Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Brothers set out to change view of men’s fashion

Brothers Chambers started men’s fashion-centric collective, Brothers & Craft. Courtesy Brothers & Craft

College friend and colleague Beau Hayhoe has joined Team Grand Conversations and will be telling stories from Brooklyn, New York. Check out his blog, The Style Guide, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter for neat pictures in fashion and beer. 

Clay Chambers wants to change the way guys think about fashion and style. The Tennessee-born Brooklyn resident is one-third of creative lifestyle brand Brothers & Craft, a collective he launched with three of his brothers (Ryan, Kirk and Zac) back in 2012.

The year Brothers & Craft launched, men’s style was in the midst of a rapid popularity explosion across the Internet, bringing terms like selvedge denim and brands like J. Crew into everyday conversation for guys — or at the very least, into conversation for those who wanted the men in their lives to dress better.

I had the chance to catch up with Clay earlier this spring at a GQ-sponsored event in NYC’s West Village, and I later penned a longer Q&A feature on Brothers & Craft for my own site — the full text of that interview can be seen here.

To those outside the “fashion” world, the practice of dressing well can seem distinctly un-masculine. That’s something I’m aiming to change through my site, and Clay and his brothers have goals much the same; their site mixes stylized lifestyle photo shoots featuring themselves and their friends with profiles focused more specifically on individual brands, all with an edge that’s accessible and refined-yet-rugged.

A healthy dose of culture, architecture and culinary pursuits also characterize the site. Unlike other blogs, substance definitely meets style here. And the fashion community at large has taken notice — B&C has worked with brands like Detroit-based Shinola and perennial menswear touchstone GQ on features.

“In the past, dressing well in America — as an idea — has sometimes been inextricably linked to being effeminate. I’m not sure where that comes from,” Clay Chambers said via email. “It’s nice to see that the average guy can now feel more comfortable building his own style without facing judgement from others. That said, crafting your own … style, to me, always starts with simplicity.”

Clay and his brothers aim to capture the essence of that simplicity through their website and popular Instagram feed. 51,000-plus Instagram followers (a significant number in the independent men’s style community) can check out beautiful photography capturing their travels between the brand’s two bases, Charleston, S.C., (where Kirk lives) and Brooklyn, (where Zac and Clay live). The feed also captures their unique personal styles and plenty of outstanding design and food-related imagery.

Any given photo could provide the spark that someone might need to amp up their style for the office or the weekend, what with a nice mix of tailoring and casual wear featured across various posts.

The photography and the website itself reflect the  passion that the brothers have for boiling down the sometimes daunting fashion world into effortlessly simple styles for the average guy.

Even for those with only a passing interest in dressing better, the imagery is well-crafted and distinctly relatable — all one needs to start dressing better are a few key items, like slim-fit chinos, crisp sneakers and a nice buttondown shirt.

The creative and relatable lens through which the trio views the world of menswear has attracted outside attention, too — they recently partnered with Kentucky’s state tourism department and Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun on a very Instagram-friendly exploration of the state’s cultural and culinary highlights.

And the brothers always harken back to days they spent growing up across the American South, where they learned resourcefulness and craftsmanship — the building blocks of their brand now.

“Our mom would teach us how to sew and tailor our own clothing, teach us how to cook,” Clay Chambers said. In the early days of Brothers & Craft, “Zac would make pocket squares and bow ties … (my older brother) Kirk would hand make a wooden wine rack and take you through the process of how he built it. …So there’s always been an element of ‘how-to for men’ tied into what we do, but we’ve always wanted the blog to serve as a place where we share our creativity.”

It’s refreshing to come across a site that does things the right way, with a focus on craftsmanship, quality and substance — even if you don’t know the first thing about selvedge denim, that’s something everyone can appreciate.

Beau is a fashion PR pro and #menswear nerd exploring the world of men’s style from 9 to 5 and beyond in Brooklyn, NY. A proud graduate of Michigan State University, you can find him shopping or drinking craft beer — often at the same time.

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