The Kavalier Update: How I Maintained A Loyal Audience During The Pandemic

Published: April 14th, 2021
Jon Shanahan
Founder, The Kavalier
The Kavalier
from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
started January 2015
Discover what tools Jon recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Jon Shanahan and I’m the founder and owner of The Kavalier, one of the most trusted Menswear channels on youtube. I founded the channel in 2015 with the goal of teaching men not only how to dress but how to treat clothing as an investment and shop accordingly. Every piece I recommend on my channel, every brand, every collaborator, I test myself before talking about it.

I occasionally do paid sponsorships but my usual MO is affiliate partnerships, of which I’ve built a vast network with many of the best-known DTC brands in menswear. I prefer these overpaid sponsorships because they allow me to review products and brands honestly. As a result, I’ve built up a lot of trust from my audience, perhaps a bit more than a few other influencers.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

Kavalier’s numbers continue to climb steadily, which is a bit surprising, all things considered. The last few months have been incredibly difficult not specifically because of the pandemic but because my move into my new house was a trip to hell. Corrupt movers. Delay after delay in closing the house. Pet hair and mold everywhere. Has not been a pleasant experience, especially for my daughter, who has severe allergies.

Try to get to the point where you aren’t having to decide what you need to do next.

Unsurprisingly, I put out less content as a result but my fans have been loyal just the same, as you can see from the vast majority of the comments on my youtube videos, in particular this one. They’re almost like a second family to me and it’s been immensely rewarding having their support during this most difficult chapter of my life.

I plan to continue to share top-notch content on the Kavalier channel. I take my followers’ trust very seriously, so I always keep that in mind when I’m deciding on the subject matter. Over the next few months, I’ll be launching a Building From Scratch series focusing on the indispensable pieces every man needs in his wardrobe if he’s either starting from nothing or wants a serious revamp as a result of a promotion or starting a new chapter in his life.

I also joined Stryx as a co-founder in 2019, with whom I currently serve as the Chief Marketing Officer. Stryx is a new and cutting-edge line of Men’s cosmetics and skincare. We’re challenging the rules for men’s grooming and changing the narrative on what “real men” aren’t allowed to do when it comes to grooming. I’m happy to say that sales have been going well, not least to the zoom meetings that have become so popular this past year. Men want to look good on camera, at least from the chest up, so a great many have tried to.

On a lighter note, I’ve discovered and had a lot of fun on Tik Tok and attracted quite a following for Stryx as a result. You’re all welcome to follow me there. You’ll be glad you did.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

One of the business lessons I had taken to heart pre-pandemic was about low overhead/monthly burn for income/expenses. That had a whole new meaning after March of last year. I feel fortunate to have operated that way professionally and personally which made “weathering the storm” easier. The Boy Scout Motto is “always be prepared”. Nothing like facing true challenges to prove you’re almost there.

I’ve always had a month’s supply of food stored in my house and it served me well after PA’s initial shelter-in-place orders. I don’t imagine the additional lessons I’ve learned amidst the pandemic are terribly different from anyone else’s but I’ll share them just the same.

It taught me to set boundaries, including with family and close friends, when it came to staying safe and keeping my wife and kids safe.

It forced me to figure out how to keep menswear and grooming relevant in a year in which meeting in person hardly happened at all. For this, my timing with Stryx was quite fortuitous: I strongly suspect, although peer-reviewed research hasn’t yet been done, that a great many more men have warmed up to the idea of wearing makeup as a result of having to look good on a screen during a meeting.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Stryx is steadily upwardly mobile. We’ve guaranteed interest with some huge American retailers. As we expand the product line we’re cementing our position as the leading men’s cosmetics line in the US.

The Kavalier is also doing well. When I first launched it, my focus was on clothing, in particular the best brands and the best mindset for men to keep in mind when building their wardrobes. That continues to be my focus. In particular, I like to remind men why it’s important to think of clothing as more of an investment. This is why I avoid trends and cheaper brands and always point them to the select few brands who’ve worked hard to earn my trust. By default, and not intentionally, many of these brands have been DTC and not bricks and mortar (B&M) retailers.

In my opinion, B&M as a whole is dying, especially the brands that can’t offer anything customized or an “experience” that makes the in-person trek worth it. The pandemic obviously hasn’t helped a lot of B&M brands. It’ll be interesting to see whether the return to normalcy that (I hope) isn’t too far off will result in a return to brick-and-mortar retail just because people have been missing doing things in person so much, but I can’t say for sure.

The other aspect of fashion I am very interested in pursuing which goes hand in hand with the “less is more” viewpoint is how much of an impact fashion has on the global economy when it comes to waste and pollution. Fast fashion is what introduced me to better-fitting, nicer clothing but from a sustainability standpoint, it’s terrible. The more I can promote buying fewer nicer items the better it is for so many aspects of how we operate. This is a thread I am pulling on now as I go forward.

I saw years ago that audiences didn’t like sponsorships for videos and I wanted to build a long-term brand with a lot of trusts. I’ll continue to prefer instead to offer my own honest feedback, including when it’s negative, and to compare different and often competing brands in the roundups I do on my channel so often. I imagine this will continue to be my MO as long as the menswear industry continues to be innovative and growing.

Have you read any good books in the last year?

I read and loved James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which I recommend in a recent video detailing my plans for crushing it in 2021. I know how to be productive only I’m rather easily distracted, so I’ve found Clear’s tips on putting systems in place quite helpful in keeping me focused.

I spend what little spare time I have listening to podcasts more often than reading so I can do so while commuting, working out, working on my house, etc. I’ve probably listened to every Ted Talk that’s aired. I quite enjoy The Productivity Show, Thomas Frank and Blamo. And this might also be a good place to plug my own podcast, The Buttoned Up Podcast, that I do with my dear friend Brock McGoff from The Modest Man. We haven’t done a podcast in a while, because of 2020, but we’ve actually just recorded a new one that we plan to release again soon.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Learn to delegate.

Own your personal weaknesses and hire SWANs (Smart, Works hard, Ambitious, Nice. Thank you, Kevin O’Leary) who can make up for them.

Search for a need or a burning problem and try to solve it. This is part of why I think Stryx did so well. Yes, we’re challenging gender paradigms, but in itself, that’s not profitable. We’re also helping men to look their best on screens as a lot more of them need to right now.

Eliminate decision fatigue as much as you can. Automate everything possible, from your bill payment to your schedule. Try to get to the point where you aren’t having to decide what you need to do next.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m always looking for guest writers at the Kavalier. Anyone interested is welcome to email writing samples to my assistant: [email protected]

Plenty of opportunities for collaborations at Stryx, too. Influencers, retailers, and press are especially welcome. Send links & media kit to [email protected] we’re always looking to work with sharp creators.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!