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Men of Style
Jeff DuFour and Nevin Martell | Photo: Greg Powers | April 1, 2014
Is DC ready for the revolution? Actually, it’s already here. Gone are the days of predictable company men wearing predictable clothing. They’ve been replaced by a thoroughly modern generation of dapper gents—from fields as diverse as design, entertainment, technology and retail development—who have the Q ratings, the brains and the style behind the changing face of Washington.
If there’s a lobbyist who’s poised to extinguish his profession’s stodgy reputation, it might just be Michael Beckerman. As the CEO of the nascent Internet Association, Beckerman carries the water in DC for Silicon Valley titans such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn—“like-minded companies that have similar DNA,” as he puts it. Indeed, his organization, itself just 2 years old, shares some of that entrepreneurial, rebellious DNA. When Beckerman was lured away from a successful Capitol Hill career to take the job, he found himself hunting for office space and pitching in to assemble furniture in that new office. When it comes to fashion, Beckerman relishes a “comfort over conformity” style, favoring vests and tailored jackets. “You have to meet the norms of Capitol Hill, but still represent your industry,” with uncompromising flair, he says. “You can still be polished without being buttoned-up.” On April 8, we’ll see what Silicon Valley black tie looks like, as the association holds its first gala. “There are so many requisite dinners. Our event’s not going to be like that. We want to bring the valley here. It’s going to be a little bit more of a party and a social occasion than sitting down and listening to speeches.” And when guests look around, they’ll see a new sense of style—led by Beckerman.
One of the most influential men on the DC food scene isn’t a chef or a restaurateur. Looking to give local epicurean startups a place to percolate and produce, Blind Dog Café co-owner Jonas Singer jointly founded Union Kitchen at the end of 2012. The three-story full-service workspace in NoMa houses more than 55 food artisans, including craft charcuterie dynamos Cured DC and Jrink cold-press juicery. The 31-year-old entrepreneur’s dress code is divided between on the job and off duty. When he’s at his food incubator, comfortable kicks are a must—preferably stylish two-tone sneaks from Vans. His wardrobe is filled with shirts supporting District gastro masters, like haute confectioners Milk Cult and roasters-turned-pop-up-stars Vigilante Coffee. “I’m usually rocking a 5 o’clock shadow. It makes me look a little older, a little gruffer,” says Singer with a laugh. He’s particular about his hairstyle, making regular trips to AdMo’s boutique barbers Wise Owl Club, though he likes keeping his jumble of brown curls in check. “At work, a headband is my signature item,” he says. “I mix it up with different colors.” After hours, he moves into a more polished look—dapper button-down shirts and slacks usually sourced at Dupont Circle’s bespoke boutique Alton Lane. He’ll dress for long hours in the office for the foreseeable future, however: Singer and his business partner, Cullen Gilchrist, are expanding Union Kitchen with a new 75,000-square-foot space in Ivy City, which they aim to open by the end of the year.
As the president and CEO of Events DC, Greg O’Dell has been at the center of DC’s transformation. The quasi-governmental organization oversees the Convention Center, RFK Stadium and the historic Carnegie Library, and is the landlord for Nationals Park. And O’Dell’s aspirations match his influence. “We’ve gone from this government town to these rich and vibrant neighborhoods,” he says. His mind holds many images of a city transformed, including “what Mount Vernon Square is going to look like” because of the Convention Center, the impact of the new Marriott Marquis hotel opening next month and the repurposing of the Carnegie Library space. Next up: embarking on a similar path for the RFK campus. The former management consultant says his style is “probably a bit like my personality—reserved but personable.” He prefers dark suits and classic cuffs, with a splash of color from his ties. Of course, he can order up exactly what he wants—at 6 feet, 5 inches, he says, “Buying off the rack is a bit of a challenge,” so he relies mostly on custom tailors. Off duty, you might find him in jeans and casual loafers (“I love the Vince label,” he says) but in reality, you’re more likely to catch him in gym clothes. A former basketball player at Wofford College in South Carolina, O’Dell still plays at SportsClub/LA at 6am two days a week, and again on weekends.
Perhaps no one in the Washington area has such easy access to high-end style as Rich Dinning. As the senior general manager of the fashion Oz known as Tyson’s Galleria, it’s all around him, every day, with the latest trends peering out from the windows of Hugo Boss, Burberry, Versace and 100 other stores. “It puts me in an interesting position,” he says. “I’m at this place with great fashion, but I’m on the business side.” Dinning must lean conservative, but leavens it by “incorporating lots of colors and patterns.” He calls his look “classic, neat and clean.” And, no, that doesn’t necessarily include a tie every day. He’s taken to layering instead, especially during the recent winter chill. “A suit can only keep you so warm,” he says. So what’s his favorite suit jacket? Well, as one might expect, there’s a certain level of politics involved in representing 100 stores. He protests that picking a favorite is “like picking a favorite child,” but he’ll cop to a particular fondness for Zegna suits. Except on the weekends, that is, when his full-time job is staying in step with his two kids under 5. Then he prefers “something that can get dirty,” with Zegna neatly stowed until Monday morning.
Philippe Lanier isn’t just one of the most recognizable faces on the Georgetown social scene. As head of strategic finance for Eastbanc, the development company his father, Anthony, founded nearly 30 years ago, Lanier also helps to define the very character of Georgetown. “We make sure [retailers] add to the mix to ensure Georgetown is a destination,” he says. “If I don’t put cool and trendy retail concepts into Georgetown, and they go somewhere else, I lose that draw for the shopper.” Recently, that’s meant adding brands like Steven Alan and Bonobos in Cady’s Alley. And in the future, that means a bazaar-style retail incubator that will let up-and-coming vendors test the retail waters. His company will also orchestrate a wholesale reimagining of the West End Library, complete with 10 stories of residential and a public squash facility. His own look is certainly informed by Georgetown (you might see him shopping at Lost Boys, Brooks Brothers or Frye), but also by his travels in Europe and the Middle East, where Eastbanc has offices (he has a fondness for Brunello Cucinelli sweaters and Hermès ties). Even he’s gotten a little less buttoned-up in recent years—wearing suits much less than his earlier years in the banking industry. “I wear a tie if I’m hungover,” he quips. “It helps to hide it.”
There aren’t many musicians who can sell out the 9:30 Club for five straight nights. But there’s literally only one who can do that and then head to one of eight bars and restaurants he co-owns nearby. His name is Eric Hilton. The Rockville native currently divides his time between Thievery Corporation, the wildly popular, genre-bending music collective, and his growing nightlife empire along U Street. “They’re both artistic pursuits,” he says of his parallel endeavors. “Music feels a little more magical because it doesn’t exist in physical space.” But with restaurants, you’re still “creating something out of nothing. It’s really fun to build things.” The balance between his two worlds has been challenging of late. Within two weeks over the winter, Hilton helped open two new concepts—the Mexican craft beer and cocktail haven El Rey, and the casual, Asian-influenced bar called Den of Thieves (where he often DJs). Meanwhile, he’s set to release Thievery’s seventh studio album—the bossa nova-influenced Saudade—this month. Hilton has toned down his style since his early club days. “I used to be a real clothes horse and get suits made in London,” he says. “At a certain point, I didn’t want to be a peacock. I now enjoy well-made clothes that are very subtle”—even in front of an audience. “Usually onstage, I’ll put a nice jacket on, and I’ll probably wear the dark jeans. I like performers like Bob Marley and Paul Weller, who were the same on and off the stage. There’s no uniform, no costume.”
Eric Burka approaches style the same way he approaches designing a restaurant. “I change my look based on what I’m doing, where I am and who I’m with,” says the managing principal at Bethesda-based branding, marketing and design firm Streetsense. A dinner out with his wife might call for jeans and vintage boots from an L.A. boutique, while he’ll throw on a sport coat for a client meeting. “I won’t wear the same suit and tie that everyone else in the room will be wearing,” he says. “I’m the creative one, so people expect me to stand out.” That desire to make eyes pop inspired this fourth-generation Washingtonian to help craft a stunning selection of the District’s most outstanding dining experiences, including Mike Isabella’s Grecian hot spot, Kapnos, and the rusticated Italian-American charmer Red Hen. When Burka’s not spearheading new projects—like the forthcoming Shaw eatery from high-profile McCrady’s alum Jeremiah Langhorne—he likes making shopping pilgrimages to New York City. John Varvatos’ Soho showroom is a required pit stop, since the designer’s rock ‘n’ roll vibe complements Burka’s favorite accessory. “I have a love for sunglasses,” he admits. He opts for Oakleys when he’s taking his kids skiing; a pair of Oliver Peoples are his go-to for business lunches; Persols are his look when he’s going upscale casual. The only constant is change. “If you see me a year from now, I don’t want you to think I’m the same person,” he says. “I like to evolve.”
Shot on location at CityCenterDC apartments and condominiums
Styling by Stara Pezeshkian for T.H.E. Artist Agency; assisted by Ashleigh Angel
Hair and makeup by Juan Perez and Samuel Weeks for Logan 14