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style + work
"I'm trying my best to treat my company, Quixotic, as an experiment because it encourages me to test ideas. For example, we're putting an element of social good into the hands of customers and I'm really excited to see what people do with it."
What made you decide to start a company that focuses on the pocket square?
Most pocket squares are really expensive, so I also wanted to provide squares that look nice, but are reasonably priced. This felt more aligned with the company strategy of encouraging people to give theirs away in an act of kindness, which we will then replace.
You're referring to the Square For Square program? What's the intent with that?
Part of the idea behind the company came from a friend who was at a funeral in Louisiana, and the 85-year-old gentleman next to him passed out from the heat. My friend happened to be wearing a pocket square, pulled it out, poured cold water on it and was cooling the guy's face until the paramedics got there. Well, the paramedics came, they took the guy to the hospital, and they took my friend's pocket square. The older gentleman made a full recovery, but my friend lost the pocket square and he was complaining that he now had to go and spend $60 on a new one. I thought, yeah, that's disappointing, but that belongs in a Dos Equis commercial, something like "The most interesting man in the world's pocket square once saved a man's life."
It's a very charming notion.
I think it eliminates a barrier to entry to be a good Samaritan, because you're not giving away money or something that you have to pay to replace. You're able to give something away knowing that you're going to get another one. The Quixotic gentleman is simply someone who wants to help others and is just paying attention to people around him.
The secret to simple installation is using the Quixotic flat card which is included with each pocket square. This tool ensures that your pocket square will lay flatly against the jacket and rest firmly against the bottom of your pocket for just the perfect touch of detail.
What does 'style' mean to you?
I think it’s really about expressing your personality through the clothes you wear and the brands you support. I’m honestly just starting to get a really good feel for my own style. For me, it's more about finding brands and pieces of clothing that last a long time; not only style-wise but also quality-wise. I'm also very attracted to the history and stories behind products. I want to know who founded the company and why, about the materials used, about the person making the product and the number of years they have dedicated to this craft. This information is inspiring and romantic, and it creates a deeper personal connection to the product.
What helped you develop your style aesthetic?
My favorite style icons are James Bond, Cary Grant, and some of the older school Hollywood stars. Those individuals/characters seem to balance refinement and masculinity better than most today, which is one of the things that I have tried to balance with Quixotic. I wanted to make sure that our pocket squares did not feel too fancy or fussy. On one side of the spectrum, you have James Bond - he's always wearing a pocket square and it looks great, especially the Daniel Craig Bond. And then on the other side, you have someone like Jay Gatsby, who's very fancy and it's overdone. I usually lean more towards the James Bond style - it’s obvious there is attention to detail, but it's still masculine.
My parents definitely had an influence on my style as well. My dad has worn a suit and tie to work every day for as long as I’ve been alive, and my mom has picked out most of those suits. She was in fashion early in her career, and her interest in the field hasn’t declined at all. She has always enjoyed selecting the fabrics for suits, and matching the shirts and ties. My parents are also big fans of James Bond and the classics from the 50’s and 60’s, which I’m sure influenced my taste in movies as well.
How do you determine what you're going to wear to work each day?
Well, since I'm selling pocket squares, I almost always have a jacket and a pocket square, which means I usually wear a button-down shirt, and my schedule determines how casual the rest of it is. Most days, I'm in jeans and a sport coat - partly because it's comfortable, and partly because I want to show that you can easily dress down a jacket and pocket square.
I recently read that men's fashion is the fastest growing section of the fashion industry. Guys went from this very strict dress code at work where you had to wear a suit and tie, to the Silicon Valley approach (which has been adopted by companies all over) where everyone is in jeans, flip flops, and a t-shirt. I think the latter was as much a rebellion against previously acceptable work wear, as it was the standard uniform for college students. It seems that now, people are finding a happy medium between the two extremes. There are a lot of elements of casual dress that I like, but I feel there's also some level of formality that is appropriate at work.
Where do you shop for your work wardrobe?
Usually either Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom, those are probably my two go-to’s.
What brands do you like for clothes and accessories?
What type of wallet or money clip do you use?
What footwear brands do you like?
What's on your wish list for this fall's wardrobe?
Other than Quixotic's fall pocket squares? I'm not sure. I already think I have too much stuff. My wife and I have actually been trying to get rid of more and more. Our current place is pretty small, and we don't have much closet space, so we've given away a lot, erring on the side of giving away too much and then seeing if we miss it. The process has been a little eye-opening - partly because I’m realizing how little I miss the things I’ve given away and partly because I end up wearing the things I love more often.
Going forward, I want to buy things that will last a long time, so I intend to avoid overly trendy jackets, shirts, pants, shoes, etc. I’ll save money and look to accessories like pocket squares and socks for more color or personality instead.
You're right sizing. People are starting to realize that over consumption is not necessary.
But, it's tempting.
It is tempting thanks to all the great marketing out there.
What type of man bag do you carry and what's inside?
What brand are your glasses?
What is your approach toward jewelry?
Is your watch brand also a James Bond reference?
That was one of the reasons why I specified this one. Clearly I need the James Bond watch.
Do you have a typical workday routine?
Do you have a specific method that you use to run meetings that you're in charge of?
Most of my meetings are with vendors or advertising people. Usually, the agenda is fairly open, and I’m trying to gain advice or find a way to work with someone. I typically like to keep meetings as short and concise as possible so people don't think of them as a big waste of time.
What are some of your office pet peeves?
It's tricky. The pet peeves you would have in a typical office are so different than what I would have here. I think the biggest pet peeve is if I'm trying to write or read something, I need absolute quiet. If there's anything going on around me, I can't handle it. That's usually when I'll pack up and head home for an afternoon.
Creatives are not generally a quiet group of folk. I would imagine that would be a challenge when you need quiet and somebody else is having a creative moment over here and celebrating it in some outwardly way.
It's funny, too, because I'm used to being on a standard business schedule, and at the end of the day I can switch off. I'm very much geared that way where I want to plug in and stay focused from 8am to 5 or 6pm. Whereas, a lot of the people here - their profession and their personal life are very intertwined. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they're doing what they absolutely love doing. By early afternoon, it gets pretty noisy out in the communal area - people are talking and taking a mental break. A lot of people here will work late into the evening. They'll take a break from noon to 2 to 3 to go exercise or hang out and grab a long lunch, and they'll work all evening long. Their work schedule is usually dependent upon when their brain is most productive, as opposed to what hour it is.
How do you handle job-related stress?
I try to exercise every morning before work. Then if stuff really starts to get at me, I usually go for a long run and try to burn it off and spend the time thinking. It usually works.
By what means of transportation do you get to work?
Do you have a favorite song or an artist or a playlist that you listen to on your way to work that puts you in a good mood or while you're working? Do they play music here?
At WELD, there's a playlist that people can contribute to so music is all over the map. It's great to have on in the background. At home when I can totally control the playlist ... it's usually some form of classical music so I can turn it up and stay focused. One artist I've been listening to recently is Claude Debussy, Debussy's Piano. It's really good.
I've also started listening to jazz because I've always been interested in learning a lot more about it. I think it was on Gear Patrol, they had the top 15 albums that you have to listen to, so I've been cycling through those. The other playlist I have is for running, and that's a very different playlist.
How do you keep track of your business expenses?
All of my Quixotic files and personal files are in Dropbox. That way I can get to them whenever and wherever.
What would you say is your favorite office supply and why?
A leather folio, which has a legal pad, and a good pen.
Do you have a certain pen that you use?
What is a work tool that's a must-have for you, app, hardware or software?
How would you describe your office space?
How do you organize your workspace?
As minimally as possible. It's just my laptop, sometimes the wireless keyboard and mouse, and then my folio and notepad. That's pretty much all I need.
Simple. Do you have snacks?
How do you prioritize and manage your email inbox?
Well, I have two that I keep up at all times. There's my Quixotic email and my Gmail account. The Quixotic email is set up through Google, and I have both accounts tied to one calendar, so I have those three tabs open in Chrome at all times. I get to Quixotic emails as soon as possible because I certainly don't want any customers or vendors waiting. Those are very easy to stay on top of because the unread messages are at the top and everything else is down at the bottom. I don't have any filing system for it, so with Google I can just search it easily.
My inbox ends up being a to-do list in a way, because if there's an email that I need to get to, but I don't have time at that moment, I'll just leave it unread. I try not to do that too often because you end up having a lot of unread emails.
What is your secret to achieving your daily objectives?
It's really just about discipline. I know that I can put something off until tomorrow, but I’m the only one who’s going to get it done and procrastinating isn’t going to change that.
Do you keep a to-do list, and if so, how do you organize it or maintain it? You were talking about your emails kind of act as your to do list, right?
Yeah, that's kind of the lazy form of my to-do list. (laughter) I keep a to-do list in Word. As soon as I launched Quixotic, there were a number of things I needed to do, but my to-do list was just one big long list. Inevitably there would be some things that I would want to do and I'd go ahead and do them early on, and there were other things that I didn't want to do, and they would get ignored. So, I was struggling with that.
Recently I switched it up. I still have a weekly to-do list, but I've broken it up into certain sections, which helped me focus:
- Daily tasks - like posting to Instagram every day, or watching for a certain invoice that I'm still waiting on.
- Admin tasks - for ongoing issues such as filing sales taxes or working on trademarks.
- Near-term growth - what I can do in the next week to help generate revenue.
- Requires investment - as soon as I'm able to invest more dollars into the company, these are the things I want to do first.
- Long-term growth - focused around strategy and marketing, and other long term ideas that I have for the business.
Originally all of that was in one long list and that's when it was very difficult to focus.
How do you stay on top of industry news or your career?
What is your method for networking?
Prior to starting Quixotic, my network was almost entirely finance. Coming to WELD was big, because this was a professional network that I just didn't have any knowledge of. The Welders I've met while working here are unbelievably generous and have introduced me to other really great people.
Who has influenced your career the most?
I think my dad has influenced my career the most, because I've always admired his work/life balance, and family first approach. There are times where I get really focused on my career and can easily lose sight of what's more important. It's very helpful to have his example to look towards.
What advice have you received in your professional life that has really stuck with you?
When I was 22, I was interviewing for a new hedge fund that this guy was about to launch. I we were meeting at 1pm central, but it was actually supposed to be 1pm eastern. He called me at 12:15pm (central) and said, "Hey are we still on?" I scrambled around, ran out of the office and over to the restaurant. At that point, I was a half hour late, and I knew I wasn't going to get the job. I was actually just grateful that he was still willing to have lunch and talk with me. I don't even remember his name, or his hedge fund or anything else, but he gave me some advice that has always stuck with me, "Learn in your 20s, and earn in your 30s." He meant, don't spend your 20s chasing after the highest paycheck. Instead, spend it focused on learning as much as possible. Figure out a way to monetize all that you've learned sometime in your 30s. That really resonated with me because I love experiencing new challenges and having new learning curves. This idea was also promoted by Andrew Carnegie - his advice was to spend the first third of your life learning as much as possible, the second third earning as much as possible and the final third giving away all of your wealth.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, one of the most inspirational pieces of advice that I have ever come across is the "Man in the Arena" section of Theodore Roosevelt’s Citizen in a Republic speech, given at the Sorbonne in Paris, in April 1910. The entire speech is incredible, but this one section has inspired countless individuals to take risks and ignore their detractors for more than 100 years.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could
have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat
and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and
shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends
himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he
fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know
victory nor defeat.”
I probably seek out a lot of career encouragement either from quotes, books or individuals, who say, just take the risk, try it, do it, you're young, if it doesn't work, so what? I think that's been a very big driver for me.
What inspires you about your work?
The most inspiring thing is trying to encourage others to be more attentive and help those around them. I think that's the most interesting part of what we're doing. Pocket squares are not going to get me out of bed in the morning, but adding the social component to it is really interesting to me. I love that the square-for-square model takes the socially conscious concept one step further. Rather than simply saying, "You go buy this, and we, as a company, are going to go give this thing somewhere else," we're putting an element of social good into the hands of customers. I'm really excited to see where that goes and what people do
It also creates the opportunity to develop a relationship with customers, because it's not as though we only interact when they're purchasing something. This gives them the opportunity buy a pocket square and then interact with us over and over again, without having to buy something new. That's really intriguing and I want to see how it plays out. I'm trying my best to treat the company as an experiment because I think it encourages me to try new things that may or may not work. I want to see if building relationships with customers like this will work.
What do you do during your downtime to refresh yourself?
In the evenings, just going for a walk or watching a little bit of TV with Hayden (my wife) is really relaxing. In the mornings, it's working out before I start checking email and getting the day going. I also read as much as possible. I usually have two or three books going at a time - usually some sort of biography, an adventure book, and then a business related book. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for.
Do you read book books, or do you read on your iPad or Kindle?
It depends on the books. I have been reading a lot more on the Kindle lately, just because it's a lot more convenient. But, if there is a book I know I'll hold onto for a long time, I'll buy it in hardback.
How did your parents influence your career?
My dad has been very influential because he developed a career doing something he really loves. He has become an expert at it, and has stuck with it for more than 30 years. I would say his biggest influence is his example of balance between work and family though.
What currently fascinates you and has your interest?
Wine is probably my biggest interest. I've been collecting and learning as much as I can about wine for seven or eight years now. I've also been reading a lot about coffee, because I'm fascinated to see where the industry goes. And I recently started reading a lot about bikes. I'm really curious about that.
How to wear a Quixotic pocket square
Follow David's example in the images below to see how simple it is:
The ceiling detail at WELD.
David appreciates investment pieces, like his messenger bag, that gain character over time.