When you hear the words “entrepreneurs” and “style”, nerdy t-shirts and dirty hoodies no doubt come to mind.

I personally think the men building amazing companies get a bad rap.

Think about it, these are the guys designing some of the coolest apps, services, and products out there. They have good taste! And while style profiles like this sure don’t help changes the public perception of entrepreneurial style, there is some hope.

Sure, it’s easy to blame Mr. Zuckerberg for this one, but even Zuckerberg knows when it’s time to try a little harder.

I spoke with a few entrepreneurs who I think are not only changing the game in their respected fields, but changing what people think of when it comes to entrepreneurs and style. Here, they share some of their personal style rules, and even dish up a little business advice.

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PHOTO VIA JAMES NORD
PHOTO VIA JAMES NORD

James Nord, 31
Co-Founder of Fohr Card

James has always been on my radar. Not only because we run in the same circles, but because of his consistent, sharp style. You’ll either find him in one of two outfits: a perfectly fitted J.Lindenberg suit, or in head-to-toe Rapha cycling gear putting in miles around the world.

James, along with his partner Rich Tong, founded Fohr Card, a platform that allows brands to verify and work with influencers using data and science. Their approach has caught the attention of the industry in a huge way. Their list of clients include a few brands you might have heard of: Hermes, Tom Ford, and Gucci, just to name a few.


When did you and Rich start Fohr Card?

2013

And what’s one of your biggest milestones since then?

[Fohr Card] did $2 million last year with 6 employees, [and we’re on] track to do 3 times that with 9 employees.

What is your day to day style like?

I wear a suit almost every day, not because I have to but because I have been for years. For me it’s about standing out. I think to be young and creative and wear a suit every day is counter culture. That said I’m not in some un-tailored mess of Midtown wrinkles, my suits are slim and cropped, generally from J.Lindeberg.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned that’s contributed to your success so far as an entrepreneur?

The only thing that matters is that you keep going.

GET JAMES’ LOOK

james_nord_outfit_2
NAVY SUIT: SUIT SUPPLY, $999 | CROSBY DRESS SHIRT IN POND BLUE: J.CREW, $88 | SILK & LINEN TIE: SUIT SUPPLY, $69 | POCKET SQUARE: SUIT SUPPLY, $49 | OVER-THE-CALF-SOCKS: DRAKES, $35 | BLACK OXFORD SHOES: SUIT SUPPLY, $399

 

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “The Classic” Want to rock a suit like James, and not like a middle aged guy stuck behind a cubicle? Focus on proper fit and just the right amount of pop to stand out. You don’t need to buy custom, an off the rack suit with a great cut (like this one from Suit Supply, one of my favorite brands) is a solid place to start. Dial in the fit with your tailor. (Don’t have one? Don’t panic. Suit Supply does alterations in house!)

A common mistake I see a lot of young men make when it comes to wearing a full suit? Overmatching. They’ll purchase a suit with a yellow lining, wearing it with a yellow tie, yellow pocket square and yellow socks just comes off like you’re trying way too hard.

Start with a classic, neutral base: navy suit, pale blue striped shirt, black shoes. The tie, pocket square and socks is where you can add some color. Choose one to stand out above the rest. In this case, I chose yellow over the calf socks (to make sure they stay up). Brown ties are a great pairing with a navy suit, take it up one notch by making it a pattern. And while the pocket square both has hints of blue and yellow, the pattern breaks it up so it doesn’t feel like it’s matching too much.

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barron
PHOTO VIA BARRON CUADRO

Barron Cuadro, 32
Founder of Effortless Gent

Barron represents the new crop of personal style writers. A voice that doesn’t belong to ad heavy magazines, or merely existing to show off a new outfit. His goal, as he puts it, is to “help guys discover their personal style so dressing well becomes second nature to them.” Since starting his website, Effortless Gent, in 2009, he’s amassed a dedicated following of 30,000+ fans who eagerly await his next newsletter.

Do you have a go-to outfit? 

My general style is pretty casual. My go-to is usually a chambray shirt, I have quite a few in different shades and styles, from button downs to popovers and band collars. [I pair them with] chinos (caramel, charcoal, olive) or dark denim, and cognac loafers. This is my go-to because it looks well put-together and fits my lifestyle. Plus I can easily take it up a notch by tucking in my shirt and throwing on a tailored sports coat. I prefer odd trousers and a sport coat over suits, unless the occasion specifically calls for one, of course.

I remember when we first met, I remember you telling me how your message and parts of your business wasn’t as refined as they are now. Now, 7 years later, what advice can you give that helped you build Effortless Gent to what it is today?

I’ve learned most things that take up mental space are just distractions. It’s important to keep your head down and focus on the work that counts. Do that consistently, every day, and you’re bound to find results and success.

GET BARRON’S LOOK

barron_outfit
HUDSON LIGHT BROWN HERRINGBONE SPORTSCOAT: SUIT SUPPLY, $399 | CHINOS: J.CREW, $75 | COTTON-CHAMBRAY SHIRT: A.P.C., $190 | ITALIAN WOOL POCKET SQUARE: J.CREW, $29 | LUDLOW PENNY LOAFERS: J.CREW, $288

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “Separates” The key to wearing a sports coat is to treat it like a casual jacket you can dress up, rather than a suit jacket you try to dress down. As the styling name suggest, the key to separates is to make sure you’re not wearing the same color jacket and pants. While not a rule set in stone, varying your color choices helps break up the monotony. Chose a darker pant for lighter jackets and vice versa. Throw in a colored pocket square to give this look the last small bit of color it needs.

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PHOTO VIA TJ PARKER
PHOTO VIA TJ PARKER

TJ Parker, 29
Founder of Pill Pack

When most people think of CEOs, they picture an old guy in a terrible fitting suit or dad jeans. You wouldn’t picture one decked out in Rick Owens, Visvim, and Yeezys. So when it comes to breaking style molds, TJ is my favorite example. Named as one of Forbes “30 under 30” in 2015, TJ’s company, Pill Pack is an online pharmacy changing the way people receive and take medication, through pre-sorted tear off packaging and tech driven websites and apps.

You have my favorite style of any CEO I’ve ever seen. Can you share a couple of go-to looks you usually wear?

I have two go-to outfits at this point depending on how casual the day is:

If I have meetings it’s generally denim-on-denim — Visvim Kilgore Jacket, ACNE denim shirt, A.P.C. jeans, Visvim Virgil Boots.

If I’m just working on stuff at the office, I optimize for comfort — Rick Owens Exploder leather jacket, James Perse crewneck t-shirt, NIKE tech knit sweatpants and Adidas Yeezy sneakers.

Congratulations on making it to the Forbes list! What have you learned building and growing Pill Pack to what it is today?

In a fast growing company it’s been super important to not just try and solve every problem yourself, but finding and recruiting people that are better at everything you currently do. Give them the space and autonomy [they need] to be successful.

GET TJ’S LOOK

tj_outfit
JAPANESE SELVEDGE CHAMBRAY SHIRT: J.CREW, $98 | SOFT COTTON T-SHIRT: JAMES PERSE, $50 | LOW STANDARD DRY SELVEDGE DENIM JEANS: A.P.C., $235 | DOGEVILLE BOOTS: THOROGOOD, $375 | BELT: POLO RALPH LAUREN, $70 | PEYOTE BIRD STERLING SILVER CUFF: BUFFALO, $365

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “Denim on Denim” Don’t believe what people say when it comes to wearing denim on denim. It’s not as bad or as difficult as they make it out to be. The trick is to make sure your jeans are darker than your shirt. While Visvim Kilgore boots are beautifully made, their near $1,000 price tag can be steep, even for me! (Protip: You score a pair at much better prices on Grailed). A proper, Goodyear welt boot, like these from Thorogood, will do the trick, along with a matching antiqued belt. I’m not a big fan of man jewelry, but I do love me a simple cuff. Do this Southwestern look even more justice and put on a Peyote bird cuff made by Sante-Fe based artist “Buffalo”.

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PHOTO VIA BERNARD CAPULONG
PHOTO VIA BERNARD CAPULONG

Bernard Capulong, 25
Founder of Everyday Carry

At 18, Bernard channeled his passion for gadgets and gear into a blog called “Everyday Carry”. 7 years later, it’s become a full-fledged company with co-founders, and spawned a cult following, (Tim Ferriss, of 4-Hour-Everything fame, has come out as a fan).

Everyday Carry has become the go-to place for in-depth, knowledgeable reviews for flashlights, wallets, pens, bags and more. And men and women, to the tune of 5 million visits a month, artfully lay out the things they carry on a daily basis to give one another a peek into their lives (and inspiration on what to buy next).

What I love about your style is that it really represents your interests and your work at Everday Carry. Can you tell me more about how you approach your look?

My clothes are just like the gear my company focuses on: functional, utility-led, and performance-driven. My style gravitates towards technical apparel with some outdoors and tactical influences. I opt for mostly black, navy, and grey, with as many pockets as possible (and to be on-brand, I actually have something in them). I find layering to be uncomfortable, so I try to invest more in all-in-one outerwear, pants, and boots, wearing whatever basics under them.

My go-to outfit is my Arc’teryx Veilance down jacket, utility cargo pants, and Goretex sneakerboots from Danner. It gives me the most protection, comfort, mobility, and storage in as few pieces as possible. From there, I gear up with my EDC and a bag (DSPTCH makes my favorites right now). My jacket changes with the weather, but at the end of the day, you can find me in some variation of Goretex and boots.

bernard-capulong-and-dan-saltman-of-everyday-carry-05
BERNARD’S POCKET DUMP VIA HYPEBEAST

Everday Carry transitioned from hobby to business. Can you share some insights you learned along the way?

Even the most daunting goals are within reach—it’s just a matter of knowing exactly what your next steps should be. Once you’re equipped with the right knowledge and information, you can do anything. You just need to take the time to do your research, learn and develop the skills, and go for it.

I was more successful when I realized not just that it’s never easy, but more importantly, that it’s not impossible. Having a growth mindset, an eagerness to learn, and a pursuit of personal development was the gamechanger for me.

GET BERNARD’S LOOK

bernard_outfit
WEATHER RESISTANT SHELL JACKET: ARC’TERYX VEILANCE, $425 | TECH WOVEN 2.0 TROUSERS: NIKE, $140 | COTTON JERSEY T-SHIRT: JAMES PERSE: $50 | AIR MAX 90 MID WINTER LEATHER AND MESH SNEAKERS: NIKE, $135

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “All Black Technical” All technical, all black wardrobes definitely require some dedication. For those that aren’t quite ready to make the leap, you can still dip your toes a bit. Mixing in gear I buy for the gym with technical clothes is my favorite way. When it comes to all black wardrobes, it’s all about the fabric, textures and technical details. Take, for example, the bonded zippers and knee seams in these NIKE pants, and the combination of leather and mesh in the Air Max 90 mids. Wearing all black can often come off very “flat”, and these little details give your look the depth it needs. (And lets be real, it looks really fucking cool in a Black Ops Military way.)

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katsu
Katsuyuki Tanaka, 58
Founder of Bear Pond Espresso

Opening a coffeeshop isn’t something most people would consider a pursuit of an entrepreneur. But when I met Katsu a while back, it was clear to me that he possessed the entrepreneur spirit. His obsession with coffee has turned Bear Pond Espresso into a destination spot for coffee lovers around the world, small thanks in part to write up in places like The New York Times.

His secret touch on the espresso machine yields a unique, thick shot that is the basis for arguably Bear Ponds’ most famous drink, “The Dirty” (Photo above, right). A layering of ice cold milk and espresso slowly seeping together not only makes for a delicious drink, but a magical experience for the eyes. 

Katsu (as he likes to be called) opened his first Bear Pond location in 2009, but his love for coffee began many years prior while working in advertising. After witnessing a drunk man come back to life after a shot of espresso and a cigarette one early morning at a café, he knew coffee would be his new life passion. At age 58, he’s the oldest on our list, but it goes to show it’s never too late to do what you love.

What drives Bear Pond Espresso?

Best is a matter of opinion. The first time I went to a cupping [a coffee tasting], one taster said a cup tasted chocoately and bright. It was surprising. To me, it tasted different.  People have different cultures, memories. A smell to you can remind you of a room from your childhood, while to [another woman] it can remind her of her office. So ‘best’ is different from person to person. Bear Pond’s goal is not to be the best espresso bar, but to offer what is best to us.

GET KATSU’S LOOK

katsu_outfit
HORSEHIDE RIDER’S JACKET: FLAT HEAD, $1950 | WASHED JAPANESE DENIM JEANS: J.CREW, $125 | LOOPBACK COTTON-JERSEY ZIP-UP HOODIE: REIGNING CHAMP, $155 | U.S.A. BARS T-SHIRT: SATURDAYS NYC, $40 | STAN SMITH “NIGO”: ADIDAS, $90 | CLUBMASTER SUNGLASSES: RAY BAN, $150 | 1990 DATEJUST 16220 WITH TIFFANY DIAL: ROLEX, $5,000

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “JAPANESE AMERICANA” On any given day, you will find Katsu in a look that feels familiar to any American: a graphic t-shirt, beat-up blue jeans and white leather sneakers. Katsu’s style is a perfect example of how Japan has a knack for doing Americana better than America. When it comes to classic pieces that are “simple”, it’s all about the quality. Think about it, when you get a well marbled piece of steak, you don’t really have to do anything to it. No sauce or marinades, just salt, pepper and a hot grill.

Japanese made leather jacket and washed denim, fine Canadian fleece hoodie are the perfect upgrades. All it needs now is that one “wow” factor piece. Something to let people know you’re in a t-shirt and jeans by choice, and pull it off really well. Nothing does this job better than a classic Stainless Steel Black Dial Rolex Datejust. Nothing flashy, just ridiculously well made, like everything else in your outfit.

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Steve Tam, 30
Founder of Simcoe Bicycles, now the VP of Marketing at Snips

In his native Toronto, Steve and his partner Eric Kamphof founded Simcoe Bicycles, a bike company that re-engineered beautiful, rugged dutch city bikes into something more sleek and nimble for North Americans. Simcoe later sold to one of the biggest bike distributors in North America, allowing Steve to move onto work with such companies as Indiegogo and now Snips, an artificial intelligence company in Paris and New York.

When I contacted Steve about being in this post, he was out on a entrepreneur retreat deep in the jungles of South America (I shit you not). But then again, it made complete sense. When I asked him for some keys to his success, he mentioned, “I’m also a strong believer in surrounding yourself with the people you admire and who share the same long term vision, or horizon point, as you”.

What’s been the “gamechanger” when it comes to your businesses and career?

The most important skill is the ability to learn quickly. Languages, technology, and frameworks will constantly be in flux and ever-evolve. Verticals in the tech world will continue to collide and consumer needs will shift — in order to stay relevant you need to be able to scan the horizon, see the whitespace, and learn how to create value.

I’m also a strong believer in surrounding yourself with the people you admire and who share the same long term vision, or horizon point, as you. They’ll push you to question everything, to be empathetic to different perspectives, and stay accountable to your bullshit.

What is your day to day style like? Can you describe an outfit you’d most often wear and why?

It took me a decade to understand the value of vintage. For years I would just buy new pieces as if they were out of a lookbook, but I’ve realized that was someone else’s vision and style. It was when I started to mix modern looks with weirder vintage pieces that I think I finally hit my stride. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also realized comfort is king. Some days its wide brimmed hats and long kameez style shirts, and others its old denim and Margiela knits (cause sometimes you need to live in a hug). I’m a Common Projects guy at heart, derbys for looking grown up, basketball highs for street ninja days, and Achilles for cruising.  

GET STEVE’S LOOK

NOIR RABBIT FELT FEDORA: LAROSE, $345 | COAT: BY, $124 | COTTON BLEND TWILL TROUSERS: ACNE, $240 | LUDLOW COTTON OXFORD SHIRT: J.CREW, $88 | SLUB COTTON & CASHMERE SWEATER: A.P.C., $120 | PERFORATED DERBY SHOES: COMMON PROJECTS, $540
NOIR RABBIT FELT FEDORA: LAROSE, $345 | OVERSIZED WOOL & CASHMERE COAT: ACNE, $1,150 | COTTON BLEND STRETCH TWILL TROUSERS: ACNE, $240 | LUDLOW COTTON OXFORD SHIRT: J.CREW, $88 | SLUB COTTON & CASHMERE SWEATER: A.P.C., $120 | PERFORATED DERBY SHOES: COMMON PROJECTS, $540

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “Refined Comfort” Steve style is a perfect example of how to do trends right, by mixing bits and pieces into your wardrobe rather than being composed solely of them. When it comes to wearing trendy pieces like wide brim hats, it’s important to practice restraint with the rest of your look in order to balance it out. 

Steve’s focus on comfort is important. Clothes aren’t just about how things look. Just a like a car, how it handles matters so much more. When it comes to comfort, there’s no need to jump on the athleisure trend. Even the smallest addition of stretch, in this case 3%, can do wonders for the comfort and movement of your dressier pants. Cashmere blends, like the cotton blend sweater and wool blend coat above, give you all the benefits of cashmeres softness without the hefty price-tag. Opt for unstructured and unlined outerwear, they’ll soften your look and be a lot more relaxing compared to sharply tailored overcoats. Just be warned, the comfort level with an unstructured cashmere coat is really high, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wrapped up on a couch taking a nap.

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PHOTO VIA FIVE FOUR
PHOTO VIA FIVE FOUR CLUB

Robert Geller, 39
Founder of Robert Geller

Despite the accolades, including winning the GQ “Best New Menswear” Award in 2009, and Swarowski/CFDA Award for Menswear in 2011, beating out heavy hitters like Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang, I still consider Robert Geller a true hidden gem. For some of the most well dressed men in the world, Robert Geller often comes up as their favorite brand. (Count Drake as a fan.) Kanye West even hired Robert to help him develop his line.

What I love most about Robert Geller is how effortless, yet original, his style comes off. Robert has always had a knack of creating surprising combinations – whether it’s mixing tailored coats with luxurious sweatpants and neoprene (usually reserved for swimwear), or his beautifully moody color palettes that feel like found polaroid photos. His approach to his business, (which will soon celebrate its 10th year, a lifetime for an independent fashion label), is as simple as his personal style. 

What is your day to day style like? Can you describe an outfit you’d most often wear and why?

I am really into single pleat dress pants these days. I make my own, and also have a pair by Haider Ackerman. That with a loose boxy T-shirt or a roomy denim shirt.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned that’s contributed to your success so far as an entrepreneur?

Work hard and be nice to people. It actually opens a lot of doors if you are sincere.

GET ROBERT’S LOOK

robert_outfit
MERLOT COTTON FLANNEL SHIRT: CLUB MONACO, $90 | PLEATED COTTON TROUSERS: MAISON KITSUNE, $375 | RELAXED ORGANIC COTTON T-SHIRT: NUDIE JEANS, $50 | BBALL HIGH-TOP SNEAKERS: ROBERT GELLER X COMMON PROJECTS, $580

THE ESSENTIAL DETAILS: “The Romantic” Robert’s overall relaxed sillouhette is a little advanced. Done wrong, you can look sloppy. What I recommend to my clients who are looking to break some fit rules is this: Go 50/50. Relax the fit of your jacket or coat, but wear it with proper fitting, tailored pants. Relaxed the fit of your pants, but wear it with a proper fitting tops. You can dip your toes a bit with a relaxed fit t-shirt, but save the overall loose look for the pros. The Robert Geller color palette is what I call romantic, warmer and softer, but still colorful. Choose colors that are warmer (added yellow) and toned (greyed out). A warmer, vintage inspired off white t-shirt, a wine colored button-up, a relaxed, pleated dress pants mixed with taupe sneakers is the quintessential Robert Geller romantic color and style.

peter@theessentialman.com'
Author

Hi, I’m Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here