Dave Bowden of 'Irreverent Gent': A Conversation with The Peak Lapel
Who are you and what do you do? Where can people follow your work online?
My name is Dave Bowden, and I'm the founder of the website Irreverent Gent, where my mission is to empower guys to lead lives of strength, style, character, and confidence. I'm also the author of the Amazon #1 best-selling book Ready to Roar: How Shy, Quiet, Self-Doubting Guys Become Strong, Charming, Self-Confident Men.
How did you first get into men’s style/clothing/fashion and when did you decide to turn it into something more than just a hobby?
I first got interested in style and menswear about a decade ago, in my early 20s, as part of a larger project of self-improvement and personal development. My interest in style has always stemmed from the role it can play in self-confidence; I recognized that the better I dressed, the more capable and empowered I felt, and once I got a taste of it I was hooked. When I started Irreverent Gent, I knew right away that style (along with mindset, social skills and fitness/health) would be one of the four central topics I covered, because I appreciated what a substantial role it plays in helping guys feel better about themselves.
A line I like to use a lot is that the clothes don't make the man, but they can sure as hell make him feel better about himself, and I'm passionate about helping guys learn how to do just that.
What is your hair styling routine, if any? What products do you use and why?
I've always played it pretty safe with my hair, and only recently adopted a new cut with a hard part, a fade on the sides, and the top swept up/back in a fairly classic style. But I still don't like the greased-back look, so I actually use products that give me a light hold and not a lot of sheen, like this one from L'oreal or the Axe Natural Hold Pomade.
What is your EDC (“Every Day Carry”), and why? Where do you keep which items? What do you never leave home without?
I hate the appearance of bulk so I try to keep my EDC as sparse as possible. Most of the time that means just my wallet and my iPhone in the front pockets of my pants. Those are the two I NEVER leave home without.
If I'm not wearing a jacket or a sweater with pockets, I'll stuff my keys in the back pocket of my pants, or not bring them at all. (I live in a condo, so it's possible to get in and out without them.) But when I do wear a jacket, I'll take a few more things with me. Most days that means a pair of sunglasses (depending on the weather), some gum, and possibly some Kleenex, if it's cold season.
How would you describe your personal style? What is your go-to outfit?
I describe my personal style as classic-meets-modern. I take my cues from guys like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, but I also watch closely to see how modern style icons (think Clooney and Gosling) update classic looks.
In the fall/winter my go-to outfit is a Uniqlo merino v-neck sweater, paired with slim fit trousers, often over an OCBD or a dress shirt. For outerwear I swear by my Billy Reid Bond peacoat. Come spring/summer, I can most often be found rocking a polo (I favor Banana Republic's Luxury Touch model) and some lightweight chinos.
What is the biggest splurge style item you own and why?
My biggest splurge item is probably my aforementioned Billy Reid peacoat. It's the same one Daniel Craig wore in Skyfall, and after I bought it I spent about $150 having it tailored to fit me like a glove. Come fall I'm practically begging the temperature to drop so I can break it out, and then I'll wear it well into the spring.
What is your favorite style purchase of the last year and why? Least favorite?
My favorite style purchase was one of those rare, glorious finds that don't come along very often. I found an Italian wool, hand-crafted three piece suit at Marshall's for $150 that fit me damn near perfectly off the rack. After spending another $50 on tailoring it now looks like a Bespoke suit that would – and should – have cost me four to five times as much.
I think I've been lucky because I don't really have a least favorite, but that may be because I dialed down my clothes budget last year and committed to myself to only buying pieces I could realistically see myself wearing for at least a decade.
What is your morning routine? Nighttime routine?
My morning routine is pretty much set in stone at this point: I put my alarm clock in another room so that I have to get out of bed when it goes off. Then I head straight to the bathroom to brush my teeth, which wakes me up and shakes me out of my haze. After that I chug a glass of water to further heighten my alertness, then I do 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation. After the meditation I get moving with an at-home workout routine of push ups, squats, and crunches, followed by journaling so I can remind myself what I'm grateful for and set out my goals for the day. Once I'm done journalling I sit down to read 10 to 20 pages of either a personal or professional development book, then set out to write 1,000 words, either for my blog or my next book. Finally, once all of that is done I'll either head out for the gym or start making breakfast, depending on my workout schedule that week.
My nightly routine is not nearly as strict, but in general I make sure I stop looking at my phone at least 20 minutes before going to bed, and never use it while I'm in bed. I also like to set out the things I'm going to need in the morning – workout clothes, books, pen and paper for journaling, etc. – in advance, so that in the morning when I'm still foggy there's no guessing, and no excuse not to move to the next step of my routine.
What is one style rule you think more guys should be breaking? On the flip side, what is one style mistake you see (even some otherwise well-dressed guys) commonly making?
One rule that I think should be ignored is "no white after Labor Day." I love busting out white pants, shirts, and shorts during the summer months, and nowadays warm weather can last well into October. It always seemed silly to me to dress according to some arbitrary rule; you should dress in a way that's appropriate for the situation, the weather, and – most importantly – for yourself.
As for a mistake I see guys making all the time, it's probably not knowing how to choose shoes that are appropriate for their outfits. I frequently see guys wearing black pants with brown – or worse, a light shade of tan – dress shoes, which to my eye ruins the whole look.
What book have you gifted most often?
Henry David Thoreau's Walden had a big impact on me when I was in university, and I love giving that to cousins and other younger guys in my life, so they can hopefully learn some of the same lessons.
How often do you read, and what kind of books? What is your overall media consumption like? How do you balance all that while staying productive?
As I alluded to earlier, I specifically made reading a part of my morning routine in order to address this. Like all of us, I consume a ton of media, from superhero movies and comedy specials to all manner of crappy television. But I can do that guilt-free because I know that I carve out time each morning, when my mind is at its sharpest, to do the kind of reading I can be proud of. I mostly focus on personal development books, but also like to read books about copywriting and marketing, which can help me grow professionally and hone the self-empowering message I'm trying to communicate with my books and blog.
How do you keep yourself productive? What advice would you give to someone who is looking to be more productive?
Play to your strengths. For me, the key to productivity is to form a routine, so that you're not constantly forcing yourself to do something productive – you're just doing it out of habit. I recognized that I'm a morning person and I'm sharpest after my first cup of coffee, so I arrange my mornings in a way that allows me to capitalize on that state of mind. Some of my friends are the exact opposite – night owls who don't shake off the cobwebs until the middle of the afternoon, and feel at their best from 9pm onwards. Identify what type you are and then organize your schedule to maximize your natural inclinations.