Earlier in your career, you spent five years as PR director for Calvin Klein, where you worked with big-name designers like Italo Zucchelli and Kevin Carrigan. Did that experience influence Gents?
A lot. Calvin Klein, like many others — Ralph Lauren, Armani — hires people that have the aesthetic or taste of the brand. And I think that’s why I was hired. They had to work very hard to let their creative expression come out, but stay within the ethos of the Calvin Klein brand. I feel like I do the same, in terms of when I develop something. I always want to be ahead of the curve and innovative but still stay true to what Gents represents—minimalism, athleticism, masculinity.
The aesthetic feels pretty edgy. In fact, it feels almost counter to how you would normally position a hat brand, pairing tuxes with black baseball caps.
It was intentional. The market was open to a baseball cap, but for a nicer occasion. Do I think there are times when it’s inappropriate to wear one? Yes — to weddings, religious occasions — but other than that? I really feel like it’s open to a nice dinner now, a red carpet event, any type of more formal event. I branded Gents “attainable luxury,” meaning it was made for an everyday guy. He’s minimal and plain, but in a fashion forward way.
Sounds like we should expect to see more guys wearing caps, then?
Not that we’re taking all the credit, but since our campaign came out I’ve seen guys on the red carpet with caps and guys in fancy dinners with caps.
Do you see the hat as the centerpiece of his outfit or something he can just throw on?
It’s an accentuation piece, but I really do feel that it can be a focal point. For our launch event, I wore a tuxedo jacket, a tuxedo shirt, and a tie, with black jeans and a black baseball cap. The outfit would have been normal for a party like that, but the baseball cap really transformed it into something a bit edgier. Guys don’t have any options; there’s not much you can do differently. Our baseball cap does that. It’s simple — curved brim, non-sports related, no logos. There’s really an open market for them and I think that’s why it’s doing so well.
That’s an interesting way to look at it, instilling confidence in a guy. I can also see it as something a guy could use to hide behind.
Well, it’s both. A quick story: When I left Calvin, I worked as a talent agent. And I was representing some big name talent and traveling with them a lot. Men like Orlando Bloom, Matt McConaughey. They were always wearing caps because they liked caps, but it was a great thing to hide behind, especially from the paparazzi. We would get sent everything under the sun, but we’d never get any hats. And these guys aren’t going to wear the flat-brim sports cap. So I just said, “I’m going to make this.” If the most famous men in the world can’t even get their hands on something like that, there’s a need for it.
You launched in November 2012 with hats, and launched tees soon after.
I wanted to stick with the essentials, things guys need and can look good in. Still looking very athletic and masculine. I think the T-shirt is a staple; I wear it all time. A great-fitting t-shirt with a great pair of jeans, black boots and a hat — nothing is more attractive on a guy, and I think ladies would agree.