Jon Shanahan of 'The Kavalier': A Conversation with The Peak Lapel
This conversation is just one installment in our new and ongoing interview series. Check out the other awesome interviews we've done by clicking here!
Who are you and what do you do? Where can people follow your work online?
Jon Shanahan, I go by The Kavalier online. By day I work at a technology company in the retail and fashion industry, but in my personal time I run The Kavalier. I am primarily on YouTube, but also the normal channels of Twitter, Instagram, and my website.
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?
When I started my first corporate job I started buying "nicer clothes" and went straight to the mall. I was lured in by 40% off sales, Black Friday deals, and I even took my clothes from Express to get hemmed and tailored to fit. A few months into wearing the stuff I bought, they were breaking down and I realized they were just not well made. Not only could I not buy my size, but I didn't feel like I was getting the full story about the clothing. That sat with me for years and I began to buy "the best I could afford" and was much happier.
As I began to work in the industry and learn more about the business side of fashion, I was so fascinated and wanted to learn every little piece of it. Then as more clothing companies started launching online-only (like Bonobos, Frank and Oak, or Everlane) I was buying a lot of the clothes, but realized there weren't many people talking about them. Coming from a small family business world I realized I could have a voice in talking about these young small companies while supporting "the little guy" which is why my first video is about Frank and Oak. Of course, now Bonobos has been bought by Jet and Everlane is probably 10x larger than it was back then, but that's why I still like to keep an eye on the industry and highlight whomever I can.
What is your hair styling routine, if any? What products do you use and why?
Just a wash in the shower with any brand I am testing and a quick, standard, left-rear styling. I still haven't found any particular product I am crazy about, but I have been testing a lot. I am very picky when it comes to my hair because I want a matte finish and I don't want my hair to move once I style it, but I also don't like the tacky rigid feel of a pomade or wax. If I look in my shower today I have at least a dozen brands that I am trying out from various companies, but the two I gravitate to most are Kiehl's and Baxter of California.
What is your EDC (“Every Day Carry”), and why? Where do you keep which items? What do you never leave home without?
Every morning my iPhone SE (the best iPhone Apple makes) goes in my right pocket; Slim Satchel and Page Wallet back-right; single BMWi key back-left; Pen and Airpods front-left. I never leave home without my Airpods and I rarely utilize the extra pockets in a blazer or jacket because I like consistency in placement and if I wear a peacoat one day then a topcoat in the other it will throw everything off. I always use a navy Tumi Alpha Bravo backpack which is it's own container of OCD organization for me, but I won't get into that now.
How would you describe your personal style? What is your go-to outfit?
I like to think of my style as James-Bond-meets-Cornelius-Hackl from Hello Dolly. I like to dress in a traditional, refined style, but I am also cognizant of my environment which is a business-casual technology startup, so on a daily basis it's usually button-down shirts, chinos, and chukkas or oxfords.
What is the biggest splurge style item you own and why?
I think of my car as being an item of style because you do convey a lot through your vehicle just like you do with shoes or a watch. I drive a BMW i3 which my friends call a Swedish living room on wheels because the interior is so beautiful. The sticker price on it is basically higher than all of my previous cars combined, but I absolutely love the car. If you consider that a cop-out answer, then next in line would definitely be my Omega Seamaster Commander's Edition Watch which I still can't believe that I get to own as a longtime admirer of the brand.
What is your favorite style purchase of the last year and why? Least favorite?
My favorite sartorial purchase in the last year is my double breasted chalk-stripe suit from Lanieri. When I talked to one of their associates in Paris, I mentioned I wanted a suit that would look like it could be on a Kingsman and they certainly delivered. Can't think of anything that would be least favorite; anything I don't like I usually return. Maybe that $37 suit I bought from an Instagram ad. But even that has some redeeming qualities…
Walk us through your morning routine…
I travel a lot so there's not an exact routine but for the most part it consists of:
Wake up: 5:00am. Shower and shave, then drink raw organic honey and lemon tea with a hearty breakfast; usually 6 egg omelette (my favorite meal of the day). Write, shoot, edit, post something for my channel and leave for work at 7:10 for 50 minute commute. Work through 5pm then head home for dinner prepared by my beautiful wife. Spend quality time with my children, dance to some songs, read books, build a train set or anything they're in the mood for. Bath time at 7, children in bed by 8, then spend time with my wife, sometimes catch up on my channel, and usually in bed by 9:30 to start over again. Every other day I swap out channel work for a run, and weekends it's still a 5am start, but just family related activities through the day.
I try to run in every city I travel to which keeps me from getting stagnant on the road which is why I stick to the 5am start.
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?
I think it's okay to experiment with more color, especially in pants. A nice pair of dark burgundy or olive green chinos can look as good as khakis, but will elevate your look; pair that with a subtle matching tie and you're gold. The most common mistake I see is the length of most men's pants. I think many guys wouldn't be able to even define "break" (of course, not if you're reading this site), but it's a simple way to make yourself look put together with little effort.
What book have you gifted most often?
Number one would have to be Brain Rules for Baby which I have sent to a lot of my friends that are now having children. I find it to be a very practical look at the science behind brain development ages 1-5. I love that stuff. I've sent copies of the new Scott Galloway book The Four to a number of people because I believe his methodology for evaluating companies is so data-driven and clear while presenting in an entertaining way, so you can learn from the most successful companies in the world. I have followed Scott for a number of years and I love to see his star rising.
How often do you read, and what kind of books? What is your overall media consumption like (in particular: the movies, podcasts, YouTube, TV in your life)? How do you balance all that while staying productive?
I usually listen to 1-2 books each month via Audible. I listen at 2x speed so I get through them quickly on my 50 minute commute (each way). I listen to a ton of podcasts — too many to keep track of — but what I’ve learned is that so much of what I listen to falls away while the important ideas stick. I also use many podcast episodes as a springboard that leads to some of my best ideas for the channel (or one of the dozen businesses that I invent every week that never leave the idea phase). So much of my listening comes while commuting, running, doing chores, etc. I wish I had more time to watch YouTube videos and stay up to date there, but I typically find myself procrastinating through those.
How do you keep yourself productive? What advice would you give to someone who is looking to be more productive?
I struggle with productivity everyday because I am one of our generation's great procrastinators. I've worked very hard to develop a habit of just starting something as soon as I can so that I can develop a groove. If I can't find the groove, I will start something another task but come back to it quickly once I finish. Too often I find myself looking at a task or project and thinking about the time or effort it will take to do something instead of just chipping away at it piece by piece which will ultimately get me to the finish line. I try to read an listen to anyone that will talk about their habits so I can pick up on any little tricks that I believe will work for me.