As a former bartender working behind the stick at top establishments such as East Rooms (R.I.P.), Quo Vadis and Happiness Forgets, Johan Ekelund knows a thing or two about great drinks. Add to that his passion for style and the creation of Sharp & Dapper, an online company selling fine accessories to the modern gent, it’s easy to see why Gentleman Jack have enlisted him to be the second Chairman of The Order Of The Gentlemen campaign.
We spoke to him about the rise of the shirt stay, looking sharp and dapper and what he thinks it takes to be a modern gentleman.
What’s the story with the shirt stays?
“I first came across them about five years ago when I worked at East Rooms. We used to wear a similar natty style to the guys at Milk & Honey and I found a company selling these straps to keep your shirt in place by fastening them to your socks. I loved them. As a bartender they make perfect sense to wear: your shirt always looks neat and never rides up when you’re leaning over the bar or reaching up for drinks – I’ve worn them ever since.”
When and why did you set up Sharp & Dapper?
“I started the business in 2011, mainly because everyone I showed them to thought they were amazing. Also, as well as bar tending, the time was right for me to do something for myself. No-one was making shirt stays in the UK and the ones I had been wearing were made in the US for policemen. While they were extremely practical, they were very industrial-looking – the elastic was very wide and not particularly of the highest quality, plus they would be expensive to import. So I decided to source the various components: elastic straps and clips of a really high standard, ordered the stock then went to Argos and bought the second cheapest sewing machine available. I made 50 sets, got a friend to help with the packaging, worked on a website and started selling them to fellow bartenders. The response has been amazing.”
Is it only bartenders who buy your shirt stays?
“Not at all. Yes, I have lots of orders from fellow bartenders including Ago Perrone and his team at The Connaught and Alex Kratena and the guys at Artesian but Sharp & Dapper products are suited to anyone who takes an interest in how they look. As well as the shirt stays we now have a range of ties, braces, socks, collar stays, clip-on buttons, under T-shirts and armbands. It’s all about the details.”
Is being sharp and dapper a trait of a modern gentleman?
“Not necessarily, in my opinion it’s more about attitude. In business, first impressions are very important so it’s important to look like you care. When a gentleman is wearing Shirt & Dapper shirt stays he never looks unruffled, that goes for whether he’s wearing his shirt with jeans or a suit.”
You are the second Chairman of The Order of Gentlemen in the Gentleman Jack campaign, what does the role entail?
“I’m giving style advice to people who want tips on how to dress. Not in a patronising way – every week I’ll be advising on simple things like how to tie a tie, how to polish shoes, buying suits and getting them altered so they fit properly, five things every gentleman should have in his wardrobe – that kind of thing. Not everyone can afford Savile Row prices and not everyone wants to be dictated to by fashion magazines – people worry enough as it is. I come at it from a hospitality background and my approach is from a real person’s point of view speaking to real people. The tone of voice is really important, I want to come across as being warm, someone that people trust.”
Which traits in your opinion, make the perfect modern gentleman?
“A gentleman should be friendly, courteous and approachable. I also believe being a gentleman is a state of mind – it should be in your spine. Being a gentleman is about the everyday things: carrying bags, holding doors open, giving up your seat – not just for women but for anyone who needs it.”
What are your fashion tips?
“Fashion doesn’t interest me. Some guys dress so cool and fashionable, people find it hard to approach them. I prefer a timeless look – fashion costs money, style costs nothing.”
Who are your style icons, past and present?
“Past: Steve McQueen, he always looked like he owned whatever he was wearing. Present: David Beckham. He dresses and markets himself really well. He looks amazing in whatever he wears and I think he’s a genuinely good guy – I respect him to bits.”
Top gentleman tips
“Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.”
What’s your favourite way to enjoy Gentleman Jack?
“It’s got a lovely sweetness which works perfectly in an Old-Fashioned or The Dapper Gentleman created by Tom Vernon, American Whiskey Ambassador at Brown Forman (see recipe below).
The Dapper Gentleman
Take one crystal coupette and chill in the freezer. Meanwhile in a mixing glass combine…
40ml Gentleman Jack
15ml Punt e Mes
10ml apricot brandy
1 small dash of absinthe
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Add large chunks of cut ice to your mixing glass and stir down with a bar spoon. Strain through a julep strainer to your chilled coupette. Garnish with a thin swathe of lemon or grapefruit peel depending on your preference.
Inspired by ‘The Slope Cocktail’ created by Julie Reiner of Clover NYC. Ideal as a post-work cocktail for any sharp and dapper gentleman.
In the words of The Order of The Gentlemen: A gentleman never loses control. Please drink responsibly.
For more of Johan’s style tips, visit The Order of Gentlemen Facebook page
Visit Sharp & Dapper for all your gentlemen’s accessories sharpanddapper.com