Words by Jared Michael Lowe
Scroll through any Instagram feed today, or flip through the latest issue of GQ, and you’re bound to find the archetypal stylish guy littered across most of these pages. Picture the broad shouldered, flat stomached, hella fit dude in impossibly slim clothes. Although aspirational [at least for some], it’s far from reality for most men today. In an age where women are redefining their own beauty standards, such as model Ashley Graham’s take on body positivity and plus size models in mainstream ads from Macy’s to Dove, bigger guys are steadily reshaping how the male body is viewed, and most importantly, accepted into the mainstream. And thankfully, most are becoming active voices across social media.
Which brings us to Kelvin Davis, creator of the popular blog Notoriously Dapper. After an unfortunate shopping experience that left him feeling insecure, the 28-year-old from Columbia, South Carolina started his fashion blog in 2014 that “displays daily looks to inspire all men to embrace who they are.” Since then Kelvin has been featured in Buzzfeed, Glamour and has become a spokesmodel for Chubbies Shorts, and most recently appeared in an American Eagle underwear commercial promoting healthy male body image.
We had a moment to talk with Kelvin about how he’s championing more men to feel comfortable in their own skin with style, summer wardrobe picks and how he stays well groomed.
BevelCode: Let’s talk about the title of your blog, ‘Notoriously Dapper.’ How did you come up with the name?
Kelvin Davis: I was debating two names at the time, Notoriously Stylish and Strongly Dapper. Both just didn’t quite resonate with what I wanted to brand. So I pondered over it for a few days and began to get frustrated. One night, right before I went to sleep it hit me “Notoriously Dapper!” I immediately bought the domain name and the rest is history.
BC: You talk about a situation that made you start your blog, can you elaborate?
KD: I started Notoriously Dapper after a bad shopping experience at Express. I went to buy a red blazer that was showcased in the display window. I tried on my size, which at the time (3 years ago) was a 44R. I put it on and it didn’t even fit over my shoulders. It was way too tight in the arms and wouldn’t button. Naturally, I asked for a larger size and the sales associate snootily remarked that it was “the largest size they carried in the store.” I walked out feeling insecure and low. It dawned on me that Express and many other major retailers don’t make larger sizes for men – or anyone for that matter – because they don’t want larger people to wear their stuff. Part of why I created Notoriously Dapper was to show that bigger guys can be just as fly as slimmer dudes and to help break that overall myth of body shaming when it comes to style.
BC: What’s one critique you’ve heard about thicker guys embracing fashion? How are you challenging that stereotype?
KD: Mostly that we are not as appealing in fashionable clothing. I think I’m challenging that ideal from what I post on a daily basis. I’m showing people that #StyleHasNoSize. You can’t put a size label on style. It’s unique and no matter what size you are, you can rock whatever you want as long as you feel great in it!
BC: You’re becoming a spokesperson for male body positivity and overall wellness, was this your goal when you started posting?
KD: Not necessarily. Initially, I wanted to encourage men of all sizes to dress better – which I still do – and promote male body positivity. I’m glad the topic is getting recognition and people are starting to value a guy’s point of view just as much as women. Women have done a great job standing up to the media’s perception of beauty and now men need to start doing the same. I’m happy about becoming a spokesperson for the movement. I want to reach and help as many people as possible.
BC: You were recently in the Aerie’s Men commercial campaign for male body positivity, tell us about the experience?
KD: The experience was amazing. It was my first time in L.A. (West Hollywood), I got to hang out with model, Iskra Lawrence and learn a lot about the production end of advertisements. I remember feeling nervous about being in my underwear for all the public to see, however I was ready to do it for the community of people who feel the sting of negative body image issues every day. I knew that if I did it that a lot of men would gain confidence in how they look, because we are all different and deserve to be celebrated.
BC: What do you want those who scroll through your blog to take away?
KD: I want them to take away self confidence and self love. I want them to know that their body, mind and heart is good enough. That simply being themselves while being true is the most original thing you have.
BC: You’re also an art teacher, have your kids recognized you from Instagram yet?
KD: Yes, they have! They say I pop up in the explore page all the time. They all think it’s super cool. Some of the boys always asked me where I get certain things. I also won “best dressed teacher” two years in a row, all based from student vote. I tried to pull off the whole “that’s my twin brother thing,” but being absent, then students seeing me post that I was in L.A., they started to catch on. But they love content and the message I send.
BC: Do you think the fashion industry, especially men’s fashion is changing?
KD: I think so. It takes time just like everything else, it won’t happen over night. But the more men are vocal about change and stay persistent, I have no doubt we’ll see more body diversity in fashion advertisements and clothing options!
BC: What’s been the most revelatory thing you’ve encountered so far?
KD: I would say being considered a style icon for bigger guys. Many people have reached out to me via social media and encouraged me to keep posting. They tell me how inspiring the movement is. They appreciate what I do and it means a lot.
BC: If you had to choose, are you a jogger or trouser kind of guy?
KD: That’s a hard one. I love joggers but I’m definitely more of a trouser guy I would have to say.
BC: How important is wellness to you?
KD: Wellness is very important. I think mental, physical and spiritual wellness is everything. The mental wellness of loving yourself is so vital to how you feel. Feeling confident can help you conquer lots of things in this life and in the words of DJ Khaled confidence is a “MAJOR KEY! They don’t want you to love yourself!” Workout to feel good not to look good. If you feel great, then nothing else will matter.
BC: Grooming is a big part of Notoriously Dapper, so how do you stay so well groomed?
KD: I shave my head every two days. I do a Jack Black facial mask once a week. It has glycolic acid and volcanic ash to help with white heads and unclogging pores. I use Scotch Porter beard products to help groom and style my beard. It’s vital to all keep the mane kept up. Also, I’m awaiting my first Bevel package and can’t wait to try the new Bevel trimmer.
BC: What’s your go to summer wardrobe pieces?
KD: For the summer, my go to are Chubbies shorts, sunglasses and short sleeve oxfords with a chest pocket, stylish hankers to help wipe off your sweat from the heat but can also double as a cool accessory. A nice wide brim hat is also a summer essential. Also, you’ve got to have some good slip on sneakers and penny loafers.