Throughout the course of my day job and attending events through the GQ Insider program, I’m fortunate to meet some pretty cool people who also happen to share a similar outlook on life and style & fashion in general. At April’s GQ x Tiffany’s CT60 Watch Collection Preview, I met Clay Chambers of outstanding creative lifestyle brand and blog Brothers & Craft. If you know the site or follow them on Instagram, you’ll know that they (meaning brothers Kirk, Zac and Clay, who founded the site with their oldest brother Ryan in 2012) really have a tremendous eye for style and outstanding visuals in general, which leads to some pretty cool partnerships. In fact, the trio recently roamed the state of Kentucky as part of a project with the state’s tourism department (the brothers were born nearby in east Tennessee). I got the chance to chat with Clay recently about B & C, who’s on the rise in the world of #menswear, and of course, the best places to grab a bite or a drink in two very cool cities — the brand’s two bases, Charleston and NYC.
The Style Guide: Take me through the story of starting Brothers & Craft; when did your vision for it begin to develop and when you did know you were onto something that resonated with people?
Brothers & Craft: Our building blocks look different than most guys you might talk to in the menswear world. We were raised to appreciate craftsmanship and resourcefulness. Our mom would teach us how to sew and tailor our own clothing, teach us how to cook, and even drag us around on weekends to yard sales where we’d pick up old furniture and refurbish it ourselves. So Brothers & Craft began as a creative outlet to share the things we were wearing and creating. Zac would make pocket squares and bow ties and put them on the blog. Kirk would hand make a wooden wine rack and take you through the process of how he built it. Or Ryan (our oldest brother who started with us) would teach you how to make your tie skinnier. So there’s always been an element of “how-to-for-men” tied into what we do, but we’ve always wanted the blog to serve as a place where we share our creativity. We’ve been fortunate enough that influential Instagrammers would show love and shout us out, so that’s helped us build our own audience.
TSG: In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of guys become way more interested in style; what’s one piece of advice you would give to guys just finding their personal style?
B&C: In the past, dressing well in America –as an idea– has sometimes been inextricably linked to being effeminate. I’m not sure where that comes from, but it’s nice to see that the average guy can now feel more comfortable building his own style without facing judgement from others. That said, crafting your own swag or style, to me, always starts with simplicity. Find timeless clothing items you like, and look for colors that blend well with them. I happen to love neutrals and earth tones because they don’t ask for attention. So for much of fall and winter I wear pieces army green, browns, navy, beige, and so on. So maybe in the summer you like wearing blazers with a pair of nice fitting denim and tassel loafers. Test the waters with the fits on both, and perfect what you like. From there, it’s about tweaking details and little pieces so you don’t get bored with your staples.
TSG: Your team splits time between Charleston & NYC; what’s that like in terms of the differences in locale and fashion when you travel back and forth?
B&C: Right now Zac and I live in Brooklyn, and Kirk’s based in Charleston with his wife and kids. Things move slower in Charleston. People are laidback and friendly, the weather is amazing, and the architecture carries such a rich history. It has so much eighteenth century swag, which is uncommon for most other southern cities. Back in New York, though, I get so energized by cultural diversity and the nightlife; they help make it what it is. And anywhere you walk there seems to be new restaurants, coffee shops, bars, art galleries, and clothing stores popping up each month. But behind the touristy facade of midtown Manhattan, there’s a deeper, more cohesive side to New York in each neighborhood. The local spots define the streets and they bring people together in many ways.
TSG: And for those heading to Charleston or NYC anytime soon, what’s one spot to check out?
B&C: The food scene in Charleston is second to none! Waking up there, head to Saint Alban for coffee and pastries; it’s a European style cafe. Strolling along downtown or the battery is beautiful, where palmettos and pastel colored mansions fill each street. For lunch, head back up to Leon’s Oyster Shop for chicken and oysters. You need to have dinner at Edmund’s Oast, too — the charcuterie there is mind blowingly good. In New York City–and I don’t care how much people talk about it — you need to spend time at the Highline Park in Chelsea. Summers there are magical, especially at night. My favorite cafe in the city is near Columbia University on the Upper West Side, called the Hungarian Pastry Shop. They have the best cakes and desserts!
TSG: Who are your personal style icons, someone who’s shaped the way you try to dress (if any)?
B&C: I think that things, more than people, inspire what I wear. Maybe it’s acoustic beach music, or an old, tattered rug, or a sleek, modern museum, or even a weathered, faded brick on a building. Photographs are inspiring too; even more, I love coffee table books.
TSG: Is there a go-to outfit you have? If so, what?
B&C: Right now I love wearing loafers, a fitted pair of chinos, an oxford shirt, and soft shell bomber jacket. Such a great, simple combo.
TSG: Lastly — what’s your favorite clothing brand of the moment (menswear-focused or otherwise)? And one brand to watch across the next year or so?
B&C: I really respect Todd Snyder’s pieces. He does such a wonderful job modernizing the fits to classic American sportswear. I also love Sid Mashburn, his suiting pieces have such a smooth, Italian fit. In streetwear, watch out for Zanerobe. It’s already built a successful name for itself, but it continues to really grow exponentially each season.