Southern Businessmen: A.G. Gaston, My Grandfather, and No Excuse Success + Matching Entrepreneur Style

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Last month my grandfather turned 80. Yep, the big 8-0. *round of applause*. He's the man in The Urban Gentleman classic logo. Georgia born and bred. This Southern Urban Gentleman is still moving the same way he did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, shoot 30+ years ago from my perspective. He owns two businesses and just keeps it moving. The oldest of 8 children and a true pillar, a backbone, in our family. I enjoy talking to him about life, business, and generally any topic at all… 80 years of knowledge will certainly give gold nuggets to those who listen. 

Well, one Sunday dinner, not too long ago, he told us about A.G. Gaston. I, shamefully admit, that I hadn't heard of him, or perhaps I had, but not in any sort of memorable way. Long story short, A.G. Gaston is nothing short of amazing, truly amazing. He was born in Alabama (the super deep south) in 1893, and he was a multi-millionaire. When he passed away in 1996 at 103 years old, his net worth was over $130,000,000. Many think that’s a gross underestimation– it may have been closer to half a billion. So of course, as my grandaddy was sitting their talking and reminiscing about Gaston, to a table full of his grandkids, I had to do a little internet searching (I'm a millennial that's what we do). I discovered a wealth of practical and inspirational information.
 
 
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How To Become a Millionaire by A.G.Gaston

After reading about him, A.G. Gaston became my undisputed truth that anyone, no matter where you’re from, can be successful. I know we ALL already know that anyone can be successful; there’s a plethora of stories about many people from different walks of life and backgrounds who have "made it". However, what I love and admire about Gaston's story was that he made his millions, his tens of millions, hundreds of millions staying right at home in Alabama, USA. He didn't move to New York or California or another country, like so many of us feel we need to do. Not only that, he made those millions while living in one of the most dangerous places for a person of color to live in those days— the Deep South. Literally, hate spiraled around like a constant tornado, weak devilish people were burning down homes, businesses, families, and friends (yes actual humans were being tortured and killed just for the color of their skin… so insane, so shameful). He was born during a time when lynching innocent Americans was normal and common in places like Alabama. Nevertheless, this man didn’t let that phase him— he was focused, determined, and had a plan. His entrepreneurial journey is an interesting one.
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A.G. Gaston and one of his business associates

Since learning about him from my 80 year old grandfather, I’ve found myself using A.G. Gaston as an example at every relevant opportunity. I notice that people like to play victim a lot, especially when it comes to their lack of success. They blame other people, they blame social factors, it’s a lot of pointing fingers outwardly. So a few weeks ago, when a friend and associate began focusing on negative outside factors as the cause of a family member's and childhood friend's lack of success– I pulled the Gaston card. I politely said, "I feel ya, I genuinely do, but I mean A.G. Gaston was born in 1893 in Alabama and he became a millionaire IN A-la-ba-ma bro. He made honest millions during a time when upstanding good Americans were constantly in fear of their lives and didn't have basic human rights. " Then I just let the statement hang in the air for awhile, let them soak up my words, lol. I expounded a bit more and both friends came to agree that usually the only person stopping a person from being a success is themselves. (I know there are many exceptions to this rule). Sometimes, you have to play the A.G.Gaston card… that’s a thing now, it’s a card I use, I suggest you put it in your deck too, lol.

All jokes aside, I’m humbly honored to be shining a lil’ bit of light on this American Business Pioneer. In more ways than one you could say he funded large portions of the Civil Rights Movement. He played a monumental background role. See, there’s more ways than one to create progress and generate change— being a successful honest hard-working business person is one. Read his book, Black Titan, HERE.

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A.G.Gaston Bank, Insurance Company, Business College, and Investment Company in one building

To honor these two great men, both my grandfather and American Business Titan A.G. Gaston, I of course have to create a couple looks for y'all, I’m a stylist, it’s what I do, lol.

A Stylish Budget-Friendly Suit
 
A.G. Gaston wasn’t one to flaunt his wealth, in fact, when a kid came up to Gaston and told him, 'I want to be rich too, so I can have a Cadillac like you', he stopped driving the Cadillac that very day. Gaston didn’t want “stuff" to be the sole reason someone wanted to be financially wealthy. This translates into a TUG Style Look Book that’s not filled with those beautiful Canali suits and wonderful Ferragamos we love, sorry fellas. Instead, I’ve searched for suits and dress shoes for the frugal or up-and-coming entrepreneur— it's important to pinch pennies in the very beginning. These looks won’t break your bank account, but will still give you a respectable and tasteful style. Suits from $150 to $300, Dress Shoes from $32 to $120, and Watches from $40 to $65.

press the light grey arrow above to scroll through 2 more pages of looks

A Classic Country Gentleman
 
My grandfather Robert, is a simple, clean, always put together southern businessman. In contrast to Gaston my grandfather’s businesses don't require a daily suit. So his style uniform has generally revolved around denim, hats, and a nice pair of boots. He dresses up of course on Sundays and for special occasions, but I’ll focus on his casual southern gent style for this look book.
 

press the light grey arrow above to scroll through 2 more pages of looks
 
 
Gaston Images via Ebony Magazine

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