It was a warm afternoon in New York City. The sun was beaming down on the Flatiron District, crowds were rushing in and out, and the traffic was chaotic, as usual. Suddenly everything stopped, a mint silhouette began approaching uptown bound from 22nd street along Broadway, and everyone stared in awe. It was Diego Leon, also known as Dandy In The Bronx, embracing the seamlessly perfect look of a modern gentleman who was ready for another day in Manhattan, without a single drop of sweat on his forehead.
He was looking as timelessly classic as ever in a two-piece suit from INC, and a denim button-up shirt by Boohoo, accessorized with a chocolate polka-dotted pocket square from Weekend Casual and a Timex watch.
Eager to find out what Leon’s experience had been like as the author and blogger behind the influential Instagram account and blog, Life of Leo was there, and while sipping on coffee, the Bronx native threw it back to a couple of years ago, when it all began as a simple desire to share his taste for suits and formalwear on Instagram. Little did he know, his desire would eventually grow into a beacon of hope for stylish guys and fashion enthusiasts not only in the city, but also in places that were not necessarily known for fashion, like underground restaurants and bars, where Leon unexpectedly met hist first dandy, Nathaniel Adams, a fashion journalist and chiptune music performer.
“I would go to these electronic music shows, and there he was in a full suit. It blew my mind,” Leon recalls. “I knew I wanted to dress well. But man, I wanted to get to his level, that dandy level. No matter what condition, no matter what it was. I wanted to go to these shows while still looking fly, and I wanted to encapsulate that and bring it back to the Bronx because that’s where I’m from, I was raised there. That’s what I wanted it to be, that’s what I wanted to represent, so I created Dandy In The bronx.”
In a borough where most men embrace streetwear, and where some wouldn’t dare mess with the status quo, the menswear blogger still managed to incorporate what he would then call the “church Sunday swagger” into his daily routine. He used his Instagram account and Website as platforms to consistently post pictures and content about his take on dandyism and his daily outfits, which after 7 months earned him the respect and recognition of not only locals, but people from all over the world who would follow him, seeking inspiration.
“At first I was, like, ‘If I did this, would people make fun of me?’” he admits. “But that didn’t happen. It wasn’t weird at all, I’ve only heard positive things, and now when I go to certain restaurants in the Bronx, people will recognize me, and ask me to check out what they’re wearing. I’m glad they are noticing my work and actually applying it to their lives, because at the end of the day I’m not just some vain Instagrammer posting selfies. I actually want to share the style knowledge.”
Ironically, it was in Manhattan where Leon once got negative feedback after he began to dress like a dandy everywhere he went. He remembers the time he went to a bar, and while trying to get a drink, a guy went up him, patronized him and questioned his elegant ways, to which he candidly replied “this is what I like to do, this is the way I like to dress.” The awkward encounter strengthened Leon’s identity even more, which is why he encourages people to dress only for themselves because, according to him, if they are comfortable and confident in the clothes they wear, this will ultimately make them happy, regardless of where they’re from, where they live, and what people might say.
“If you’re wearing a suit, and you’re going to the Bronx, just feel a hundred percent, because the way you present yourself is the way people will treat you,” he clarifies. “The way I dress brings up my own confidence, and that resonates with other people, and thus they treat me with the respect for which I’m asking.”
It wasn’t long before Leon went on to attend events he’d seen being promoted on social media, which prompted him to go and meet “like-minded people.” Those same events helped him further establish himself as a menswear blogger, and almost simultaneously, he also began receiving direct messages on Instagram from sponsoring menswear brands and labels that complimented him on his style and offered to collaborate with him on style projects.
“One of the first bloggers I ever met in my life was Sara Geffrard, from ‘A Dapper Chick.’ We were both at a GQ x Bloomingdales event, we were both dressed up, and we didn’t know what to do because it was the first event we’d ever gone to,” he laughs. “We were, like, ‘do we talk to people?’ But we got to know each other, we got the courage to talk to the blogger hosts, and from there I knew who she was, she knew who I was. We started going to more events, people would recognize me and say, ‘oh, you’re Dandy In The Bronx! I like your stuff!’ and that’s when I realized, ‘oh snap, I exist!’”
Whether it’s to get to work, to go out on the town, to shoot content, or to attend his fashion-related gatherings, Leon takes the MTA 6 train everywhere he goes. He considers it his “connection to everything” and his “bridge.” It inspired the logo behind his brand, and it is an example of his devotion to his home borough, which he continues to represent with dandyism and humor. But regardless of where the train takes the menswear blogger, he still uses his platform to show his 35.8K followers where where he is from, and the exciting things happening there.
“I’m just Dandy from the block, I used to have a little, now I have a lot. No matter where I go, I know where I came from: the Bronx,” he jokes, partially quoting lyrics from the famous song by singer Jennifer Lopez. “I’ll be dressed up in a suit, but I’ll go to Mott Haven Bar & Grill and have drinks there, I’m gonna have brunch at Charlie’s Bar, and then I’m gonna have some Italian food in Arthur Avenue, but still dressing this way. I want my audience to know that they can also do that, no matter where they’re from or where they go. They should never be afraid or intimidated.”
When asked about his interactions and collaborations with fellow bloggers, and how he feels he fits in with them, Leon explains that in the end it’s all about putting outfits together and feeling good about them.
“I like to think that our bodies are almost like our canvases, and we’re artists who paint them with clothes, even though we use different brushes.” he says, “My brushes are suits, maybe their brushes are leather. But whatever their style may be, I just end up gaining more knowledge from them. I look at them and think ‘how can I fit this into my style and how do I rock it?’ and I’m hoping, too, that they see my style and maybe throw in a tie or a pocket square there somewhere.”
Leon encourages new potential bloggers to follow his example, and to keep up with him on social media. He emphasizes that it’s crucial to find a topic to consistently post about, because according to him, “if they don’t post, they don’t exist.” Engaging with their audience and fellow bloggers is part of his recommendation as well, as is remaining humble along their journey as menswear bloggers.