A Conversation With The Style Gent

Today, I am super excited to be able to introduce a brand new instalment of this blog – the Conversations series! Simply put, Conversations will feature interviews with some of the people I find really interesting and inspiring – and just plain awesome. The Style Gent Kicking off the Conversations series will be none other than the Style Gent, the face behind The Transformed Male. Taylor is a blogger and personal stylist who has had 16 years of experience working in the fashion retail and has spent 10 years working with luxury brands. But he’s not just a stylist in terms of fashion. Taylor is also a purveyor of what he calls ‘internal styling’, reminding us that clothes and accessories may go a long way towards influencing the way we are perceived in the world, but a good pair of shoes can only carry us so far, that in fact the way we choose to carry ourselves – and others – is what matters the most. In 2009, Taylor came down with a bout of flu which triggered the rare skeletal muscle condition Rhabdomyolysis. In his words:

 “For about a month and a half, I was hooked up to IVs as the doctors raced to keep my organs from shutting down. After month and months of physical therapy I’m slowly recovering. Day by day I’m regaining my strength. It was then that I decided to create this blog as a daily meditation on what I was thinking about as I was lying in the hospital bed.”

To that end, Taylor has created the Transformed Male, a blog on character and clothing, proving “you don’t have to stand to be stylish” (love this quote!) and inspiring a legion of blogosphere readers to stay timeless and true to a beautiful self, both inside and out. How did you choose the moniker ‘The Style Gent’? I’ve always thought it was a very natural and organic name because of the way I grew up. I wanted to combine the two values that I felt were important to me: the art of being and living stylish and the behavior and meditation on being a person of integrity. My Mom was such a stylish person, she taught me how and where to find good quality clothing. Both my parents also gave me good core values based on spirituality that has guided me to this day. What does it mean to be a transformed male? A transformed male is a man of balance. He is balance in his thoughts, attitude and actions. He understands that the personal work on himself and his behaviors is never done. It means that he is constantly looking to evolve and transform into the best version of himself. He improves, not to draw attention to personal accomplishments, but to make a contribution to society with each interaction in his relationships with people and in the community. He strives to mentor and spread the tenants of genteel behaviors: Love, Justice, Wisdom and Power. So I created the transformed male as a reminder to myself to always look past the fancy clothes, the etiquette manuals and go deeper and weed out any parts of my personality that were not authentic. Could you tell me about the condition, Rhabdomyolysis, and how it has changed your life? In 2009 I came down with a genetic condition called Rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is harmful to the kidney and often causes kidney damage due to low phosphate levels in the body. Since then I’ve been liberated into a wheelchair but it’s taught me a lot about myself, it’s brought me closer to my friends and family, helping me to learn empathy, humility and appreciation for giving energies to the empowerment of others. Life can be hard for all of us sometimes and it’s easy to be self serving, but when we focus on helping others with our personal talents, the rewards and possibilities can be endless. Blogging has allowed me to meet and connect with some wonderful people who’ve touched my life in all kinds of enriching ways and I’m very grateful for the opportunity write about the people and values that inspire me.  I love that you blog about the internal tweaking of one’s character because I believe one’s personality and attitude makes all the difference in the way one wear’s ones clothes. Could you tell me a little more about what you term ‘internal styling’? Internal styling is a philosophy that I am passionate about because it really involves self-examination. It’s the ability to look in ourselves objectively, take stock of the motives, attitudes and intentions that influence our lives and if they are self-defeating, make the changes required. It’s character before clothing or even better: character, THEN clothing. The fashion industry is filled with all sorts of tips on how to pick out the latest pieces of clothing that will make us look sharp, neat and well put-together. If we are not careful we can use clothing to misrepresent ourselves. Clothing should be inspirational, but also reflect who we are on the inside. Picking out a nice tie or a great looking shirt may make us look great but what good is a new suit if the man inside is rotten? Internal styling balances all of that through introspection, focusing on what’s inside, how you treat others, feel about yourself, connect with loved ones and enrich those relationships.  What are some of the personal ‘tweaks’ you have made to your life? Having been in a wheelchair I’ve adopted the philosophy “You don’t have to stand to be stylish.” My appearance is still important to me. However, since my bout with Rhabdomyolysis I’ve become a kind of a “Character Tailor”, snipping and cutting the excesses or wasteful energies and attitudes that keep me from having the best relationships with the people I care about most. I had been in the fashion retail business for 16 years and focused all of my time and efforts on making others look their best but neglected the work I needed to do on myself. I had to learn work/family balance and prioritize my time, focus more on my health and reconnect with my spirituality. Knowing when to say “no” to things that will put that balance in jeopardy and yes to the more meaningful things like volunteering. I also have worked hard to pay-it-forward by mentoring in my everyday interactions with others to try and pass on some of the wisdom that has helped me be the person I am today. What is an average day in your life like? My typical day starts out with texts, emails and phone calls from people needing style advice for work or business casual affairs. Since I have limited mobility I make use of my tablet and smartphone to take pictures of sample outfits and I use a color swatch app to help them match the tones they may need. My pain level may fluctuate based on the weather so when I can I try to meet in person. I also get work from for other style blogs that cover the latest trends as well. I participate in a radio show that assembles men from the US, Canada and England, and discusses issues on relationships, socioeconomic and masculine identity through the eyes of black men called The Dr. Vibe Show. And of course, I’m always interacting on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc. What are your top tips for the modern stylish man/woman? #1 Know yourself, be yourself. This is of monumental importance Who are you? Are you introverted? Extroverted? A bit of both? Are you free spirited or more reserved? Knowing who you are and being able to identify the things that you need to improve yourself is the first step toward being a person of substance. Whatever type of person you are, what makes you stylish is really the way you carry yourself, the easy, open and relaxed way in which you bring others into your personal space. People are drawn to that kind of confidence and caring. #2 Be informed, be intuitive Make yourself aware of what’s going on around you. From clothing to conversations, the goal is to become a person with broad views on a variety of subjects. Not just for the sake of knowing but with the objective to understand things and how it relates to you and others. Character first, then clothing. Develop your powers of intuition in your relationships especially. Having the ability to anticipate the needs of others deepens your bonds with those who matter most. Then you won’t be that guy who forgets important dates and the meanings behind them. #3 Know the Cut, Color and Quality of Clothing. It’s important that you know thoroughly the clothes that are in your wardrobe. That’s the foundation for everything else. The colors, the quality and the fit. You don’t have to wear suits to understand this. Knowing what colors look best on you will make you a smarter consumer with the ability to visualize your closet and its contents, keep you from buying redundantly and give you options for putting together outfits to add quality to your wardrobe. Finally, make sure your clothes fit correctly, even your jeans. Nothing is worse than an ill-fitted shirt or suit or pair of pants. You should know your measurements and have a tailor that knows you almost as well as your best friend. #4 Be Humble Don’t get cocky. Nobody likes or cares for an arrogant person. This is a fact and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. It’s not attractive. They’re self-absorbed, boring and difficult to be around. The political, business and entertainment industry is filled with good-looking persons in good-looking clothing with bad habits, bad manners and even bigger egos. Don’t be that guy or girl. Being humble allows you to learn from anyone and everything. When you are humble you are aware of other people, you become teachable, have the potential to grow into a person of wisdom, which leads to the final aspiration, transforming into a Mentor, a Master not just of style, but also a “winning” style of life. #5 Pay It Forward Lastly, perform some random acts of kindness each day. This is not obvious to most people but I put it here because it should be. You can call it Biblical, Karma or Zen. The bottom line is when you share anything: knowledge, experience, time or even that secret spot where you get those critical pieces, you create an even more important habit – generosity. It is an important and refreshing quality in any person, especially a stylish person. It’s the law of reciprocity and simple etiquette. Don’t be selfish, think of others and you’ll be surprised at how many opportunities will begin to open up for you. What are your top three wardrobe essentials? #1 The Grey Suit (preferably three-piece) This is now the new foundation of your wardrobe because you can use each of these pieces in new ways individually. Make sure you’ve got the tailoring right. Fit is important. Take the jacket off and you’ve still got the force of the vest and pant to keep you looking sharp. Add a pocket square to the vest and it gives you an extra pop of color that will get a second look. Together they make a powerful statement. #2 Blazer When ready for the weekend or out with friends for drinks, the blazer is your wingman, helping you rise above the fray. Paired with dark, straight cut jeans, the right shirt and a great pair of bluchers will make a great statement in a sea of same. Again the key here is fit. It should hug the body close. Remember the details, adding a great pocket square will give you needed dash of color. #3 The five-pocket cotton Jean This is the 21st century staple piece for men. Denim will always be classic in all its iterations, but color should be infused in your wardrobe as well. A pair of these pants allows you to embrace the different shades of spring and fall. From brick to terracotta to richer blues olives and lighter greys, the cotton jean is a great way to add a little variety than just blue. Paired with a fitted T shirt, polo shirt, sweater or button down, it can easily move from lazy casual day at the beach or out-and-about lunch with the Significant Other. Every guy has to have at least three pairs of these.  Who is your style icon? Sidney Poitier, because of his incredible elegance, quiet cool and ability to embody what it means to be a gentleman. The way he’s lived his life and carried himself in his career is inspirational to me.  In today’s modern society, what do you think it means to be a gentleman/lady? In a word: selflessness. The ability to think of others before yourself in a balance and modest way. Being a gentleman or a lady isn’t an archaic ideology – manners matter and character counts. We live in a world where snark is being confused with intelligence. People think good wit means being sarcastic, I think we are better than that. I think that when you rise above the cynicism and choose empathy over apathy, you connect to others in a deeper and more meaningful way. Character before clothing, service before self. Practicing patience, openness and kindness gives you the opportunity to experience the best of humanity and when you live like that, like a gentleman/lady, even in this modern society you are doing your part to make the world a better place.  What are your plans for the future? I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. I like to work quietly and build purposefully. With that in mind, I’ll be working on honing my blogging skills, doing more writing and radio shows and possibly a book in the works about dressing internally.


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