The Master Curator of Upscale Men's Style
The brands and the people behind the brands are all in one room together, and they become the content.
Randy Goldberg has an enviable pedigree – and possibly one of the cooler jobs in the world. He's the creative and editorial force behind the upscale men's email newsletter UrbanDaddy, as well as the editorial director for the company's ever-clever Kempt and the automotive-focused online magazine Driven. His activities offthe clock, as the co-founder of the annual Pop Up Flea menswear event held in New York City, are just as influential in the world of men's style and commerce - and have helped popularize a new trend in event-based retail experiences for guys.
We caught up with Randy via email from his home base in Manhattan to find out what he sees happening in men's media today, how content and commerce are coming together – and what American heritage brands he's loving right now,
Men's style sites are suddenly catching fire and UrbanDaddy is clearly a market leader in many ways. Why do you think it's finally time? I think it’s a combination of things over the last few years that have led to a nice moment in menswear, and consequently a nice moment for online men’s editorial. On the design and menswear side, it used to feel like there was Gap, and there was Gucci. But the middle has filled in with accessible, well-made, masculine brands in a great way. You look at what J.Crew, Club Monaco, Steven Alan, Hickorees, Billykirk, and a host of other big and small brands, have done over the past few years, and it seems like the bar has been raised at every price. On the media side, there were the early pioneers in men’s style editorial that influenced a younger set of guys, and sort of made it ok and cool to talk about this stuff, and now we’re in the second wave of style blogs and guys talking about style online. And that adds up to what feels like a sea change.
What sets UrbanDaddy and your sites apart from other men's style sites out there? What makes for great men's media? We tend focus on actionability with UrbanDaddy’s style coverage. It’s also local, so we’re talking about brands that are new or under-the-radar, stores that are open now so you can go today or tomorrow or next week. It’s about the things that fit in to our readers’ lives and enhance them immediately. Our reader isn’t interested in clothes for clothes sake. On Kempt, we have a little more leeway to forecast and show you what next season might look like, but we also like to keep it pretty in the moment. Kempt is about living stylishly, the people doing that, and maybe the details and topics that will help you do that. Great men’s media, to me, is direct, and has a point of view, maybe some humor or wit, and teaches you something you didn’t know.
You work with Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean on Pop-Up Flea which is a great example great content that works nicely with commerce. What have you learned from that experience? And what other opportunities do you see for content and commerce to come together? When we discuss content and commerce today, the focus tends to be online, on how you can editorialize shopping to bring out the stories behind the inventory and entice purchases by fostering a deeper connection to a picture of a pair of boots. Or vice versa, to commercialize existing editorial and provide an easy path to purchase something a reader is already reading about from a trusted source. With the Pop Up Flea, we have sort of taken that idea offline. The brands and the people behind the brands are all in one room together, and they become the content. People come to meet the designers and owners, hear stories about their factories and how things get designed. Which in turn enriches the commerce experience. It’s a nice moment when you meet someone in the flesh who designed or built something you saw on a blog or on Instagram or somewhere else in the online whirlwind. I think content/commerce opportunities will arise out of people trying to break the squares-on-a-page model.
You’re a champion of American-made heritage brands. What are some favorites at the moment? “Of the moment” is sort of a funny way to describe these brands since we’re talking about companies that have been around for generations. But it’s really nice to see these brands in the spotlight. I think guys connect to things that are well constructed and have great provenance. It’s interesting for me to see someone like Kyle Rancourt taking over a family business and moving it forward, pushing the boundaries, reinventing something without losing its original character. There are a ton of great American heritage brands still making great things. Gitman Brothers Vintage, Schott, Danner Mountain Boots, Filson, Red Wing, Hamilton… I mean, this is a list that could thankfully get really long. We’ll have some great brands at this year’s Pop Up Flea in late November.
What are the most popular areas of your sites – and what do you think that says about what men want? (Any surprises?) The UrbanDaddy iPhone and Android app has been extremely popular and I think that has to do with the concept of planned spontaneity. If you know you have a trusted resource in your pocket that can filter and curate a recommended short list of places to go based on exactly where you are, what time it is, who you are with, and what exactly you are into, it frees you up without planning ahead. On Kempt, I think people find us through some of our service stories or a picture of a beautiful woman in some state of undress, but they end up connecting to other stories like our series on the 12 Playboys of the Jetset 60s. There also seems to be a real hunger for etiquette information, sort of a surprising one for guys. Oh, and on UrbanDaddy, people love rooftops. Anything involving rooftops…
What other men’s style and culture voices are you watching with interest? Who else is doing it right? I think the world of our team of writers and editors at UrbanDaddy, Kempt, Driven. Our managing editor Paul Underwood ascends to best-kept-secret status in my mind. I’m obviously a big fan of my partner in Flea-ness Michael Williams. He’s the fucking man. I’ve always liked the way Glenn O’Brien (author of How to Be a Man) says things. Designers and friends like Aaron Levine, Ian Velardi, The Ovadia brothers, the brothers Corsillo, the brothers Bray, Todd Snyder, Josh Peskowitz. Writers and editors like my friend David Coggins at Bergdorf Goodman, Tyler Thoreson and Jared Flint at Park & Bond, Eugene Tong from Details, Steven Rojas who runs social media and events for GrandLife. These are guys I look up to and whose voices and talents I respect. I’ve also really enjoyed watching Ben Towill and Phil Winser from The Fat Radish/Ruschmeyer’s/The Leadbelly open a restaurant and create a culture and a real home base for style in New York. And now they’re in a great Gant campaign. They created a great mix of food/nightlife/style/fashion/city life/design and people really gravitate towards what they’re doing.
Mobile men's content – where do you see the opportunities there? Mobile is dead. I’m on to the next thing. I can’t say much, but I can say this: it involves telepathy… Obviously I’m kidding, and I think it would be foolish to launch any product today without leading with or including a mobile strategy. It’s the future. Scratch that, it’s the present.
How would you finish this sentence: When in doubt, wear… A loin cloth. No wait, a smile. A whipped cream bikini? Your heart on your sleeve?
Follow Randy on Twitter @randygoldberg