Barron Cuadro is the founder and editor at Effortless Gent, one of the best blogs for 20-something men who want to revamp their wardrobe without going too nuts. Barron also co-founded a menswear company, Fifth & Brannan, which focuses on creating affordable classics for men. Basically, Barron is all over the place, and I was lucky enough to get a few hours of his time to answer a few of my questions about his career(s).
Electrogent: Introduce yourself to those who may not know you or Effortless Gent.
Barron: I’m Barron, founding editor of Effortless Gent. We’re a style-focused men’s site helping guys figure out what looks best on them.
E: You are a co-founder of Fifth & Brannan. Tell us a little about that: what was the inspiration behind starting that brand?
B: My fiancée Kate is a designer, and I mostly take care of the business, web, and sales end of things. While in school, Kate was always inspired by menswear and knew she wanted to run her own label. We both provide input when needed but we trust each other’s expertise in our positions.
Fifth&Brannan is a more dressed-up aesthetic. It’s for the guy who dresses well out of choice, and who appreciates details that may not be obvious at first glance. We consider it tailored East coast sophistication but with a laid-back and colorful San Francisco vibe. We live in SF so the quirkiness of the city really inspires us to dress well but not take things so seriously all the time.
E: Effortless Gent has been around a while. What was your driving force to get that project off the ground?
B: In high school and college, my guy friends always asked my opinion about certain things they wore and were genuinely interested in my suggestions. I’ve always had an eye for pairing clothing and I guess they noticed that.
I started Effortless because I figured if so many of my guy friends have these questions, there must be a bunch of dudes out there with similar ones. What better way to spread the knowledge and appreciation of dressing well than on a site that’s accessible worldwide?
E: What is it about Effortless Gent that sets your blog apart from all the other menswear blogs?
B: I don’t really discuss fashion. I couldn’t care less about a designer’s latest collection or what’s going to be hot this Spring, or whatever. I think most guys feel the same way I do.
Effortless Gent has a more long-term view on clothing. We focus on the idea of a Lean Wardrobe (the minimum number of essential pieces a guy needs to have a well-rounded wardrobe from which he can create plenty of different outfits), buying less but better-quality things, the importance of fit over anything else, the benefits of collecting pieces that are classic and can be worn for years, instead of trendy items that look played out after one season… things like that.
E: What is your least favorite thing about the menswear blogosphere as a whole? What would you like to see change?
B: The menswear world seems a bit cliquish and exclusive, but that’s no different than any other industry where there are groups of really passionate people who love the topic they’re talking about. I look at Effortless Gent as more of an outsider. Although we technically do discuss menswear, it’s not in the same way as most other menswear-focused sites do.
Ultimately, I don’t think anything needs to change. I do hope that guys who consider themselves students of style aren’t too intimidated to explore the blogs and learn more about clothing, no matter what they find most interesting.
Some guys really get into brands whose names are hard to pronounce, and suits and shoes that cost a couple paychecks. Some guys get into thrifting and eBaying for their clothes. Some guys just want to know how to find a well-fitting outfit at their closest shopping mall so they stop looking like a youngster and more like a grown man. It all depends on what the reader gravitates toward, and I just hope guys aren’t too intimidated to explore all that.
E: What else do you do outside of Effortless Gent and Fifth & Brannan? Do you have any hobbies?
B: People ask me that a lot and I have the hardest time answering. Effortless and 5&B are what I love to do, so it never truly feels like work. I’m a web designer by trade, so I freelance as well. Hobbies? Not so many. Casual cycling, recently got into bouldering. I love eating my way through San Francisco; there are so many good restaurants here it’s kind of ridiculous.
E: What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Brew coffee, check my email on the iPhone, pour coffee, then make the 10-foot commute to my office. You?
[I get to my Federal Income Taxation class before 8 AM. You win. –Ed.]
E: What is your view for Effortless Gent in the next decade?
B: I want Effortless to be a destination site for guys looking to build a well-rounded foundation of style knowledge. It’s always been a place for beginners learning to up their style game, and in the future I hope we can provide as many resources and products as possible to help guys get there faster.
E: If you could go back to November 2009, when you started the website, and do it all over again, what would you change and why?
B: I would have honed in on my message sooner. Then again, that knowledge only comes with writing and running the site, but if I could’ve figured it out back then I would have liked that, and I would have been able to tailor my earlier articles appropriately. When a site knows its mission, it’s much easier to create and curate content that serves that particular audience. When I first started Effortless Gent I wasn’t as dialed-in on its message as I am now.
E: What are three pieces of advice that you would give to someone who is starting out as a menswear blogger?
B: Find your voice. Know what you want to talk about and make sure it’s a fresh perspective, or add your twist so it’s not exactly the same as all the other sites out there. Be consistent; audiences need consistency (in your message, in your article style, in the number of articles you publish per week, etc.). Also, know why you’re blogging in the first place. Are you writing because you just love menswear and you can offer a point of view that isn’t already being done? Are you just hoping to score free gear (this is a lame reason)? Or are you creating a business? There’s a difference, and you have to approach it differently depending on your ultimate goals.
E: Which men, still living, signify the best and worst of modern menswear?
B: I try to not be judgmental at all, but (and I realize stylists play a big role in how celebrities dress) I like how Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks in clothing. Same with Ryan Gosling. I feel that, out of any of the young actors today, they’d be the two whose style of dress in public accurately reflects their personal style. Again, totally assuming that.
Worst style… That’s not very gentlemanly to state in public, now is it?
E: What is your biggest pet peeve about how modern men dress and/or present themselves?
B: I’m not a fan of the extreme casual dressing, and how accepted it is nowadays. Though I don’t expect every man to walk around in a suit and tie daily, what’s up with men wearing sweats (or worse, pajama pants) in public? Is it that difficult to put real pants on? I also don’t buy the excuse of “I’m just making a quick trip to the store” either, because so am I, and I’m in actual clothing. Oh, and it took me like 20 seconds to put this on.
The way you dress directly affects how people perceive you, and well, if you want people to perceive you as a man-child with no sense of how disgusting he looks, then keep on wearing those PJs.
E: You wrote an eBook called “Graduating your Style.” What is the purpose of this work, and how did you go about achieving that?
B: Effortless Gent is a great resource for the guy who is casually rebuilding or creating his personal style, and who has the luxury of time. I created The Effortless Guide to Graduating Your Style (GYS for short) for the guys who want an all-in-one guide to reinventing their wardrobe. It’s a step-by-step solution for those who want to fast-track their changes. We go through the whole process, from evaluating what you currently own and clearing out the unnecessary items, to restocking your closet with the essentials (the Lean Wardrobe), and finally, how to wear the pieces you’ve just bought.
It sounds simple but I’ve covered everything in extensive detail so there are no questions left unanswered. And even if there are, I’m available via email to all my students. As of this interview we’ve had 650 students purchase the eGuide, and I get emails every day telling me how helpful it’s been. That’s definitely the most rewarding aspect of writing the guide.
E: Effortless Gent is all about finding classic, well-made basics and building upon those pieces of clothing. If you had $500 and a fresh start, how would you allocate that money to start a wardrobe?
B: Good question. This is different for everyone and totally dependent on your lifestyle, career, and location. For me, the first thing I’d buy is a pair of dark denim, and a few Oxford cloth button down shirts… probably white, light blue, and lavender. I’d also pick up a few pairs of chinos in charcoal, olive, and khaki. I’d need one pair of brown leather lace-ups, a pair of casual canvas sneakers, and a pair of desert boots if the budget allows. I’d also want a navy two-piece suit, again, if it was in the budget.
The nice thing is, this starter wardrobe can be done on a $500 budget or a $5,000 budget. The difference is in the quality and fabric of each individual piece. For most guys just starting out, I always recommend focusing on fit first, and worrying about brand and long-lasting quality later.
Brand and quality are definitely important, but for a tight budget, it’s not always practical to buy the $2,000 suit, or the $300 pair of denim… especially when you can get a custom suit from Black Lapel for $500, or a pair of Levis for $50, for example. There’s value and style at every price point. Hopefully guys remember that.
E: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
B: I always say “Fit is paramount.” You’ll look better in a $100 Merona suit from Target + a trip to the tailor, vs an ill-fitting $5,000 suit from Brioni. It’s not about the money you spend but about the way your clothing fits. I think once guys realize that, they’ll start focusing on things that matter when it comes to their personal style, instead of worrying about how much money they need to shell out in order to look good.
Thanks to Barron for taking time out of his busy life to give us some insightful comments. Be sure to check out Effortless Gent, as well as Fifth & Brannan if you’re interested in learning more from Barron.
Do you have any questions for Barron? Ask him in the comments below.