There’s no question about it, Notoriously Dapper founder Kelvin Davis knows style. You see it in his photos on Instagram, and the about fashion and body confidence articles on his website. Style, Davis says, is about more than what you wear, it’s about how you carry yourself and how you treat people, something he feels many men have forgotten. That’s one of the reasons for his new book, Notoriously Dapper: How to Be a Modern Gentleman with Manners, Style, and Body Confidence, out October 1st.
We spoke with Kelvin by phone about writing the book, dealing with trolls, and how he feels about American Eagle Outfitters badly timed Aerie Man campaign, 12 months later.
What made you want to write a book?
I think we need to redefine what a gentleman is. The definition of a gentleman from back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s isn’t really relevant to who we are now. I wanted to offer a modern day version of that. There’s a part of the book that covers how to interact with people on social media. I don’t know if you follow the women in the body positive community, but if you look at the comments they get, they’re all disgusting dudes who are like “oh, I wanna fuck you,” or “your ass is so nice.” It’s like, who is writing this stuff? They treat women like objects and not as valuable humans.
I feel like a modern gentleman is tolerant, he’s not homophobic, he accepts everybody, he’s not misogynistic, you know – the opposite of Donald Trump.
I talk about manners, dating, and having good friendships. There’s a chapter called “The Bro Code,” where I talk about how male companionship is healthy for other males. Everybody deserves to have people who help build your confidence, and don’t judge you for your mistakes. Having good friends like that can change your life.
I’m telling stories about my life, and my Dad – the random acts of kindness he used to perform, and how that rubbed off on me as I got older. There’s a lot in the book about how the societal standard for men is to be unemotional and uncaring. I’m trying to shine a light on what it is to be a modern day guy. I feel like a modern gentleman is tolerant, he’s not homophobic, he accepts everybody, he’s not misogynistic, you know – the opposite of Donald Trump.
I’m very honest in the book. I talk about how I was a fuckboy in college. I wasn’t the perfect gentleman. When you hit a certain age, it’s time to grow up and become the person you’re going to be. I hope that it’s successful, and it really does touch people, and that it gives readers some confidence.
Like so many of us, you struggle with finding clothes that fit you well. How do you deal with that?
I’m 5’9 and I weigh about 250, and it’s still hard for me to find pants. I wear a size 38/30, and I have short legs, and I’m wide. I can’t find anything that’s flattering at my size. I usually have to get it all tailored.
Honestly, I can fit into things at Gap, or wherever, but I have to get it altered. An XXL will fit me in the shoulders and waist and chest, but the sleeves will be too long, so I have them taken up. I pretty much shop everywhere except Express and J.Crew. Mostly it’s Gap and Levi’s – Urban Outfitters every now and then.
Women’s body positive bloggers tend to deal with a lot of trolls. Is that something you run into with Notoriously Dapper?
I used to. When I first started, I ran into a lot of backlash from guys who were just like “why don’t you just go to the gym or lift weights?” That’s not what it was about. It’s about me and my journey to find self confidence through style. My personal style has always given me confidence. I may not be the best looking guy, or the tallest guy, but I can damn sure be the best dressed guy.
Women’s body positive bloggers get trolled much worse than men. I got some of that when I did the Aerie campaign. People were like “do you have to be in your underwear?” Yeah! They told me to be in my underwear! [laughs]
When I started my blog, I wanted to show people having self confidence and personality through clothing. Some people find confidence through their ability to cook, and maybe someone else finds it by being a great lawyer. We all have to find it through something, and personal style is what it was for me.
It’s been about a year since the Aerie Man campaign came out. How do you feel about it now, 12 months later? To me, it feels like bad planning, but like their ultimate intention wasn’t to poke fun at the community.
I feel the same way you do now. There was a misunderstanding [between me and American Eagle Outfitters] about what it was going to be when it came out. We knew we were doing a parody of the Aerie women’s photos, but we were under the impression that it was going to be a real thing. There was a very vague explanation about everything.
When it first came out, I felt really good about it, until I saw an article that said it was supposed to be this April Fools joke. I didn’t get it. It’s not like I had American Eagle emailing me saying it wasn’t a joke – I had nothing to go by.
After I got a lot of backlash online, the company reached out to me. When I talked to the creative director at American Eagle, he explained that they weren’t intending it to be something that made fun of body positivity. They wanted to use humor to shed light on male body image, and the lack of representation of that out there.
The thing about it that hurt me initially was that some of my followers who saw me in the campaign wondered if I knew what it was going to be when it went live, which I didn’t. A year later, it doesn’t really bother me anymore. I feel like it helped me get more of my platform out there in a way, but I wish it would have been a real campaign.