Barron Cuadro of ‘Effortless Gent’: A Conversation with The Peak Lapel
Who are you and what do you do? Where can people follow your work online?
I'm Barron and I run a site and YouTube channel called Effortless Gent. I focus on helping guys nail their style to get what they want in life, whether that's the job, the girl, more confidence, etc. I also simplify the idea of style or fashion by helping guys build what I call a Lean Wardrobe, which essentially is a more curated, versatile wardrobe filled with the essentials and basics they can easily mix and match and feel great wearing.
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've been interested in my own personal style since I was a kid. I was more into fashionable trends back then, just wearing what I thought looked cool on my favorite rock or rap artists.
I was always complimented on my style growing up. I just enjoyed clothing and being able to control people's perceptions of me simply by dressing well or in a unique way. My interest in clothing also led me to owning lots of pieces in high school and into college... like, way too many. At one point, I had three closets stuffed with clothing. But when I looked back, I realized I really only wore the same 20-30 things over and over, and rarely touched all the other stuff.
Around 2009 I started the site and knew I wanted it to be my full-time thing eventually. So when I started it, I did so with that intention. I knew I had a unique angle and set of experiences and I wanted to use that as I wrote articles to help guys with their wardrobes and style.
What is your hair styling routine, if any? What products do you use and why?
I have pretty thick and straight hair, so if I want any sort of style, I have to put in work. I sport a side part but I like more volume at the top and an overall matte look, so I have a process. I start by towel drying my hair, then I use a sea salt spray from Beardbrand to give it a bit of grit and texture. I spray some in my hands and work it in. Then I brush my hair to make sure it's evenly covered, and I form the part I want. I use a vented brush similar to this one. From there, I blow dry my hair in the direction I want it to go. For the sides, I blow dry it down and back so it's flatter against my head, and at the top, I blow dry in an upwards and back motion because I prefer my top to be swept back instead of a true side part. I also use the brush to hold the hair up as I blow dry to add more volume to the top.
Once my hair is dry, it's already in the shape I want, and I just have to add my product. I've found that with my style, a clay works really well. I use a dime-size amount of Layrite Cement Clay. It has a strong hold and matte finish. I work the product in my palms and fingers, covering my hands evenly, and then I run them through my hair. I slick the sides, but work the product in more carefully at the top.
I start at the tips, barely grazing the top of my hair, while gradually working my way to the roots. That way, if I feel I have too much product already, I can always stop adding, and it's not all clumpy at the roots. It's always better to start with just a little product while you're working it into your hands; you can always add more if you used too little, but once you have too much, your hair is weighed down and doesn't look great.
From there, I brush down the sides and style the top, brushing it lightly to keep that volume and height. Sometimes I just run my fingers through so it looks more natural. I use a finishing spray to catch any strays and keep the hair in place. I like L'Oreal Elnett because it holds nicely without being sticky or weighing the hair down.
It was a process to figure out what worked best for my type of hair, but I like this method because in the end, it's styled, but still soft and I can run my fingers through it.
What is your EDC (“Every Day Carry”), and why? Where do you keep which items? What do you never leave home without?
I don't like carrying lots of stuff, especially in the summer when I have fewer pockets to work with. I generally always have my wallet (slim cash / card holder from Anson Calder), iPhone (6S+), watch (either my minimal Linjer classic, vintage Rolex 16030, or an old Seiko Titanium Perpetual Calendar I've had for 20 years), wooden bead bracelet, wedding ring, keys on a leather key-holder, earbuds, and a handkerchief.
My wallet is in my back left pocket, handkerchief in my back right pocket. My leather key-holder attaches to my belt loop, and I stick the keys into my back right pocket as well. I only have 3-4 keys on there, so I don't even notice it. I keep my iPhone in my front left pocket, and (if I'm not already using them) my earbuds are usually in my breast pocket if I'm wearing just a shirt in the summer, or in an easily accessible jacket pocket during the colder months.
If I'm working at a coffee shop, I bring my MacBook Air, power adapter, Canon EOS M6, and red Moleskine in a bag. I have a few: a dark brown Filson briefcase, a navy canvas rucksack from an Archival Clothing x Barneys New York collab (it's a few years old, but it looks like this), or my leather saddlebag briefcase from Col. Littleton.
How would you describe your personal style? What is your go-to outfit?
I go for a smart-sharp-casual vibe. My usual outfit is a pair of tapered blue denim, white or light blue OCBD, grey unlined sportcoat, and loafers. Sometimes I swap out the loafers for sneakers, the sportcoat for an M-65 or leather jacket, the OCBD for a chambray, or the denim for chinos. I try to keep an interchangeable wardrobe so it's versatile both in style and color. (You can see an example here.)
What is the biggest splurge style item you own and why?
Probably my vintage steel Rolex. I bought it to celebrate hitting a monthly revenue milestone a few years back. I also own a Canada Goose parka, but I feel that splurge was a necessity because it gets cold in NYC during the winter.
What is your favorite style purchase of the last year and why? Least favorite?
I recently picked up an Allsaints Kushiro leather jacket and I love it. I feel like a badass in it. It also adds an edge to my relatively preppy, polished style. (See more here.)
I don't think I have a least favorite thing. I'm mindful of my purchases and it takes me forever to commit to something and actually buy it. So if I bought it, I generally love it.
What is your morning routine? Nighttime routine?
I like to wake up around 7:30 AM. I usually wash my face, fix my hair, and get dressed and ready for the day. I make a full pot of coffee which I end up drinking throughout the morning if I'm working from home (and my wife has a few cups as she gets ready as well).
As the pot brews, I drink 1 liter of water. I make sure to drink the whole thing before I have my coffee. I'm usually able to get in 3 liters of water a day: one first thing in the morning, another before I eat my first meal around 1pm, and my last one mid- to late afternoon, around 5pm, a few hours before dinner. I started the habit this year, so it's relatively new, but I feel incredible drinking this much water. It's helped curb hunger and snacking, my skin feels softer, and I just feel good knowing I'm better hydrated.
I try to get in an hour or two of work before I head to the gym, usually around 9:30 AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays, same routine, but I don't go to the gym, I just start work.
I don't really have a nightly routine. We eat dinner pretty late, and I get ready for bed a little after dinner, but I usually knock a few smaller tasks off my to-do list before actually calling it a day. I like catching up on Netflix for an hour or two before bed; watching something that's completely unrelated to work, business, and life helps to clear my head and fall asleep easier. I know some people are really strict with their social media consumption or phone usage. I don't really restrict myself, but I'm also pretty good with self control. During work hours, I simply keep my phone out of reach so I can't always check Instagram or Facebook, and on my computer, I use an app called Focus. It cuts off all access to social media sites and email for a specified amount of time you set, which is great.
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?
Style mistake: I still see guys going really tight with their clothing. I think they hear "clothes must be slim fit" and take it to the extreme, or simply don't understand the difference between well fitting and tight. I also hate seeing really tight suits; suits should drape nicely with minimal wrinkling in the cloth. They can fit well without being too tight or too loose.
Also related: some guys just don't have the body for slim fit clothing. My quads and calves are pretty big relative to my waist size, so I can't wear slim fit jeans. It's uncomfortable and doesn't look good. I usually have to buy a straight leg or an athletic taper. It's important to know your body and understand not all clothing silhouettes can work on you, but there will be something that does.
Style rule that should be broken more: You don't have to stick to a rigid style, i.e. "dressed up in suit and tie" or "casual jeans and tee". Good style is the gray area in between... the mix of casual and tailored pieces, sharply cut jackets with casual chinos, denim with tasseled loafers, etc. The best dressed guys I see always do this high / low look and it makes for a more interesting style.
What book have you gifted most often?
I don't gift books often, but I should. 7-8 years ago, it would've been The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. That book really influenced me and helped to solidify the ideas and plans I already had but didn't quite know how to put together. Today, I'd probably gift The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Super actionable, helps you to focus on what really matters, and ignore everything else that doesn't.
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?
I read a lot of non-fiction business books and articles. Currently I'm going through Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. I get a lot of great ideas and work through my own challenges when I read, so I do it as much as possible. I try reading a bit in the morning when I'm having my first coffee, but also whenever I have some downtime... like when I'm eating breakfast or lunch, I'll read an article or two. I use the app Pocket extensively. It allows you to save articles from the web, so whenever I find something I can't read immediately, I save it in my queue.
I listen to podcasts when I'm out and about in NYC. I haven't even scratched the surface of awesome podcasts, so I'm always open to suggestions. Usually I listen to a mix of business and non-biz stuff. For non-business podcasts, I enjoy Hidden Brain from NPR, This American Life, and series like Serial, S-Town, etc. Blamo! is a cool podcast where they chat with well-known personalities in the world of fashion and culture. I also sometimes listen to Mark Bell's Powercast. Mark Bell owns Super Training Gym in Sacramento; he's a well known powerlifter and bad ass business dude / inventor in that world, and he has a great YouTube channel, and eventually I started listening to his podcast.
Speaking of YouTube, I'm fully focused on growing our channel and expanding our video content this year, so I watch YouTube a lot more than I ever used to. I love checking out different channels (especially ones that aren't in fashion or style) to get inspiration for how I want my videos to look and feel. I consider it research and learning time, even if I'm having fun watching videos... this is because I'm still in the growth stages of my channel. I do limit myself especially if I know it's creation time, not consumption time.
Overall I just try to be mindful of what I do, read, and watch, and keep a general balance so I'm not wasting my whole afternoon; at the same time, I don't like to be too rigid because that's no fun. Mindfulness is key.
How do you keep yourself productive? What advice would you give to someone who is looking to be more productive?
Being productive is a battle. Some days, you're just kicking ass and knocking everything off your to-do list. And other days, you can't get one thing done. I just try and listen to myself. If I'm not in the right groove that day, I try to not be too hard on myself, which I often have been in the past. It ebbs and flows, and some days you miss the wave, but that's OK.
I'm playing a long term game. I want to create a business I love and can see myself running for years. I'm not trying to hustle my face off every minute of every day if that means hating the process and the work and feeling burnt out. Some days I can work from 7:30 AM to 1:00 AM and get a ton of stuff done and not be tired. Other days, I literally get one small task done. That's just how it is. But if you love what you do and you're in it for the long haul, you have to understand those unproductive, unmotivated days are normal. Tomorrow's a new day.
From a tactical perspective, I like to write my day's tasks on a Post-It note. I literally write a checklist and I mark stuff off as I go. I limit myself to 2-3 main tasks per day. Any more than that, and I just feel overwhelmed and get even fewer things done. I also keep a work journal in Evernote. I create a new note for each month, and I list every work-related task I complete every day. At the end of the month, I read through what I've completed and list my big wins for the month at the top of each note. So at the end of the year, I can easily scan through each month and see how much progress I've made that year.
I started doing this a couple years ago because I found that I had a hard time remembering what I accomplished every new year. It's a little disheartening if you can't recall all your big wins. So I started writing them down and it's motivating to see the progress and be able to look back and see how far you've come.