Meet Chris Beastall, Founder of Ape to Gentleman
Since 2009, Christ Beastall and his team of menswear experts have been sharing invaluable sartorial and grooming advice on the renowned lifestyle blog Ape to Gentleman. We caught up with Chris to chat about his style philosophy, winter trends and what constitutes being a gentleman in 2018.
What inspired you to start Ape to Gentleman in 2009 and what’s its mission?
We had a male grooming e-retail store named Niven & Joshua, and we wanted to provide a platform to discuss male grooming more widely than the store could cater for. I.e. discuss brands we didn’t sell and cover topics we didn’t cater for. And as such Ape to Gentleman was born. From there we built an audience in this category. The first diversification was when BMW asked if they could target our audience - a similar target market to their own. And from there, more and more brands from different categories approached us.
Today, our strapline explains our mission - suggesting Ape is the online evolution of a traditional men’s magazine, dedicated to timeless yet contemporary style, intelligent living, and value.
Why do you think Ape to Gentleman is so successful?
We believe it’s our consistency in terms of advice and product recommendations - thorough, in depth content and crucially we aren’t afraid to mention something affordable if it represents good value. And vice versa, something of value might be expensive. In summary, everything must represent good value. And of course, be stylish in its own right. We think we have a unique ‘algorithm’.
What constitutes a true gentleman and why is it so important to be a gentleman in 2018?
George Bernard Shaw said it best, “A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.”
Do you see yourself as an 'influencer', and if so, what does that mean to you?
I don’t really see myself as an ‘influencer’ - because Ape to Gentleman is more than just me. It’s a collection of experts in their own fields. They are all more knowledgeable than me in their own niche. Some brands do ask me to partner with them to showcase their collections and that’s fine, as it fits in with our philosophy, but there’s usually a legitimate story behind it. We don’t just wear something because a brand has paid. For instance, our partnership - Hawes & Curtis craft fine-quality work shirts at an affordable price point - that’s a story that resonates with a lot of men.What trend should every man embrace this autumn/winter?
I’m looking at embracing this tip myself. Invest in a good quality winter coat. If it’s a financial commitment, then choose a type of coat that you’ll wear most frequently. But buy the best quality you can. Firstly, it’ll last a long time. And secondly, it’s a statement piece.
What is your favourite piece from the Hawes & Curtis AW18 collection and why?
I was always attracted to Hawes & Curtis for their simplicity. A simple, basic, well made business shirt - nothing elaborate or over-engineered. Classic. But I must say - the stretch shirts are subtly stretchy, so don’t deviate from the classic offerings, visually at least. But, they are so comfortable - a real game changer in my eyes. I’d have to say the coats and jackets Hawes & Curtis released this season are excellent, competitive with some of the best outerwear brands. Particularly the Loro Piana wool overcoats.
What do you look for in a shirt?
Comfort is key for me. Hawes & Curtis offers a variety of fits - so take time to decide what fit will suit your body type. I believe you can get measured in store too. Other than that, keep it simple - classic designs, classic colours and you can’t go wrong.What is your favourite office look?
If I’m in the office - a smart pair of derby shoes, fine wool trousers and a shirt with no tie. If I have a meeting, it has to be a suit - either navy or charcoal and with a smart tie, shirt and a pair of Oxford shoes.
What are the three classic items of clothing that every man should own and why?
A well-fitting suit would be number one - it doesn’t have to be bespoke but made to measure or tailored locally. It’s all about the fit. Next up would be a pair of quality Oxford shoes - you can tell a lot about a man from his shoes. And finally, I would have to say a good quality coat or jacket - you’ll likely spend a lot of time in it, especially living in the UK. Make sure it’s comfy, well-fitting and timeless.
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects that you would like to share with us?
We have a variety of exciting projects coming up - they are always exciting. We can’t share the specifics but they are in the watch and also tech categories.
Where did you gain your sartorial expertise from?
I would say I’m inspired by my father who always ensures he’s well turned out and smart. Other than that, by reading - Alan Flusser’s menswear how-to; Dressing The Man, Bruce Boyer’s Elegance, Hardy Amies’ ABC of Men’s Fashion, and Bernhard Roetzel’s Gentleman are all essential reads.How would you describe your style?
Classic. Understated. Elegant. Simple. Less is more would be my motto.
What has been your worst fashion faux pas?
I once bought a Romeo Gigli down jacket whilst at University. The outside of the jacket was almost transparent and you could see the feathers. It was reduced from £800 to £80… for good reason.
What’s your style philosophy?
In Ape’s Ten Commandments Of Menswear number two lists an old Chinese proverb, "When you buy the best, you only cry once.” - this is a good philosophy. Buy classic items, at the best quality you can afford. Timeless pieces that last.
Who is your favourite British designer and why?
I’d have to say Christopher Bailey. After an illustrious career at DKNY and Gucci. He then transformed Burberry.
What accessory should every man own?A good watch. Similarly to a good pair of Oxford shoes, a fine timepiece says a lot about a man. Too flashy, too cheap, too blingy - are all pitfalls. I own an IWC Pilot Watch Mark XVII - it’s black and silver, simple, but quality. A simple analogy would be a Porsche 911 - understated style.
Tie or no tie and why?
It obviously depends on the occasion - but should a tie be called for, a tie every time. I don’t believe in breaking timeless style rules. If you’re wearing a business suit, pair it with a tie. To go into a business meeting without a tie, might feel modern - but surely it’s a passing trend.
What is your favourite thing about the British fashion industry?
I’d say the quality of the products we are producing. Just look at the likes of Sunspel, John Smedley and Crockett & Jones for instance. British made brands, and world leaders in their respective fields.
What was the best piece of style advice you’ve ever received?
There’s a famous quote by Hardy Amies that rings true still today, “A man should look as if he's bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them.”
What would you be doing if you were not a male grooming expert and editor of Ape to Gentleman?
Something creative for sure. I find it difficult sitting still. A professional photographer would be my choice. If this could coincide with making the world a better place somehow, then I’d be a happy man.
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