In Miami, 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 eight play this game all too well. And they understand that dressing the part—whatever part that is—is what separates the men from the boys.
“I can’t say that my work very much reflects the Miami style, other than I probably have never worn as much white in my life,” says model Berthil Espegren, flashing a grin that’s been captured on film by everyone from Herb Ritts and Richard Avedon to Steven Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier. Espegren should have seen the signs that our sunny city (where he lives part of the year with his wife and young son) would draw him in. After all, his career began with the first commercial for Ray-Ban featuring Miami’s must-have accessory, sunglasses. That advertising campaign ran worldwide for four years and put Espegren’s good looks on the fashion-world radar. Ads for Armani, Lanvin, Valentino and Nautica followed, as did a cover for L’Uomo Vogue. Such trajectory has certainly left its mark and influenced his wardrobe, but Espegren is most definitely his own man when it comes to style. He favors suits by Huntsman and Brunello Cucinelli, and pads around in shoes by Edward Green. Surprisingly, his fashion idols are rather all-American for someone who’s worked all over the world and exudes such European finesse. “I have a soft spot for Steve McQueen, who had a wonderful sense of dressing casually with a great deal of edge,” he says. While that aspect of Espegren’s sartorial persona is not often seen in Miami’s social circles (where his penchant for on-point formalwear never fails to get him noticed—and photographed), those familiar with him know he can sport a leather jacket like the most hardcore of rebels. This is a renaissance man through and through, however, and for proof one need only look under his sleeve, where vintage timepieces by Vacheron Constantin, Rolex and Audemars Piguet usually wrap his wrist. “It’s the heritage and the movements that I find fascinating,” he says. “If style is not interesting, then what’s the point?” He can say that again.
As the lead singer of the band Born Again Baldwins, David Aaron makes a concerted effort to personalize the rocker’s signature wardrobe. “I travel constantly, so I tend to wear a lot of black for matchability and simplicity,” he says. “My style manages to translate across Miami, London, New York, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv or wherever else I find myself.” Said style usually goes something like this: jeans by Levi’s or Seven For All Mankind, boots by Ralph Lauren or The Frye Company, V-necks from no brand in particular and some sort of performance-friendly jacket to bring it all together. Social obligations away from the microphone do call for a custom tuxedo or a well-tailored suit at certain times, but even then, Aaron keeps color at bay. How does he manage to make his monochromatic approach distinctive? “I have a custom snakeskin belt that livens things up,” he reveals. “And I also tend to wear red-and-white striped socks.” Even the ritual of accessorizing is edited down: a Miansai leather bracelet with a red string from the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and a Cartier Roadster with a black (naturally) crocodile strap are wardrobe constants regardless of what he’s wearing. As Aaron sees it, the color restraint is ideal for all the different facets of his life—when he’s not tearing up the stage at concert gigs, the 30-something is a real estate developer, so black works just as well at a construction site. “Style is many things,” says Aaron, “and sometimes, it’s simply about being pragmatic.”
Fine & Dandy
As the director of business development for the advertising agency MGSCOMM, Ray De Leon never takes his wardrobe for granted. After all, in his world, presenting yourself in the best light possible is of utmost importance. “On any given day I’m surrounded by beautiful women decked out from head to toe at 9am, as well as creative guys who look like they don’t put much effort into their casual gear, but everybody knows their outfits are just as meticulously assembled as the ladies’,” he says. “That fact just makes you try harder.” De Leon describes his style as “straightforward and simple.” That can mean anything from tailored sports jackets paired with light wool pants or jeans to expertly tailored suits (from Theory to Tom Ford) when the occasion calls for it—and with his profession’s social obligations, that’s quite often. Sartorial extras are less straightforward. “That’s when I like to have fun,” says De Leon, who prefers wink-wink accessories that make a statement. “I recently discovered these Deakin & Francis cuff links. They’re sterling silver red crowns, so I can’t really wear them that often, but when I can, on they go. And I always incorporate a pocket square, either Etro or Alexander McQueen, to finish off the look with a pop of color.” Among his most prized possessions? “A Bulgari Diagono Chronograph that my partner bought me at a dinner for Nicola Bulgari at Neiman Marcus in Village of Merrick Park,” he says. “To be given that in front of the company founder’s great-great-grandson himself was rather special, and it’s a stunning timepiece.” Although, his steel and 18K gold Rolex Submariner, with its blue ceramic bezel, gets just as many stares and compliments. Of course, as De Leon sees it, no outfit is complete without the right pair of shoes. “Right now, I’m loving Jimmy Choo because they make styles that always stand out,” he says. “And I’m really enjoying my Christian Louboutin leopard-print loafers. Before I owned them, I never thought I could pull them off.” Now, he rocks them as often as possible.
Man of the Hour
“I’m never finished with my outfit until I put on my watch,” says attorney Daniel Novela. “I tend to favor classic, vintage Swiss timepieces. But I also love a few contemporary brands.” Among those: the Panerai Bronzo, the Girard-Perregaux WW.TC and the 18K rose gold DeWitt Academia Silicium Hora Mundi. “What can I tell you?” adds Novela. “As a collector, I believe that a timepiece is one of three anchors of a man’s outfit. It sets the tone for everything.” Not that the other two elements—the right footwear and jacket—are any less important. “My taste is constantly evolving, but I tend to favor classics with a twist, typically made in Italy,” says Novela. “I love how Tod’s reinvented New England preppy. As I see it, Tod’s drivers and loafers, with no socks, are the perfect Miami complement to a linen blazer and a vintage watch.” Novela, does, however, admit to cheating on Tod’s shoes with the right pair by Tom Ford—and who can blame him? For this stylish litigator, finishing a look means a Noble Experiment pocket square and a bracelet by Espiritútara. And although Novela now cherishes his Moods of Norway suits (from Basico, a Miami Beach boutique), he hasn’t forgotten his earliest sartorial yearnings. “As a kid, I grew up poor as a first-generation American of recently arrived Cuban immigrants,” he says. “I remember I coveted a pair of Levi’s jeans, but my parents could not afford them. I got a part-time job at a local drive-in theater at 12 years old and saved up to buy my very first pair. I never forgot how that felt. I can now afford to buy Swiss watches and Tom Ford wing-tips and that feels good, but not as sweet as that first pair of Levi’s.”
In his professional life as a board-certified ER physician—plus a side gig as the cofounder of VitaSquad, a mobile vitamin IV infusion service—Dr. Jesse Sandhu is well aware that his work look is usually devoid of style (lab coats and scrubs are not anyone’s definition of chic). Helping others feel better is not especially glamorous, and he’s fine with that. But even when he’s off the clock, Sandhu still approaches fashion from a rather altruistic point of view. Take his favorite talisman, a necklace by Falling Whistles. “I think it’s the hottest accessory right now,” he says of the piece, which is sold exclusively to raise funds to help the peace process in the Congo (he’s one of the ambassadors of the organization’s Miami chapter). “Nothing makes you feel better than combining style with a great cause, but perhaps I’m a little biased.” Because of Sandhu’s humanitarian efforts and busy schedule, fashion and shopping are time-off treats that are rare in his hectic world. To that end, he makes every style minute count. “I work a lot,” he says, “so when I take time to indulge in shopping, it’s great because I’m thinking about the things I’m going to enjoy doing in those clothes—whether it’s buying activewear to play sports or splurging on a custom tux to wear to a gala.” Those indulgences can run the gamut from a bespoke suit from New York’s Alexander Nash (“Those guys nail it”) to multiple pairs of Converse. Sandhu’s lack of downtime also means he relies on style advice. “A lot of VitaSquad’s clients are very dialed in to the fashion world, from models and actors to entertainers and executives,” he says. “They provide me with a lot of insider info on trends and new designers, which is fun—and incredibly helpful. Too bad they don’t give me stock tips as well.”
Like a Marvel action hero, interior designer Hernan Arriaga believes the right garments can infuse him with a special brand of sartorial superpowers. “Most times, if I add a great jacket, I am immediately confident,” he says. “It just carries me through the day and gives me that extra charge I need, especially if I’m meeting a client.” A New York transplant who laid down roots here in 2006, Arriaga has embraced Miami’s style ways with unabashed enthusiasm. “Being sexy is almost a prerequisite if you live here,” says the Argentina native. “People are focused on their looks—body, hair and everything else.” That “everything else” being wardrobe, of course, which, beyond vanity, Arriaga sees as a chance for self-expression (a departure from other cities’ more uniform-minded mentalities). For Arriaga, that means casualwear by John Varvatos, Armani blazers and leather jackets, almost anything by Tom Ford, and footwear by Bottega Veneta and Gucci. Arriaga’s look all comes together in an effortless way, invigorated by influences from his travels. With commissions from Dubai to various Asian cities, his travel itinerary is a busy one—plus he style-spots in Europe: “Everyone there takes risks, and it’s so easy to find great pieces to mix with others I already own,” he says. And then there’s the detectible urbane flair that speaks to the man’s rarified social circle here in South Florida. Arriaga is currently working on the Miami home of singer/actress Kelly Rowland, and he’s remaking the second floor of the Coral Gables residence of famed attorney Roy Black and his wife, Lea. Such high-profile clients suit the cosmopolitan Bruce Wayne-side of Arriaga’s well-turned-out superhero persona just fine.
As the dapper founders of EMM Group, the hospitality firm behind Catch and SL lounge in South Beach as well as a number of hot spots in New York, Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm have been recognizable figures in South Beach and Manhattan nightlife circles for more than a decade. “We’ve been coming down to Miami since 2003,” says Birnbaum. “I started working on the New Year’s party team at Shore Club in 2006. Sometime after that, Eugene and I took over the New Year’s events there and at the Delano, Mondrian and Shelborne. It was these experiences that made us want to plant a flag here.” The men’s professional night moves have clearly influenced their style, and, as arbiters of velvet-rope cool, they know that world’s style rules to a tee—although, in Miami, they’ve learned to tweak them to suit both the city’s easy spirit and climate. “We both subscribe to what I call effortless fashion,” says Remm, but don’t be misled by that description’s casual connotations. These after-dark impresarios may not spend endless hours primping in front of the mirror, but they consider their sartorial choices with care—and they don’t forget to have fun. To wit: Remm cops to a 300-pair shoe collection as well as a fondness for everything Rag & Bone. For his part, Birnbaum is a hardcore devotee of John Varvatos. “He’s my everything designer,” he says. “Suits, shoes, coats, T-shirts, sweaters—you can’t go wrong.” Their penchant for casual chic doesn’t extend to all their choices, however. Watches are the most obvious exceptions: On Birnbaum’s wrist (always) is a gold-and-black Panerai Luminor, while Remm opts for an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore—two rather precise timekeepers for men whose hours are anything but.
Styling by Kimberly Sussman
Grooming by Kelly Belanger/Rik Rak Salon
Shot on location at the Eden Roc Miami Beach