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Men of Style
Michelle Pulfrey | Photo: Joe Schmelzer | April 1, 2014
In Orange County, masculine style is a balancing act that requires commitment. The key is knowing when to bend the rules and when to adhere to them. It’s adding your own special touch and sticking to your guns. And it’s realizing that casual looks are fine and dandy, but elegance is never wrong. Our sartorial six play this game all too well. And they understand that dressing the part—whatever part that is—separates the men from the boys.
Ryan Knott isn’t afraid to stand out among the crowd. He’s bold and confident. That’s part of the reason he’s such a successful entrepreneur. It’s a signature of his personality and his style—and he has plenty of the latter. “I go out on a limb and wear bright colors and big patterns,” says Knott, CEO of CSA Group Holdings, which oversees Costa Mesa’s Center for Sculpting Aesthetics—a growing enterprise specializing in CoolSculpting, a new noninvasive fat-elimination procedure. And his work keeps him busy: He’s leading the company’s expansion efforts. In his downtime, you might spot him at The Pacific Club dressed in Ted Baker or Brioni. Just look for the guy with the cool socks. “I gravitate toward... fun socks that make a statement,” he notes. And if he’s wearing his favorite pair of shoes—well, then he’s hard to miss. “One of my sons bought me a pink pair of Alexander McQueen tennis shoes that I haven’t found anywhere else,” says Knott. “Sometimes I get teased about them.” But that doesn’t faze him. He’s as comfortable in his clothes as he is in his skin. “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to define yourself,” Knott says. “Do what makes you look and feel your best, and forget what other people think.” That’s not to say he hasn’t had a few fashion missteps—like the time he made a bet clay shooting with his friends. “I ended up in fluorescent green and blue Calvin Klein underwear and a pair of Sorels in the snow in front of about 50 people,” he recalls. “I learned to never bet it all when not wearing your best.”
Jason Helmick celebrated two major milestones in the past year. After marrying his “dream girl” in their hometown of San Juan Capistrano, he was named vice president and partner of Lee & Associates in Irvine. For his days on the job, he pulls his standard uniform from Topman (it’s his favorite shop for finding on-trend looks), Brooks Bros. (for shirts and ties) and Ferragamo (for stylish shoes). He’s also drawn to the all-American designs of Ralph Lauren. “It’s an evolving style that’s still true to its roots,” he says. And Helmick knows a thing or two about the apparel industry—he used to work in it. He’s maintained many of the relationships he fostered during that time. “I’ve kept in touch with many of my former clients, and I’m able to do design consulting on the side, which I really enjoy,” he adds. On weekends, Helmick dons a much more relaxed and casual look. “I mostly wear American Apparel T-shirts, board shorts and my Vans,” he says. He enjoys rock climbing, golfing with friends and walks around Dana Point Harbor with his wife, Laura, and their golden retriever. If the swell is good, Helmick can be found catching waves at his favorite surf spot at San Onofre State Beach. “It’s a place that has influenced my personal style,” he says. “It’s a timeless and classic California surf spot, and not much has changed there—classic cars, longboards and friendly people.”
The Change Artist
On any given day, Stan Bruno may go from wearing a James Perse or John Varvatos casual look to a Zegna suit to a Canali tuxedo as he darts from a family function to a business meeting to a charity gala. Such is the life of a high-profile wealth manager who’s married to a high-profile PR exec. But there are a few constants—in his wardrobe and in his routine of life. Sunday dinners with the Bruno family, he says, are among them: “Sharing Sunday dinners with the whole family is tradition for us—to spend time together and share our stories of the week. … I’ve made dinner for all 11 of us at my house as well.” The family bond is shared in business too—Bruno works with his father, Stan Sr., at Royal Alliance. “I like to say we guide our clients into retirement and help them stay there,” he notes. And he offers that guidance in crisp, classic style—his suited look polished up with a Canali shirt and a Gucci, Armani or David August tie. “I like a sharp look, and prefer to wear Magnanni or Prada shoes, my wedding ring, a pocket square and a great belt,” he says. The final touches: a pair of Tiffany & Co. cuff links his wife, Kacey (who’s PR director of California’s Montage Hotels & Resorts), gave him on their wedding day and one of two very special watches. Notes Bruno: “I purchased a special timepiece for each of my sons’ births that I’ll pass on to them in the future.”
Since it opened in 2003, the Montage Laguna Beach has been like a second home to Todd Orlich. He’s been a member of the team from the beginning. Today, he’s the general manager—a post that requires him to look as perfectly polished as the resort itself. (You never know when you might run into an A-list celebrity or a high-powered politician. He’s even met the Dalai Lama.) But it’s an image that Orlich seems to achieve effortlessly. “I recently had suits custom-made by local designer Mark Pomerantz,” Orlich says. “His suits and fabrics are amazing. It makes such a difference when you have a suit custom-tailored to your own body.” He prefers button-down shirts by Thomas Pink or Ted Baker. They serve as the perfect canvas for his signature standout accessory—his tie. “I have a pretty large collection of ties,” he notes. “My favored options are Hermès, Burberry and Zegna.” Just as important—both for a finishing touch and for function—is his choice in shoes: “I go through shoes like crazy. They have to be comfortable but maintain style. Ferragamo and Magnanni make the best loafers.” But when it comes to date night, Orlich lets his wife, Victoria, choose his ensemble. The reason, he says, has to do with their first date: “She showed up to my house, and I was wearing fluorescent pink surfer shorts with an orange and blue rugby shirt. [It was the ’90s, after all.] She looked at me and, in the nicest way possible, said, ‘There’s no way you’re going out in that.’”
For John Stratman’s college buddies, it would not come as a surprise to learn that he’s Kaiser Permanente Orange County’s senior director of public affairs and brand communications—he manages, among other things, all corporate communications and involvement with government and crisis teams. He interacts with high-powered executives every day. And back at Chapman University, the O.C. native was already looking the part of a polished professional, opting for crisp button-down shirts to wear with jeans and dress shoes. If he had a presentation, he’d show up in a suit. Stratman, who went on to earn a master’s degree from USC, still sports a polished look—in suits from Brooks Bros., French-cuffed shirts from Thomas Pink and perfectly shined shoes from Cole Haan. “If I’m without a pocket square, I feel like I left the house without being fully dressed,” he notes. He cites two Hollywood icons as his style inspiration: Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, whom he says “had a timeless look that still translates today.” During his off-hours—whether it’s spending time with his family, traveling or golfing in La Quinta (he’s played in numerous PGA Tour Pro-Am tournaments)—you’ll find Stratman donned in Banana Republic and wearing John Varvatos cologne, or Quiksilver board shorts and Rainbow sandals for the beach.
When Scott Slater stepped onto O.C.’s food scene, he did it in style. “I always want to dress sharp within the four walls of my restaurants,” says the founder and president of Slater’s 50/50. (There are six locations in Orange, L.A., San Bernardino and San Diego counties, with the seventh slated to open this month.) It’s a sublime concept that’s won the hearts of burger buffs with its half-bacon, half-beef patties. “We have a hip restaurant, so it has to look put together, but with an edge and sense of fun.” For his weekday go-to looks, he turns to Burberry and Hugo Boss. For dressier occasions, he prefers custom-tailored ensembles from Suits by Gianni: “They’ve worked quite well for me—great custom fit and high-quality fabrics,” he adds. But on the weekend, you’ll likely see him sporting basics from Vince and Paige Denim. “My favorite shorts are from Jack Spade—blue with white polka dots,” he notes. “I also wear my Rainbow sandals every chance I get. That’s another benefit of living here.” It seems Slater learned the hard way that there’s a difference between East Coast and West Coast style. “I bought a sleek turtleneck with a built-in scarf in New York, which felt stylish while I was there,” he says. “When I tried to wear it here, I felt like a clown.” But there is something about O.C.’s fashion sensibilities that appeals to him. “It’s the land of ageless style,” he says. “You can be any age in O.C. and be considered stylish.”
Shot on location at the Montage Laguna Beach