Flip the coin that is Jonathan Jelks and you find on one side a businessman, fiercely committed to improving his city, and on the other a man who loves to talk brand crushes like Ralph Lauren, Moschino, Versace and Gucci. He’s constantly trying to figure out what kind of suit and tie Sean Connery’s James Bond might wear. This comes out in his style: part-street, part-suit, all dashing.
When did style start to mean something to you?
As a kid, I watched hip-hop music evolve from being the hottest new national musical genre to a global phenomenon that influenced how young people talked, walked and communicated. Late ’80s LL Cool J and Eric B. & Rakim album covers come to mind as early style influences.
How did growing in Grand Rapids impact that?
Being stylish and original was a big thing in the Eastown/Baxter neighborhood in the 1990s. There was both prosperity and poverty in my neighborhood growing up, but people always found a way to look spectacular.
Name two style icons.
First, it’s one of the greatest hip-hop musicians of all time: Nas. He has an effortless style. Regardless if he’s at the Met Gala or the MTV awards, his cool remains intact. He can be ostentatious in full-length furs and gaudy gold chains or keep it classic in a tuxedo and a traditional watch with no diamonds. His style will always be definitive and is the epitome of the grown-up version of the hip-hop generation. A very close second is Frank Sinatra. Frank is Frank … always classic, always himself, always his way!
Your personal style is…
Neighborhood Opulence — a blend between streetwear and high fashion that boasts a sense of millennial optimism/entitlement and Generation X’s rebelliousness.
Where are you shopping locally?
My two favorite local fashion spots are All City Kicks on Wealthy Street and A.K. Rikk’s. DENYM on Bridge Street is a great place for jeans and I’m looking forward to checking out the new men’s boutique, Slate, in downtown Grand Rapids.
What’s your day job?
I co-own a few different companies, including GR USA, an apparel company based on hometown spirit, celebrating the culture and history of Grand Rapids. I’m the cofounder and CEO of the Midwest Tech Project, a nonprofit entity developed to create awareness and training and increase diversity within West Michigan’s technology industry. I also co-own Empower Michigan, an urban initiative that focuses on improving inner city neighborhoods and business districts.