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Photos shot by celebrity photographer Annette Navarro. To view other great photos from the shoot, check out Tweed & Velvet.
I owe a huge thank you to my friend Aaron for connecting me with Esquire’s Best Dressed Real Man in America, Kenyatte Nelson. As you can see from the photos above, it’s evident why Kenyatte won Esquire’s contest last year, beating out thousands of other men to claim this prestigious title. He owns his personal style in a way that’s unparallel to anyone I know. From looking at his different outfits, you can tell that his style spans the spectrum of being sophisticated and sharp to playful and fun. I bet, no I know, Kenyatte would be an amazing shopping buddy, but too bad I live in Los Angeles and he lives in Cincinnati. So the next best thing was to pick Kenyatte’s brain about his personal style and what us ladies need to know when it comes to our own style choices, according to a man who knows how to dress to impress.
Name: Kenyatte Nelson (named after freedom fighter Jomo Kenyatta – my mom changed the “a” to an “e” because she thought it looked like a girls name (ha!) )
Age: 11,315 days old, or 31 if you don’t like math
City: Resident of Cincinnati, Citizen of the World
Describe your personal style in five words or less. Inspired, unpretentious and appropriately aspirational
Have you always been into fashion? When did you start to take an interest in cultivating your personal style? I believe style is synonymous with personality. It’s something that everyone has and like personality, it simply develops differently for different people. I think I’m probably just a little more “aware” of my personal style vs. most men. As far as fashion goes – Fashion is social agreement, consensus….I’ve never been into fashion.
What has been your biggest splurge to date? I have two. The first is a pair of Victorian style boots from Dior (see photo). The second is a suit from Givenchy (see photo with gray suit/black shirt). True story, I walked into a Hugo Boss store in Geneva Switzerland and I had that suit on with those shoes and the sales person stopped me and said, “That suit looks amazing, and the way you wear it makes me wish I was the one who sold it to you.”
If you only had to wear one designer for the rest of your life, who would you choose? I would have to go with Ralph Lauren. From 1967, when the brand was founded, until now there has not been a designer who has so completely addressed men’s wear. From sweatpants to rugby’s, waist coats to overcoats, brogues to trainers he pairs amazing shirt tailoring with American sensibilities in a way that is simply outstanding!
Your house is burning and you only have time to grab one item from your closet. What would you take and why? The tan leather cowboy boots (with the Cuban heel) that I took from my fathers closet when I was in Junior High School. Those boots are almost 30 years old and they are still my favorite pair of shoes. I wore them when I was on the Today Show and named Esquire’s Best Dressed Man in America. My father walked in those boots and he’s an amazing man. When I put them on I feel more substantive.
Describe the fashion scene in Cincinnati and the current trends men and women are wearing there. The fashion scene here is burgeoning. Like most mid sized cities Cincinnati ebbs and flows with the tides created by the current (pun intended). That said, there is still creativity here. From skaters with limited edition kicks to women wearing the latest item from a vintage store hunt. You see a little bit of everything. The one thing I wish would go away is the “jeans hanging off the ass” look.
What’s a big DON’T when it comes to men’s style? See the last sentence in the answer to the previous question. Men look better when their clothing fits….period. The only time your pants should be that low is when a member of the opposite sex is taking them off (then it’s okay).
Over the years, have you picked up any insider shopping tips you could share? This includes tips on sales, online shopping sites, etc. ALWAYS go to the Barney’s Warehouse sale, NEVER buy anything full price unless it is a must have. ALWAYS buy quality clothing in the correct size, NEVER buy something that doesn’t fit just because it’s on sale (you will regret it). Ah…and gentlemen please stop buying “outfits” and start buying pieces that work with other things in your wardrobe. Your closet should not be a collection of conjoined twins. Visit www.yoox.com and www.houseoffraser.co.uk (amazing sites for shopping – men and women)
For the ladies…
What’s your favorite look/style on a woman? Elegant and sophisticated? Super trendy and glam? Casual chic? The most amazing outfit any women can put on is a pair of hip hugging denim, killer heels and a white “boy beater”. It’s natural, sexy and approachable. It says, I’m a women who is comfortable with my femininity but if you give me shit I’ll kick your ass (I LOVE that).
btw – here’s a trick. Make the outfit pop with a creatively styled or colored pair of heels and sex it up with a little lace under the tank top (see photo of Leighton Meester).
You need to buy a gift for a woman. What stores do you visit? The grocery store. Invite her over for dinner and make sure she arrives a little before you finish. Pour her a glass of wine and have a great conversation while you complete the finishing touches. Prepare her food and take the plate when she is finished. Enjoy each others company. It will be the best foreplay she has ever had….trust me.
What women’s fashion trends would you like to see go away? I wish women would stop confusing sex with sexy. You don’t have to exude sex to be sexy. There is so much power in femininity. Women have to understand that men are built to bend to that power. If you want a “man”….dress like a “woman”. There is nothing wrong with showing a little leg but make sure it’s balanced. Do you remember the green Versace dress that Jennifer Lopez got all that press for wearing? Yep, the one with a “V” cut out of the torso. Guess what…it was long sleeved and floor length.
Two gorgeous women walk into a bar. One is wearing a t-shirt and jeans and the other is in a body-hugging mini dress. Did I mention both are equally gorgeous? Who do you approach and why? I approach the woman who looks the most approachable. The one who is smiling, laughing and joking with friends. I approach the one with smiling eyes. For me, it’s less about what she is wearing and more about how she is wearing it. Is she confident and comfortable or unapproachable and cold? I, like most men, am much more attracted to the former. Besides, clothing is just clothing and at some point it’s all going to come off anyway.
What’s something you wish women knew about men? Women should recognize that as much as we love our independent women we want a woman who will allow us to be men. We know you can do it yourself and we love you for that but sometimes you have to let us do it for you. This is part of what being a man is about. Men enjoy feeling needed. We want the womenwe love to be taken care of, to feel protected. Don’t give a man shit when he opens the car door or refuse his attempt to carry your bag. Let him do it. All men are taught, from a very young age, that they should cherish the things that they work for….now ask yourself….did your man work for you???
I loved your mission statement and fashion philosophy from your profile on Esquire.com. Can you please share other rules you live by or your personal philosophy on life? This may sound a little corny but I would suggest every man do this: Take a sheet of paper and split it 4 sections. In each section make a headline – Heart, Mind, Body, Soul. Then for each heading write 4 things that you will do to improve each part of your life over the next year. They can be simple, the idea is to set goals. Here are examples from mine.
– Give one compliment a day
– Read one book every two months
– Go to the gym at least 3 days a week
– Stop to recognize the beauty in my world everyday (share it with another person)
I did this over a year ago and, as a result, I am a sharper, more empathetic, and in better shape than I have ever been.
I know, amazing answers, right? Thanks Kenyatte for being so open and insightful! To keep up with Kenyatte’s style picks and shopping tips, head on over to his blog Tweed & Velvet.
And voting just ended yesterday for Esquire’s ’09 Best Dressed Real Man. The semi-finalists can be found here, with the winner being announced shortly.