John Legend is a lucky man. His smooth and soulful pipes have earned him nine Grammys; his supermodel wife, Chrissy Teigen, is both hilarious and sexy; and he’s about to start the biggest year of his career with a performance at this weekend’s Super Bowl. Oh—and a possible Academy Award for his Selma song, Glory, with Common.
To tap into some of that swagger (and style—he rarely makes a misstep on the red carpet), we asked the musician of the hour for his rules on love, looking good, and making a mark.
1. Find an Amazing Mentor
“Kanye helped to get me where I am right now,” Legend said over the phone this past week. “He signed me to his production company when I was a young artist looking to be heard, and sometimes you need that leap moment.” He’s giving back by teaming up with the Axe White Label Collective, a new music and style mentorship program. Artists can submit YouTube videos for the opportunity to work with Legend and perform at this year’s South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.
2. The Perfect Shave Is No Shave
It doesn’t matter how formal the event, Legend leaves his second-day scruff where it’s at. “I don’t like to shave too much. My life is permanently a five o’clock shadow.” (Note: This works only when your hair’s not a mess and your outfit’s sharp.)
3. But Still Take Care of Your Skin
Sorry, guys, a beard doesn’t excuse you from basic hygiene. “My grooming regimen isn’t too complicated, but I like to cleanse my face and make sure it’s moisturized. I usually put on some cologne just to feel a little more confident before walking out the door.”
4. Fit Is Everything
“My parents are both tailors. My dad actually has his own hat company called Popz Topz. He has always liked to make his own clothes, or even when he buys them he’ll customize them for himself. So I grew up in a family that was into looking good and being well tailored.”
5. Start With a White Shirt
The most simple strategy for getting ready: “Before awards shows, I stand in front of a mirror with a white shirt on and try on every jacket that my stylist brings in. We see which one makes me look the best, and then we just build the outfit off of that.”
6. Get a Second Opinion
Supermodel or not, the female in your life can be trusted for an honest fashion opinion. “Chrissy and I give each other style input. You know you want to look great, so she’ll ask me what I think about an outfit and I’ll give her my opinion.”
7. Prioritize Her
Piano skills and a dedicated hit song will take you only so far with women. Really. “First of all, you have to be with someone you really care about, someone you care about making happy. And then you’ve got to put some time in, be creative, be thoughtful, understand what they like and what they don’t like.”
8. When All Else Fails, Cook for Her
“Sometimes I make dinner for Chrissy. I surprised her with lamb chops the other day, that was good.” (Legend’s wife is the master cook in the relationship. Check out some of her mouthwatering posts on Instagram and try to not hate the man.)
9. Travel Light (and Strategically)
“When I’m on the road, sometimes it’s for so long that I have to take whatever I can fit into two bags. I keep a lot of basics, like nice jeans and black T-shirts, and then try to pack as many sweaters, cardigans, and jackets so each outfit can have its own flair.”
10. Nice Doesn’t Have to Mean Stuffy
“The designer for our New York apartment is the same guy we used in Los Angeles. We wanted some of the same energy. It’s a good combination of a more vintage and rustic vibe that’s still refined. We like that balance—it should feel homey and comfortable but also luxurious.” (Take a peek at their Manhattan apartment here for major design inspiration.)
Kristen Dold is a freelance grooming and lifestyle writer based in Chicago. Follow her onkristendold.com.
Credits: Photographer: Alessio Botticelli/GC Images