Khoi Nguyen of ‘Gentleman Within’: A Conversation with The Peak Lapel
Who are you and what do you do? Where can people follow your work online?
I’m Khoi and I’m an interaction designer by trade. These days I enjoy writing about all things menswear. I’m the Founding Editor of Gentleman Within, an online resource that helps men to dress better and feel their best. I like to teach what I know and show men how they can adapt the looks I put together to fit their personal aesthetic.
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 always considered myself “fashionable” growing up because I was on top of the trends, but I didn’t really start to care about my personal appearance until around college. After that, it took years of trial and error to develop and refine my personal style. And it’s still an ever-changing thing.
It became more than just a hobby a few years ago when I noticed how dressing the part made me feel so much better about myself. I wanted for other men to feel the same. But I wasn’t ready yet; I had to educate myself even more. And that’s when I discovered StyleCon a few years back, originally a men’s style conference (now Menfluential) where there was an entire community of like-minded gents, striving to better themselves not only in the way they dress, but in all aspects of life.
I decided to learn as much as I could about menswear, the importance of fit, silhouette, colors, proportion, and quality when it comes to style. I wanted to start with the niche of menswear and then when I was ready I could branch off from there. I’m still in the thick of it and excited where the journey is taking me. I never imagined that a small conference down in Atlanta could change my life, but it did and I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met and relationships I’ve forged since then.
What is your hair styling routine, if any? What products do you use and why?
My hair styling routine depends on the length, of course. Right now, I’m about mid-length hair with short sides and when it comes to styling, I’m using 3 products.
1) New York Streets Volume Foam or New York Streets Gridlock Fiber
These two products act as a pre-styler, which I apply to damp/wet hair. This helps to get that initial volume and make my hair easier to style with the primary product whether that’s a paste, tar, clay or wax.
2) Ecru New York Texture Defining Paste
Perfect for mid-length hair styles. It’s got a matte finish and provides excellent pliability and texture.
3) Ecru New York Max Sunlight Finishing Spray
For when I want my hair to stay put, I spray more. It hardens my hair so there’s no free flowing locks in the wind. Lately I’ve been going for a more relaxed look and so I limit the amount of hairspray I apply.
Finally, I have to mention the secrets to massive hair volume: There are two things, the blowdryer and round brush, two hair styling tools I regularly use when my hair is a bit longer.
I tend to switch products all the time, but this is my current hair styling routine.
What is your EDC (“every day carry”), and why? Where do you keep which items? What do you never leave home without?
As of right now, I’m currently in Sydney Australia on holiday, mixing a bit of work in as well.
Of course, you have the mandatories: the cell phone, wallet and keys. I also never leave home without applying sunscreen to my face and body. Right now I’m using Tiege Hanley’s AM facial moisturizer which has SPF 20. I also never leave the house without my TOPO messenger bag which doubles as a backpack. I love it because it’s pretty minimal, functional and best of all, stylish. Inside I have my journaling pad from Bull & Stash — you never know when a great idea is going to strike. Plus, I like to journal the day’s events, highlights, ‘magical moments’ and things I could’ve done better.
Items in my bag:
- Portable Power Bank (Anker cell phone charger)
- Sunglasses (Ray Bans or Warby Parker)
- Water bottle
- Ursa Major face wipes
- Niche for Men body wipes
- Clean & Clear oil absorbing sheets
- Business cards
- Spearmint Gum
How would you describe your personal style? What is your go-to outfit?
These days I’d describe my style as casually versatile. I feel like I can wear most things and take it as a challenge to style particular items of clothing. When I started getting into menswear, I wore suits and suit jackets more often, but these days my style leans more casual. Chinos, oxford cloth button downs, field jackets, denim jackets, joggers, white trainers, casual sneakers, and a brown leather jacket have become staples in my wardrobe.
I also like to wear classic pieces — staples that stand the test of time and pairing them with more modern pieces. These days I like a tailored aesthetic, but not super skinny fit. You can still look well put together and stylish with more relaxed clothing. All you need to understand is silhouette and drape. I like pants with a taper towards the ankle and no break and a tailored aesthetic.
The outfit I wear most frequently these days is super simple. Starting from the bottom it’s a pair of casual sneakers like the J.Crew Killshot 2’s or beige canvas Vans. For the pants it’s either a pair of slim fit dark wash denim or neutral color chinos with a taper towards the ankle (navy, tan, gray). Depending on how I’m feeling I’ll cuff them or pin roll ‘em. Up top I’m usually rocking a casual button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up if the weather calls for it. I’ll also have a thicker shawl collar cardigan or comfort blazer from Uniqlo in my bag in case the weather cools down later in the evening which it typically does here in Sydney. Finally, I finish off the look with a pair of sunglasses. My looks comprise mostly of natural colors these days with a pop of color here and there.
What is the biggest splurge style item you own and why?
My biggest splurge item up until this point has been a brown leather jacket from Peter Manning NYC. It was around $500, which I love and it was well worth it.
What is your favorite style purchase of the last year and why? Least favorite?
My favorite style purchase this year has been my TOPO Designs bag. I take it with me everyday when I go out here in Sydney. I love that it’s both a messenger bag and a backpack and is super stylish to boot.
As for least favorite purchase, I haven’t really bought too many pieces in the past year, come to think of it. So I’m having a hard time thinking of anything right now.
Walk us through your morning routine…
My current morning routine looks something like this.
1) Wake up and drink a huge glass of water
2) Bang out a few handful of pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups
3) 10 minutes of meditation, focusing on my breath and gaining clarity for the day ahead
4) Run or jog along the beach or a quick workout at the outdoor gym
5) Breakfast; typically oatmeal with fresh fruit or greek yogurt with granola
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 more guys should break is the one that your clothes have to fit tightly or hug your body. Not everyone has the same body type. Of course style is subjective, but most men can benefit from clothes with a looser drape. The super tight and fitted movement in menswear has run its course. I like how there’s been pull back from the skin tight, fitted suits and the cuts are getting wider and more loose without being sloppy.
Another one I feel more guys should be breaking is colors. It’s okay to inject a statement color into your looks. Style is personal and in the end you should be having fun with it.
What book have you gifted most often?
I haven’t really gifted any books, but I recommend that everyone should read Napoleon Hill’s “Think And Grow Rich.” It’s not just about getting rich financially, but living a rich life through the power of thought. It’s such a deep book that changed the way I look at the world and approach how I live my life, and that’s rare to find in a book.
A bonus book I’d recommend for all the creators out there, those who create for a living is Stephen Pressfield’s, “War of Art”. It’s a book about the ongoing battle against coming into your own by simply showing up. Knowing that there is resistance to create, a resistance to become who you could become is a struggle that every single person who aims to create something worthwhile faces. But in knowing that the resistance is there and doing the work anyway is how we’ll win the war.
How do you keep yourself productive? What advice would you give to someone who is looking to be more productive?
I keep myself productive by constantly reminding myself that our days are short. There aren’t enough hours to do all the things we want to do and so there’s really no time to waste. Thoughts like these keep me moving forward and keeping my head down, focusing on the things that matter. It’s more of a mindset that I’ve cultivated at this point. When it comes to getting work done, you just have to do the work and limit distractions. I think those who are most productive have mastered limiting distraction.
Some actionable advice would be to limit your cell phone usage. Have control over when you use your phone; don’t let it control you. When trying to get work done, put your cell phone in another room. All too often we become slaves to the notification. When you hear it or see it on your phone, there’s a desire to open it up and see what it is. We live for that hit of dopamine. Don’t go on your phone and check email, Instagram, Facebook, whatever first thing in the morning. That’s a bad way to start the day. It’s not easy, but if you want to begin the day in a more productive way, it’s best to control your urges to use the cell phone.