Varnell Bien-Aime, 36, grew up in Westbury, N.Y. He earned a B.A. in ministry at the Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia, and a B.S. in management from UNC Charlotte. He is a financial services professional at HF Financial. He also teaches evangelism and Bible study at Restoration Ministries Church of God in Christ. Varnell lives in Charlotte with his wife, Alisha, and children Niccolaz, Nyjhol and Nyomi.
Q. Are your parents stylish?
A. My dad was. He died when I was 9. But people would tell me, ‘You are just like your dad.’ It makes me feel good, because there is a part of him I am walking out.
Q. How do you dress on a lazy day?
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A. I don’t actually have lazy days. To put it in perspective, I maybe have two pairs of jeans.
Q. When did you start coordinating your outfits?
A. I went to private school all my life. We wore blazers and slacks. That influence stayed on me when I got out, so I knew how to wear a suit. I knew how to tie a tie. I knew to make sure shoes were polished.
Q. Do you buy off the rack?
A. In the beginning. If you are a young professional, it might not make sense to buy a $1,500 suit. You can make a suit look like a $1,500 suit with the right accessories, and if you get it cut. It’s what you do until you get to reward yourself, until you can afford one that fits like a glove.
Q. Who is your clothier?
A. Persona. They do everything from jackets to ties to shoes to four-piece suits.
Q. What does style mean to you?
A. It’s your opportunity to express your individuality. So style can never be wrong. There are times it can be inappropriate, but if it is your style, it is your style.
Q. How does your sense of style help you do your job?
A. It gives me a sense of confidence. If it’s a busy day, and I’m meeting a lot of clients, or I have to give a presentation, then I’ll wear a power suit, and that confidence exudes itself throughout the conversation. As (HF sales manager) Ryan Marsh says, the most important thing is attitude. Your attitude dictates your altitude.
Q. In what way?
A. In “A Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl wrote that the greatest opportunity we have is to choose how we are going to act in a certain set of circumstances. Every morning I have to choose: Am I going to win today? To ensure I have the right attitude, I’m going to put on something that makes me feel good.
Q. Do you wear a watch?
A. I have a serious watch fetish. It’s a guilty pleasure. I love the pocket watch. I love the chronograph, so if you don’t wear it for three days it will stop, and you have to shake it or wind it up. You can see all the moveable pieces.
Q. Tell me about your shoes.
A. I don’t cut corners on shoes. I’ve had these (Dolce & Gabbana) since 1998. I paid a lot for them, but you get what you pay for. Take care of it, get it re-polished and get it re-soled.
Q. What’s next on your list to buy?
A. A Montblanc pen, the StarWalker in Midnight Black. I won’t get it unless I hit certain numbers. It will be celebrating achieving a certain benchmark, so every time I look at it I will know that working hard pays off.
Q. Do you have any particular fashion quirks?
A. I’m not into linen in the fall, or wool in the summer. Or dirty shoes. You might step in some mud, but it shouldn’t still be there two days later.
Q. What’s your favorite breakfast?
A. I am a Frosted Flakes and Fruity Pebbles kind of guy. Cap’n Crunch with the Crunchberries.
Q. Where do you find inspiration?
A. My inspiration is 100 percent from the Bible. I have a Christian worldview. I believe that success is a journey, not a destination.
Q. What’s a luxurious way to spend your weekend?
A. I love the water. We can go to Lake Norman and either rent a boat or get on the Catawba Queen and take the dinner cruise.
Q. What’s your favorite comfort food?
A. I could eat rice every day. I am still that type of guy who will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and call it a day.
Q. What can’t you believe you once wore?
A. It was in style at the time. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had a pair of MC Hammer pants.