Behind every great man is a great … wardrobe. Yes, it’s true — at least when it comes to the handsomely clad, professionally accomplished chaps in our series, Dress for the Job You Want, which profiles more than a few good men who have proven that success is an equation of both substance and style.
They’ve cut their teeth in the fashion industry, climbed the corporate ladder, created their own companies, and conjured plenty of new ideas — and have looked damn good doing it. For these guys, dressing for the occasion is simply part of the gig.
But you don’t have to be a fully suited, buttoned-up show-off to stake your claim in the game, as suave subtlety often wins in the end. And, with our apologies to Mark Twain, it takes a lot more than just clothes to make the man. However, a good sartorial statement can go a long way when it comes to charting your career course.
Kevin Lavelle, co-founder and CEO of Mizzen + Main, spent the early part of his career crunching numbers and working in international business consulting and strategy; he never expected to launch a fashion e-commerce company. But, one hot summer day in Washington D.C., he saw a Capitol Hill staffer running into a meeting soaked in sweat and the idea for his revolutionary company, centered around a stylish, moisture-wicking dress shirt, was born. An entrepreneur at heart, he eventually made the leap from venture capital to vetting performance fabrics for shirts. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
Named for the driving forces of a sailboat that propel it forward, Mizzen + Main has created a new standard for menswear, advancing traditional sartorial staples into a new era by combining the comfort and flexibility of athletic gear with the fit of custom clothing and the handsome style of a Kennedy.
That said, Lavelle certainly knows all about how to dress for the job. After all, it was a sweat-soaked staffer who definitely could not put his best professional face (or shirt) forward that prompted the launch of Mizzen + Main. Here’s what Lavelle had to say.
The Cheat Sheet: Why should all guys care about their personal style?
Kevin Lavelle: As the saying goes: “When you look good, you feel good.” It’s important to do every activity looking and feeling your best. There are enough obstacles to success; your wardrobe shouldn’t be one of them. With the number of activities that today’s man (myself included!) does in any given day, he could have 10 outfit changes. But no one has the time or money for that. What is important to me, and key to our brand, is creating no-hassle staples of a man’s wardrobe, so he is always ready for anything.
CS: How do you view the relationship between your clothes and your career?
KL: I created Mizzen+Main around my personal style. So, my clothes are literally my career.
CS: What do you love most about your job?
KL: The people; I feel incredibly grateful to be working with such amazing people. Starting out, it was just me. Now, we have 18 employees and we continue to grow. Each employee puts in 110 percent everyday. I really trust and value their opinions.
CS: Favorite part of your 9-to-5 day?
KL: In reality, I haven’t worked a 9-to-5 since starting the company! My favorite part of a standard day is that no day is the same. We are working on something different everyday — from testing out new products, to developing creative marketing ideas, to interacting with customers. I love being able to do and see it all.
KL: My phone, computer, and a good CrossFit workout to start my day. Everything we do is on the computer. We communicate almost everything as a team through Slack — it’s been an absolute game changer for us.
CS: How do you define your personal style?
KL: I would define my style as being traditional and athletic. I like my clothing to be fitted and classic, which can be tough to find when you have an athletic build. I don’t shy away from color. My favorite pair of chinos are our gray Owen pants.
CS: Where do you like to spend your off-duty hours?
KL: At home with my wife, Jen Lavelle, and our two dogs, Duke and Beau. I love to travel, but there is nothing like a peaceful weekend at home. I am very into CrossFit and try to squeeze in my workouts in the mornings before work.
CS: What are your “style cheats”?
KL: Shave everyday, and shine your shoes as much as possible.
CS: Where do you find some of your best sartorial statements?
KL: I wear Mizzen+Main shirts everyday so there, obviously and I love shoes. I have a couple pairs that are my favorite that I put in rotation. Wolf & Shepherd is a great new shoe brand that combines an athletic sole inside a dress shoe. Others have tried, but no one has nailed it like these guys. Allen Edmonds also does great, classic shoes.
I have a couple custom suits. If you can’t find something off the rack in suiting, go custom. There are plenty of affordable options; I like Knot Standard. I also always like to add one accent, whether it’s socks (Foot Cardigan is a favorite) or a pocket square — sometimes I just use fabric samples from our shirts!
CS: Best career advice you’ve received?
KL: The best career advice I’ve heard is the best life advice, and it comes from a commencement speech by Jim Carrey. He said, “You can fail at doing something you don’t love, so you might as well take a chance on doing something you do love.” This has so many extensions in several areas of life, and it has been a great guiding principle for me.
CS: Best style advice you’ve received?
KL: Be yourself — and if you wear Mizzen+Main, you’ll never go wrong. I’m also glad to see the embrace of double-breasted blazers, given I have a great picture of me rocking one at age 4. Timeless!