Vivek Nagrani – My Two Bits
I have been wondering why Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are so fascinated with colonizing Mars. It finally struck me, real men seem to have already commenced the colonization of Mars. The aforementioned pioneers are simply setting up shop so eventually women can move there and the human population can be saved.
Maybe I am out on my own here, but I just do not see any great male role models. Be it sports, music, fashion, or film, I am lost when someone asks me who I see as a great role model. I have had to revert to the fictional character Bruce Wayne to serve as my muse for what I think a man should be.
I get it, times change and that forces change across the board. However, there are basic elements that have defined masculinity since the dawn of time and will continue for our existence – which may not be that long if Trump gets high on a super size value meal and decides to press the big button on his desk. Thank God he does not realize its just a buzzer that is connected to his favorite fast food joint.
What the hell has really happened? When I look back in time, men learned from their father’s who learned from their fathers. But today’s times are different and today’s youth are on their own. My dad sure as hell never used Tinder or eHarmony to meet women. This leaves a vacant space that where the rules have yet to be established. There are no social norms yet, no rules, no benchmarks for what is considered the right way.
In addition, society has just become accustomed to mediocrity. From product to talent, we live in a world where being average is acceptable. Kids win trophies for “participating” rather than actually winning by excelling. Innovation seems to be limited to the Billionaire Boys Club and the rest find solace in just re-making low hanging fruits. Today anyone willing to video themselves doing stupid shit can become a celebrity. Get a YouTube channel and you are a television star. No one bothers to actually read these days either. What happened to actual talent? Just listen to today’s music. I do not want to sound like a crazy old guy but seriously, WTF is going on?
What really makes me nervous is the future of my eight year old daughter. Not so much for her but more for me. What kind of son in law am I going to be stuck with? So what is it to be a gentleman in today’s time? I sat down and had drinks with a cross section of women to find out what it is that makes a man today. Remember, times have changed and it is important that we are always evolving, but ironically, a lot of the basic traits that defined masculinity in the past seem to be exactly what has been forgotten today.
New/old rules that every man should follow in today’s uncharted times:
1. A man should always open the door for a lady, the elderly and the less capable.
2. A man should actually call when he is seeking the the audience of a woman.
3. A man should take pride in not just what he wears but how he wears it.
4. A man should always be gracious and polite to others… until deemed unworthy.
5. A man should know his limits when it comes to drinking or other recreational drugs.
6. A man should be physically fit or at least make an attempt to stay in shape.
7. A man should be well-groomed. Never over-groomed or under-groomed, just groomed.
8. A man should read at least two books a year (at this point, just reading is sufficient).
9. A man should know how to cook three basic meals and do his own laundry if need be.
10. A man should be able to keep a clean and tidy residence.
Throughout history there have been exceptional people who’ve inspired us by the way they lead their lives and accomplish success, chief among them, Bruce Lee.
Anyone that’s made it on the silver screen has the potential to integrate into popular culture. If they’re “lucky” enough to do so, the rest of us usually end up glamorizing their life, regardless how admirable their actual life is or was. In Bruce Lee’s case, we probably don’t glamorize him enough. The guy accomplished more in his 32 years than most do in a lifetime.
Yet his image is tied to his sculpted figure and insane kung-fu moves. Many of us think of him as no more than a film star, like Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, or John Wayne. The reality is that those adored actors can only compete at the lowest-common-denominator criteria for which Bruce Lee’s badass-ness can be evaluated.
1. His rigorous physical conditioning didn’t come close to his mental discipline
While standing at just 5’-7” hovering somewhere between 140–150, Lee’s physical appearance was statue-like, and he couldn’t have done it without a rigid physical discipline.
Here’s one of Lee’s 1965 gym cards, from the book, “The Art of Expressing the Human Body.”
We can see that Lee was all about building tightly wound endurance muscles, with each exercise consisting of 3-5 sets. If you’re interested in bodybuilding but still want to look like you can wipe your own ass, learn about the exercises in closer detail here.
As regimented as this sheet looks it’s a mere complement to Lee’s reading, meditating, and writing focus. He left behind 7 volumes of writing — everything from quantum physics to philosophy. He even wrote poetry. Is there anything more badass than a lethal man who writes poetry? On top of this, he also kept daily journals and workout regimens like the one above throughout his adult life.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Lee’s intense mental fortitude, he might have never recovered from a serious back injury in 1970. Instead, Lee spent the time writing and feeding his mind, setting new goals mentally, spiritually, and physically until he was healed. Without such mental focus and discipline, Lee likely would’ve floundered in bed feeling sorry for himself, letting his mind stymie his physical recovery. Lee focused, his mind accomplished. It’s a lesson all of us could learn from time to time.
2. Wong Jack Man Fight
When Lee moved to Oakland and opened a gym to teach martial arts, he wasn’t so popular on the other side of the Bay Bridge. Popular accounts claim it’s because Lee taught martial arts to white people, something frowned upon by the martial arts community, but according to those familiar with the ‘60’s Bay Area martial arts scene, like Leo Fong, the Chinese-only martial arts sentiment started to deteriorate around that time, and even respected Chinatown teachers were willing to teach any student. “It was never about that. It all really had to do with Bruce’s personality,” said Fong in a Viceland piece about the fight.
Bruce wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on other kung-fu disciplines being taught, and things really boiled over when he gave a lecture and demonstration at Chinatowns’ Sun Sing theater. During the demonstration Lee criticized two of the most revered local teachers in TY Wong and Lau Bun. Conflict was eminent.
Oddly enough, a recent martial arts transplant named Wong Jack Man was the man to call Lee on his claim, having a mutual acquaintance deliver a note to Lee’s Oakland gym. Lee accepted without hesitation, and later when Wong requested fight guidelines on kicking the head and groin, as well as on eye jabs, Lee refused. The fight became an “anything-goes” affair.
The details of the fight are a little hazy with no video footage and only nine witnesses, but it apparently started with Lee delivering an opening blow to Wong’s temple. However, unlike in past fights, Lee was unable to quickly put Wong away, only being able to do so after a flurry of advances caused Wong to lose his footing. Wong had to yield giving Lee the win. The whole thing lasted between three and seven minutes.
Many say the fight was a seminal moment for Lee’s development. After all, he hadn’t destroyed Wong quickly like past foes and the fight had exposed serious flaws in his technique and conditioning. It was a fight like this that paved the way for the ultimate development of his non-traditionalist Jeet Kune Do martial arts style.
3. He Changed Martial Arts Acting
There probably would not have been a Jackie Chan or Jet Li had there not been Bruce Lee. Even though Lee appeared in several films as a child actor in Hong Kong (his first role was at 3 months old!), he faced resistance in Hollywood, partly due to stereotyping (shit that still goes on today) and partly due to his disinterest in meathead roles.
So Lee took things into his own hands. Refusing to play Hollywood’s game, he stopped auditioning for martial arts films and started doing gung-fu demonstrations. Eventually a producer noticed him and cast him as the sidekick in the 1966 TV series, “The Green Hornet.”
Prior to Lee, martial arts films were a joke; actors couldn’t even do proper kicks let alone their own stunts. Lee took it a step further by writing scripts and choreographing fight scenes.
But the resistance wasn’t over, particularly when it came to Lee’s vision for his films. When Warner Bros decided to remove the philosophical elements from “Enter the Dragon,” Lee stopped showing up on set. After two weeks the studio caved and the film would become known for its unique fusion of philosophy and kung-fu.
4. An Artist of Life
Lee was an actor, a martial artist, a teacher, a philosopher, a husband, a father, but he was an artist of life at his core. Here are a few nuggets of Lee’s wisdom.
• “Defeat is a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.”
• “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”
• “Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don’t.”
• “Pessimism blunts the tools you need to succeed.”
• “By martial art I mean, like any art, an unrestricted expression of our individual soul… The human soul is what interests me. I live to express myself freely in creation.”
• “The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the beginning.”
Also see Lee’s views on self-actualization and the difference between pride and self-esteem.
All the above being said, Bruce Lee was also badass in the traditional sense, as we can see in this recently surfaced video that appears to be Lee sparring with (read: absolutely schooling) one of his top pupils, Ted Wong, in a rare recorded session that’s since been restored for ultimate goose bump effect. Enjoy.
Read about other inspiring men, women, places, and moments in time, all a part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.
Let’s discuss the ever ubiquitous blazer or suit jacket and jean combination. What the f*** are you trying to say? Business up top and rebel below the belt?
I am a big fan of today’s more free approach to dressing. However, before you break the rules, you should have a general understanding of the rules. Every day I see men in denim and a suit jacket or blazer – more often than not, an ill-fitting jacket and bad denim. Surprisingly, the fit does not piss me off as much as the mixing of these two looks. I mean for Christ’s sake, it’s a fashion mullet – business up top, rebel down low.
You may feel differently, but allow me to explain why this look is so wrong. First and foremost, denim is rebellious and steeped in blue-collar history. The blazer or suit jacket is the opposite. When paired together, the look is confusing, contrived, and uncertain. It is like a cowboy wearing a tailored suit while out on the range – yes, stupid. Would you use ketchup in place of tomato sauce? Again, stupid.
I do get what the guy is trying to attempt. I am a big believer that a man should wear a jacket, but it has to be the right jacket. Go out and find a more casual looking jacket, unconstructed with natural shoulders, and on the shorter side. Make sure it fits right and get a pair of jeans that fit perfectly. And with regard to the denim fit, make sure to think of the type of shoes you plan to wear. Go to a tailor and have them fit the jeans accordingly.
With regard to the denim, a clean wash, no holes because if you are pairing with a jacket, try to look balanced. I love beat up denim, but that’s better paired with a real leather jacket or cool bomber. Yes, I get it, you made a bunch of money in some tech startup or whatever and you don’t care. That’s well and good but you still look like a douchebag. Like the old saying, money ain’t never bought no one any class; I mean, just take a look at Trump.
And guys stop wearing denim when you are dining. A few simple rules one should adhere to when dining. Do not wear jeans if the restaurant has linens and white tablecloths. Avoid denim if you will be eating with a knife and fork. Never wear denim if the joint has a sommelier and you plan on drinking wine. If you are at Applebee’s, hell wear a tank, ripped denim, flip-flops… nobody cares.
Something to ponder: Dressing for the occasion always elevates the occasion.
One of England’s finest exports, Jude Law has brought his classically British gentleman look stateside. He’s played a variety of roles from Russian sniper to Dr. Watson – yet only a few of these characters have had any real impact on his personal style. He has a charming, yet approachable appeal to his clothes that is casual enough for any occasion.
Here’s what we here at VK Nagrani have been able to glean from Hollywood icon Jude Law:
1. Blazer & Tee
Jude has a great eye for tees and blazers, as seen above. He approaches formalities with the idea that tailoring be sharp, comfortable and chic as hell. While he isn’t necessarily known for being an icon of fashion – he never looks bad. His outfits tend to consist of a quality cut jacket or luxury wool trousers.
The idea here is to maximize both look and comfort.
2. Go Bald in Style
Losing your hair isn’t something you can control, but how you handle it is well within your grasp. Jude is handling it with style. He likes to cover up the hairline every once and a while, but for the most part embraces it. When he does decide to don a headdress, he usually goes for a black beanie that is very Brooklyn in personality.
The beanie is emblematic of his cool and casual persona when worn with a suit (a well-tailored suit, obviously), but he dons the beanie equally well wandering around the boroughs on an autumn day layered with a cashmere cardigan, cotton tee, and bundled scarf close to the chest.
3. Leather Vintage
Like a young Marlon Brando or James Dean, Jude can take a simple look like the basic trouser/tee combination and make it sing. Heavy cotton or wool chinos add some heft to the ensemble and a tucked-in, muted gray V-neck complete the look.
But the real credit here goes to the leather jacket. Bomber style with ribbed hem and sleeves – modified to modernize and sharply bring the fit in. He looks ready to ride around like a rebel without a cause.
Jude Law’s appeal is that he is calm, cool and understated in fashion sense. Keep it bookmarked to the VK Nagrani Blog for more Lessons in Style editions.
He was born at the start of the 20th century to immigrant parents, Gary Cooper went on to be one of the biggest and brightest stars of Old Hollywood. He began his work as an extra in silent films and rose to fame by using his style and good looks as a way of standing out. He began to encompass what it meant to be the “everyman against the world” – taking roles in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe and Sergeant York. Gary Cooper was great at portraying the subtle conflicts the average man goes through in his life, yet with a dash of debonair that is singular all to himself.
Keep reading to see some of the key lessons we here at VK Nagrani learned from the hero of Old Hollywood himself – Gary Cooper.
1. Create a Focal Point
Here Cooper is with grey flannel trousers and signature striped socks, with a gorgeous narrow and low point collar. Cooper was a fan of large lapels, the popularity of which comes and goes with the trends, but the man knew to accentuate the focal point of his outfit and really make it his own signature style.
You can think about the focal point of your outfit as the cherry on a sundae, or putting a diamond on a platinum ring. You’re probably already looking really good, but this is going to be a little bit of something more to really seal in that look. For men, these focal points are usually the combination of your tie and a matching lapel.
Cooper was born to English immigrant parents, but was raised in Helena, Montana – a frontier town at the time. This mash up of cultures gave him a pretty unique perspective on style. Growing up in a cowboy frontier town, he was exposed to the the bold and vibrant Mexican fabrics that were commonplace among ranchers. On the other side of his genealogy, Cooper was raised with elements of Edwardian England and was just as comfortable in tweed and three-piece suits. He was a man who loved to mix different textures, colors and patterns in a way that only he could pull off.
2. Personality is Key
When looking back at the heroes of Old Hollywood, none of them are revered merely for their ability to dress well. Back in his day, the popularity of having personal make up artists, stylists and costume designers was only just beginning and stars of his caliber often would dress themselves. This is a far cry from the stars of today, who are constantly being primped and done up by other people based on what is trending right now, instead of paving the way themselves by being unique and bold.
Gary Cooper is lauded for his style, but more so than that, he is remembered for what he represented – moral integrity and a steep aversion to excess. Cooper was the iconic embodiment of what the everyman of his time was – understated, elegant yet retaining a simple masculinity that was both elusive to the common person, but still very attainable if you were willing to be bold.
Keep reading the VK Nagrani Blog to see more Lessons in Style from legends of the past.
Justin Timberlake has been in the spotlight since his Mickey Mouse Club days, and it shows in the way he dresses. When you spend that much time in the public sphere, you learn quite a bit about the way you should hold yourself together, through demeanor and style.
From Disney to N*SYNC to his mega-successful solo music career and Hollywood film roles, Justin Timberlake is someone to learn from. Check out VK Nagrani’s Lessons in Style takeaways to be learned from Justin Timberlake.
1. Learn to Layer
Justin is a mastermind when it comes to layering individual pieces of clothing to compile an ensemble look. One of his older tricks, which has become pretty commonplace at this point in style history, is to match hoodies under a great looking jacket – bombers are really “in” right now. Even if he’s just wearing a pattern sweater with a clean shirt underneath with well-fitted pants, he knows that dressing well is using many tools to build a great look.
2. Integrate a Hat
While incorporating hats into your look is nowhere near a new concept, Justin has mastered the casual yet slightly tailored look, and this shows in his hat choices. JT will use the hat as it is supposed to be used, as an accessory – not the focal point of the outfit. It is integrated into his ensemble, not the centerpiece. Typically, Justin will go for the fedora, but if that’s not your thing you should try playing around with a couple of different styles of hat.
Throw your personality into the mix. Style isn’t possible without personality.
3. Unexpected Elements
Justin has a unique personality, and his look completely reflects that about him. He has a way of creating a look that seems thrown together, yet is not contrived or outlandish. He maintains an effortless look by adding one or two unexpected elements into his style, which keep him from being stale, stuffy or unoriginal. Some of his favorite accessories include adding a pair of sneakers to a well-tailored suit, dog-tag jewelry, hats, or army boots with jeans.
Justin Timberlake is a true American treasure that will be remembered for his vibrant personality, approachability, and overall effortless cool. These features about him, above his personal style, are the keys you need to attain a timeless look. The number one lesson to learn from Justin is to not be afraid to let your personality shine. Justin does it every day, and he used to bang Brittney Spears, so there’s that.
Keep it bookmarked to the VK Nagrani Blog for more updates in our Lessons in Style series.
It is very unlikely that you’ve made it to the VK Nagrani blog without being tangentially aware of the brand Versace and its patriarch, Gianni Versace. The man was a powerhouse in the fashion world, and his love and curiosity for what he did fueled his empire. With big name celebrities like Madonna, the Artist (Formerly Known as Prince), Elton John, and Cher as his closest compatriots, it is no wonder that he was the first person in the fashion world to link the music industry. Something that had never been previously done before Gianni Versace.
You don’t become the biggest name in fashion without coming with a few admirable and reputable qualities. Here are a couple lessons in style that can be gleaned from Gianni Versace’s personality.
1. Love What You Do
Son to a seamstress and dressmaker, Gianni Versace was born into the fashion world. He nurtured a love of the industry through an apprenticeship at his mother’s shop. It was here that he really developed a strong love for design, which propelled him to study architecture during his time at university.
“I believe in style,” he said and let his imagination fly, designing clothes for those people he said he liked: individuals with a free sense of style. Inspired by Greek art, Alexander Calder, and Andy Warhol, he created beautiful, flamboyant gowns experimenting with materials such as leather, plastic, and metal.
2. Protect Your Friends
Versace was known to protect his friends from media abuse and give them refuge in one of his many homes. He was intrigued by what was going on in the mainstream media and with the personal lives of celebrities – who often returned the favor with lavish gifts and expensive items. Woody Allen offered him a role in one of his next films.
”I think he had a natural movie star personality, because he had such a large and generous presence,” Woody Allen spoke of Versace.
3. Always Keep Learning
Gianni Versace always had an intense curiosity for the world around him and used it to influence his work. Many of his contemporaries, once having made a name for themselves in the industry, would stick to the looks that made them famous. But Versace was constantly absorbing works of art and incorporating them into his pieces –be it the three-dimensional mobiles of Alexander Calder that he translated into couture dresses, the Byzantine mosaics he used as prints, or the hard leather punk look.
Gianni Versace was an innovator and leader in the world of fashion and love or hate his clothes, he had a heavy hand in bringing celebrities into the fold of style. He was a bold personality who was constantly learning, standing up for what he thought was right, and trying to break the mold. He was never comfortable standing still and always had to be pushing the envelope to create bigger, bolder statements.
Keep posted to the VK Nagrani Blog to see more lessons that can be learned from style icons!
When you think about classic Hollywood cool, a few names come to mind—and somewhere at the top of that pantheon of exemplary looking men is Paul Newman. A cut above the rest in both appearance and personality, he was an Academy Award winning actor, director, environmentalist, activist, philanthropist, race car driver, and is even the face of a damn fine line of salad dressing. His company Newman’s Own, actually donates all proceeds to charity, so far having donated nearly 430 million dollars to various charities.
For many in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Newman was the epitome of cool, having starred in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Cool Hand Luke” (a movie literally named after his innate coolness), and “The Hustler.” On and off-stage, Paul had an impressive resume, but we’re here to look at his contributions to the world of men’s fashion.
Take a look at what VK Nagrani has to say about Paul’s style and its influence.
1. A Suit That Fits
Not many men could pull off a suit quite like Paul Newman. He knew very intimately how a well tailored suit complemented his form. Notice how in the picture above he goes for a single-breasted jacket with wide padded shoulders that accentuate his athletic build. The slim, squared-off tie completes a look that impresses in the office or dazzles on a night out on the town.
2. Bold Jackets
Paul had a pretty broad selection of unconventional jackets and coats that only added to his own particular brand of anti-establishment cool. He was a racecar driver, so he would often incorporate racer jackets into his look. In the picture above, he’s in his natural habitat: cool and nonchalant, smoking a cigarette and not really looking all that interested, with a flight jacket suggesting he could take off at any moment. Paul also had an extensive collection of army jackets that would throw some new interest into the classic jeans-and-boot ensemble of the time.
3. Wear a Watch. At. All. Times.
For men, the range of jewelry that is typically acceptable is limited almost exclusively to the watch, and at times, cufflinks. A wristwatch is a handsome accessory and can be used to illustrate style, taste and status. Paul had a watch for every occasion, and this is something that we should factor into our daily style as well. From the picture above you can see his informal style, a well-fitted Oxford dress shirt under a deep V-neck pullover, some casual jeans and a wristwatch with a nice leather band accentuating the entire look.
There was something special and raw about Paul Newman. He didn’t have the shattering and unequivocal heat of his contemporary Marlon Brando, nor the unabashed smolder of his junior, James Dean. Rather, Paul Newman was somewhere in the middle, in a world that is ambivalent and uninvolved with what anyone thinks.
Keep tabs on the VK Nagrani Blog for more fashion lessons we can learn from our icons of yesteryear.