The Class Room – Bringing Style to The New Houston
- May 27, 2014
- Written By Timothy Nguyen
The Class Room is a menswear boutique out of Houston, Texas, which stocks brands such as 3sixteen, Rogue Territory, Gitman Vintage, Norse Projects, and APC. Typically constrained to online shopping, I was surprised to find such a well curated store in the Houston area. I feel that trying on and handling pieces in person can make all the difference in a shopping experience, so I was very excited to see the space. After getting to know both the store and its founders, I am consistently impressed with their philosophy and sense of community. I recently had the pleasure to sit down with two of the founders, Jon “Cabby” Caballero and Alan Javillonar, to learn more about The Class Room. Enjoy!
Who are all the founders and what are your roles?
Cabby: The founders are myself Jon “Cabby” Caballero , Alan Javillonar , Paolo Sagullo, Asif Razvi, Justin Mody.
I knew Alan through my cousin Hazel. They were dating back in the day and now they are married. I knew Paolo, Justin and Asif from college. Actually, I’ve known Asif from middle school through high school and college. Myself, Paolo, Justin and Asif all went to UT (hook ‘em).
I am the “Principal” of The Class Room. I’m essentially chief of operations.
Alan is our Style Director and head buyer. He is in charge of all the buying, figuring out what brands and items we will be bringing in, and direction in terms of style as well as how we approach that going forward.
Paolo is our Creative Director and our photographer. All of the images, graphics, store posters, and flyers that you see on our website and social media, that’s mostly Paolo.
Asif is our IT guy and essentially our CIO.
Justin is our finance and business consultant. Currently Justin is located in Singapore, so he’s not as hands on with the day-to-day operations. We include him in all of our email correspondence, especially when it comes to bigger decisions in terms of strategy and our finances. Sometimes when you’re nose deep in the operations, you forget about the big picture. Sometimes you even neglect to look at the numbers to objectively assess the health of the business. Having Justin kind of removed from the day-to-day and having him chime in to look at the big picture helps us stay on track.
Everybody is involved with the decision making process. We normally brainstorm till we get everyone to sign off. Thats how we work.
How did you guys meet?
Alan: I met Cabby through his cousin who I was dating at the time and am now married to. Cabby, Paolo, Asif, and Justin all went to college together and I met them all through Cabby.
What made you want to open a store?
Cabby: Going back to early college years (probably freshman / sophomore year) I always wanted to open a business. That was kind of the seed that was planted in my head.
Around that time I was getting deeper into sneakers and streetwear culture. Back then, there weren’t too many stores in Houston that offered that kind of stuff.
There was only Premium Goods and a couple years later, The Tipping Point. If I remember correctly, at that time Premium and Tipping Point were just sneaker shops. So I thought about opening a sneaker and streetwear shop because I didn’t know of any store in Houston that offered both (this was around 2003, 2004-ish).
After I graduated college in 2007, I moved back to Houston. Over the next 4 years, I started getting older and the streetwear and sneaker game started to change and we just felt like we didn’t really relate to it as much. Our interests started transitioning into “menswear”, but the idea of opening a boutique was still something in mine and Alan’s head. At the time Alan and I we knew each other, but we didn’t hang out all the time. When we saw each other, we would talk about clothes and talk about how each of us wanted to open up a boutique.
So in 2011, I was working in an oil and gas company and an opportunity came to open up our own shop. Basically, the company I was working for got bought out in a merger and I thought I might get laid off. I realized that if I don’t make this store happen now, it’s never going to happen.
So I reached out to my boys Paolo, Asif, and Justin and they were down to be business partners. Then I reached out to Al because he was more knowledgeable about menswear and men’s style, and I felt in order for this menswear shop to succeed we would need Alan.
This was in February/ March of 2011 and by November 2011 we were open.
What was the thought process behind the name “The Class Room”?
Alan: The Class Room was the perfect name for our shop because education is extremely important to us. We wanted The Class Room to be a resource where individuals could share their interests as well as their ideas, that’s why we host events like Our Lecture Series.
“Class Room” is separated into two words because we wanted to place emphasis on “CLASS” as well as being “classy”. Being classy is not about being stuck up. In order to be classy one needs to cultivate respect. That means respect for everyone, including oneself. One should take initiative to be polite to others and to reflect a genuine interest in them, which is why we pride ourselves on our customer service. We believe one should always be confident in themselves and the way they dress. To us, this is CLASS personified.
How do you go about your buy process?
Alan: With extreme caution…but more importantly I make sure I have lots of caffeine and Tylenol readily available.
This changes from year to year, but I typically look through hundreds of lookbooks and put together the buy for Cabby to review. Upon reviewing the buy, we will discuss collectively what has sold well in the past and what we believe the Houston market is ready for.
I’m a little more forward thinking and oftentimes want to push the envelope a little more, but Cabby helps me scale the buy back. He’s in the store the most so he sees what is selling and what guys are wanting and gravitating towards so in essence, he is kind of the “buffer” and bridges the gap between what’s forward thinking and what we believe the customer wants and is ready for here in Houston.
Realistically, there’s no exact science to how we go about our buys for the shop, the bottom line is that I have to trust my instincts and when it’s all said and done just buy what we like, but at the same time be cognizant of our Market and what people in our market are buying.
How has the community responded to you?
Cabby: I think its been a very positive response and I feel very fortunate and humble that we’ve been recieved the way we have.
You know its funny a lot of times guys will come in and get genuinely excited that a store like this exists in Houston and I mean like GENUINELY excited. I mean they will be like “yo, I can’t believe there is a place like this in Houston”. “its so dope”. “Houston needs this” so that really means a lot to us because this is a very personal project and for it to resonate the way it has is very rewarding.
We are very humble and appreciative to be in the industry that we are in. We can only hope to get better and keep doing what we do.
How much have you grown since you opened your doors?
Cabby: I think we understand the retail business better and we understand the Houston market better. We are still learning so I dont want to go into too much detail about how much we have learned because in six to eight to twelve months what I might say would have changed. But I do believe we have learned the business and Houston market a lot better.
Cabby: This is home for us and we felt like this is something that could succeed in Houston.
When we opened in 2011 and a couple years leading up to 2011 and every year since then, Houston has seen a cultural growth. There is a lot more independent businesses that are popping up and there are a lot more cultural things to do in Houston. The environment felt conducive for a business like ours and so we just wanted to be apart of the change in Houston, what I like to call “The New Houston.” *laughs* If you hear that term “The New Houston,” I coined that term, I’m gonna go ahead and put that on record.
We not only wanted to be a part of that, but we wanted to be a leader and an agent of that change as well as be an influencer because we believe in what we do. We believe in ourselves and the direction that we want men’s style to go in is the “proper direction” if that makes sense. If that is eventhe right term. If that is even a thing. We believe we have good taste and if we can help Houston develop their own taste, then we want to be at the forefront at that.
Do you think Houston is working its way to being a more fashion forward city?
Cabby: I definitely do. I think it has a way to go because Houston has yet to develop a unique style. You go to New York and people are dressed like they are from New York. You go to LA and people are dressed like they are from LA. When people come here from those cities you can tell they aren’t really from Houston because they have a distinct style. Of course within those cities there are different subcultures and style but you can still tell their is still that New York, LA or Paris vibe. Houston is not quite there yet.
I believe that interest in fashion and style is now there. I think people are trying to develop their style and fashion. There is a lot of groups and people trying to build up the fashion culture in Houston but we haven’t developed a “Houston style” yet. I think thats just gonna come with time because the interest in style and fashion has to be there first before you can develop anything. You have to generate the interest around it. I think the first step is there and the culture just needs to continue to grow and that will all happen with time.
Right now the fashion people in Houston, whether they realize it or not, are heavily influenced by what is fashionable in New York or LA without adapting it to their personal style and the Houston lifestyle. For example, the New York “ninja goth” thing might work in New York, its edgy, has long flowing and lots layers but in Houston does that really make sense when it is as hot as it is? You can layer clothes and I guess you can wear all black but does that really make sense for Houston? I mean if that fits your lifestyle, thats cool and do you, but there is one thing about being influenced and just straight up copying. There is a fine line between those two things, and at the end of the day it comes down to taste.
I do think Houston is working our way there and its gonna take some time for us to develop our own unique Houston style.
Alan: Yes, but there’s still lots of room for growth. Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither will the style in Houston.
Is there anything unique about Houston that you tailor your model to specifically?
Alan: As far as fashion, things tend to trickle down to Houston at a slower rate. For example, when we opened in 2011 we carried bucket hats and were criticized for them because at the time (in Houston) they were still associated with your dad’s lucky fishing hat and not necessarily something stylish, whereas now (in Houston) they’re more socially acceptable. Having said that, when we review lookbooks/catalogs for our buys we have to be cognizant of the Market as a whole, but at the same time understand that the Houston Market may not be ready for it. Another thing unique about Houston is obviously our weather. For example in spring most of our brands will have light jackets and sweaters in their lookbooks/catalogs. As nice as some of these items may be, they may not work in Houston so that’s something we definitely keep in mind is weather and functionality when we are preparing our buys.
I remember our first year of operation (2011) we posted a pic on our Facebook of Tantum Buckethats and a customer criticized us about us looking like a sports store (Bass Pro Shop/Academy). Nothing against sports stores, but that’s not the look we’re going for.
What are you most excited about in the fashion world right now?
Cabby: This is a hard question to ask because I don’t like “fashion” per se. Fashion is fleeting and things get really trendy and with fashion sometimes really ridiculous things become “fashionable” so that’s a hard question for me to answer. In regards to style though, I like the fact that a lot of guys are taking style more seriously. The mainstream guy is more willing to dress well, to take the time to find what works for him and what he likes. That’s a good thing not just for business but I think its a good thing for guys in general. I think it leads to a well rounded man. Not so much where clothes or appearance is everything, but they do play a role in how people perceive you and conversely, to how people perceive you. It has an effect on how you feel about yourself. There is this dynamic where if you present yourself well, you are received well. You just feel better on the inside and not so much on a vanity tip, but more of a self worth tip.Alan: If I had to choose one thing that excites me about the fashion world right now it’s that people are getting back to the basics. The Basic Tee, the classic white oxford and a great pair of jeans and/or chinos. However, style is what really excites me. While fashion is external, style is internal. I’ve always enjoyed how people could take something so basic and simple and make it their own. Style is very personal and no amount of clothing, professional styling, hair and makeup or money can make a man….a man has to make the clothing.
Is there one brand you hope to bring into the store in the seasons to come?
Cabby: Ooo I can’t tell you that.
Alan: Right now we are focused on growing our relationships with our current brands.
Any closing thoughts for the readers?
Photos courtesy of: Levi Lemaster
For a further look at what The Class Room is about and what they offer please visit their website at
The Class Room
Instagram – Twitter – Facebook
Some more links to follow:
Alan Javillonar – Jon “Cabby” Caballero – Paolo Sagullo
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