’s an incredible feeling. There’s nothing better than going to a new country, and people are like, ‘I saw your video, and you did this trick, and it was awesome.’ You’re touching people all around the world.”

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BLAZING A TRAIL. “Growing up in New York, we didn’t have many [BMX] competitions. New York City riders, our style is a little bit different. We’re more just about going out free-riding, filming video parts, and kind of just doing whatever feels right. That’s one of the best things about action sports—that you can be a contest rider or a video-part rider, and still be successful.”

IN THE ZONE. “I listen to music all the time. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, Lauryn Hill, Young Jeezy, Kanye West’s new album. Most of the time when I’m riding, I have my headphones in. Music helps me just zone in and block out all the other distractions around me—planes, ambulances driving by, people talking sh–. Music helps me just zone out and focus on the task at hand.”

NO PLACE LIKE HOME. “I wanted to do a video series that gave my fans a different perspective of my life. We did a series called Get Sylvester—we shot in Chicago, Barcelona, Dominican Republic…[But] there’s no feeling like coming back home. Go see my mom, see my friends, go hang out. It makes you appreciate the things that you have in life that you can’t buy.”


LIGHTS OUT. “One essential item, whether I’m riding, going out, or going to a meeting, is black jeans. I wear black jeans almost every day. They’re a definite staple in my closet.”

PROPER FOOTWEAR. “Sneakers—I got a lot of those. I probably have, in my house right now, maybe 300 pairs of sneakers. In New York, you pull up, one of the first things that a lady looks at is your sneakers. Yeah. Sneakers are important. Got to have a good sneaker game.”

MY MOST PRIZED POSSESSION. “My bicycle, first and foremost…I’m going to ride my bike until I can’t ride it any longer. BMX riding is such a big part of my life that I will never, ever take it for granted. I put my heart into it as much as I possibly can. I wake up thinking about it. I go to sleep thinking about it. It just makes me feel like nothing else on this earth can.”

—  —  —

Check out Nigel’s YouTube channel for his full library of riding videos.

Shop: Nigel Sylvester’s favorite items
Read more: Style Profiles

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Style Profiles. In honor of our twice-a-year Men’s Shop Catalog dropping this month, we decided to profile 6 real men of style and substance. Today, midwestern menswear engineer Todd Snyder.

If the phrase “fashion designer” sounds like someone you could never relate to—consider Todd Snyder. Born and raised in Iowa. Dropped out of architecture school (not enough girls in the class). Loves Newman and Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And one of the nicest guys you can ever hope to meet.

Having paid dues for 20 years at some of the best menswear powerhouses in the biz (Ralph Lauren, amongst other)—before quitting a plush job in order to start his own business, just in time for the recession to hit—we figured Snyder knows a thing or two about workplace decorum. In the video above, and the choice words of wisdom below, he delineates what to wear and how to act at the office—and why there are more important things in life than work.

ART x INDUSTRY. “My father was an engineer. My mother was an artist. So I always had this kind of push-pull on art and building things, and that was always the thing that I think really kind of helped me become who I am.”

MEN AT WORK. “My father had his own company. He was a civil engineer in Iowa. I worked summers on the survey crew, which would go out and do the layouts for bridges and roads. Then I moved into the office, where I started working as a draftsman. That’s where I really fell in love with the more technical aspects of building something.”

THE SCIENCE OF STYLE. “In college, I worked at this men’s shop called Badowers, in Des Moines. That’s where I learned how to sew and alter garments. I wanted to learn from the ground up how to make something—to understand the mechanics that go into it.”

HAND CRAFTED. “It’s rewarding to see something you did, and step back and say, ‘Wow, I did that.’ I used to build furniture sometimes…I did all of this molding in here [pointing to the office wall]…When I first moved here to New York, I was making all my own shirts.”

MADE IN THE USA. “For our new line of Todd Snyder suiting, we collaborated with Southwick, a factory in Massachusetts. They’ve been in the business over 100 years. They traditionally made jackets my father or grandfather would wear. Now, you’re starting to see a younger generation of guys wanting to know about it, wanting to dress like gentlemen—which is kind of rebellious in a way.”

THE FIRST THING YOU NEED. “A perfect-fitting navy suit. You can wear it with jeans on a date. Wear it as a suit to a wedding. You can wear a dark tie and be very sophisticated at night. Make sure the sleeves aren’t too long, so you can see a little bit of cuff. Those little details make a huge difference.”

FROM THE GROUND UP. “Buy good shoes. Look at them as an investment. Get yourself a great pair of wingtips, desert boots, and sneakers, and you can wear them with anything.”

BUILDING A WARDROBE. “I’ve always looked at fashion similar to architecture, and it always starts with a great foundation—great jeans, great chinos, a great suit, great oxford, sweatshirt, and so on. As long as you have those pieces, it’s really easy to make outfits.”

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WORDS TO LIVE BY. “I talk to a lot of students, and they always ask me, “What’s your advice?” And I’ve always said, “Work hard and be nice.” It’s two simple things. But you’d be amazed at how many people screw that up.”

WORK/LIFE BALANCE. “I have two daughters. Some might disagree, but having kids kind of keeps me sane. Going home and just seeing them changes my whole [perspective]. If I had a long day, going home, seeing their faces, you forget about it instantly.”

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Shop: Todd Snyder’s favorite items
Read more: Style Profiles

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