Habilitate Talks to Kyle Snarr

Kyle Snarr wearing a green shirt and cap

When I started getting into watches in earnest, one of the first people I discovered online who shared a similar interest was Kyle Snarr, who you might know as @kyality on Instagram. 

Kyle’s impressive résumé includes being Head of Partnerships at Worn & Wound, confounding the brand Cantonment, and working with platforms like Vox, The Verge, Flipboard, Field Mag, and Gear Patrol, while acting as a brand consultant for the likes of Adidas, PepsiCo, Topo Designs, Porsche, BMW, and MINI. 

In addition to these professional achievements, Kyle, who lives with his family outside of New York City, boasts an equally prolific list of personal interests, including camping, cars, gear, design, movies, and, not least of all, watches and clothing. I was particularly excited to talk to him about the latter two and was thrilled when he agreed to chat to me for this. But since I’m mindful that Kyle does a far better job at elucidating his many interests than I can, without further ado, here is the man himself:

Hi Kyle, I want to start off by talking about watches, beginning with your involvement with Worn & Wound. How long have you been working at Worn & Wound and what does your job entail?

Thank you so much for chatting with me. I’m a big fan of everything you cover and curate on Habilitate. So yeah, I’m Kyle Snarr, Head of Partnerships at Worn & Wound and a co-founder of the accessory brand Cantonment. I was a longtime reader of Worn & Wound and was fortunate to partner with them on a couple of projects back in 2019 while I was Head of Marketing at Gear Patrol. 

I began consulting for them in fall of 2021 and was hired full-time in May of 2022. As Head of Partnerships, my job is to help brands create relevant ways to engage with the platform’s savvy, enthusiastic audience in the form of authentic-feeling sponsorships, original branded content, and live events. It’s an amazing team and I feel fortunate everyday to work with them.

Kyle Snarr wearing a blue jacket and maroon beanie

How did you first get interested in watches?

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always paid a lot of attention to the objects he carries with him each day. He’d carefully pair his wallet, pocket knife and handkerchief, with an Ace ‘Hard-Rubber’ comb and, of course, his automatic watch (a Rado Starliner 999 that he recently gifted me). So when I got my first watch as a third grader, it was a big deal. Since then, I’ve always had a watch on my wrist that I’ve put a lot of care and attention into selecting. 

In 2012, coincidentally right around the time when Worn & Wound was getting its start, I was running business development at a digital agency in Salt Lake City, Utah. We had the chance to pitch the Swiss luxury watch brand Roger Dubuis on a new website. As I began researching for that pitch, I was exposed to the world of watches in a new light and began to understand there was so much more to the hobby than simply accessorizing a watch with my wardrobe, which I still love to do. We fortunately won that job and in the process I became a daily reader of Worn & Wound, where I’d eventually land 10 years later. 

In terms of your personal collection, what goes into you deciding to buy a particular watch? Do you have a favourite among the ones you own?

I definitely fall more into what most would consider the ‘tool watch’ side of the watch world. I have several dive watches, but it’s the simplicity and #campvibes of a basic field watch that scratches that itch for me most frequently. I still have a soft spot for Seikos, but I was fortunate to pick up a Tudor Black Bay 36 with a blue dial (ref. 79500), prior to them modifying the case to be a bit more dressy. What I love about this watch is that it perfectly blends the instant legibility of a dive watch, with the paired-down minimalism of a field watch. It is the definitive go-anywhere, do-anything daily driver.

Are there any watch brands you’re particularly interested in at the moment?

As part of my role at Worn & Wound, I’m responsible for helping find new brands to participate in the Windup Watch Fair we hold three times a year. At last year’s Windup NYC, there’s no doubt that the striking dial design of Serica’s new GMT stole the show. 

I’m a big fan of those too. Given that you’ve worked with a bunch of different brands and organisations over the years, what do you think it is that distinguishes a great brand from its competitors?

I’ve always said that consistency has an exponential effect on a brand’s impact. The more consistent and true a brand can be to its own DNA, the more established it reads in the mind of a consumer. If that DNA can be felt through every interaction with your customers, from your digital experience, to your packaging, to your hold music, then a 5 year-old brand can read as a 20 year-old one to your customers. Some companies that I think do this extremely well are: Topo Designs, Farer, and The James Brand.

Kyle Snarr wearing a green jacket, hat and kerchief

That’s a great point. I know you also co-founded your own line of accessories called Cantonment. How did that come about and what were you looking to create with your own brand?

I have a close childhood friend who’s a wiz at product development. He reached out to me about creating a product together back in 2016. He wanted to start with soft goods that didn’t require carrying multiple sizes. At the time, I was commuting through Grand Central Terminal and walking from there to my office several blocks away in the heat of summer. I couldn’t stand sweating on my collars and happened to be on the hunt for the ideal bandana to tie around my neck. I was struggling to find one that was neither too big nor too small and was made from a material that was both absorbent and refined. So we decided to make this quest. 

We spent the next four years iterating on sizing and materials until we found the ideal combo. We named our little brand Cantonment after a park in our childhood town and launched our flagship product simply called the Kerchief in 2020. We’re so grateful for all the passionate members of the Cantonment community, folks who have made our Kerchief an essential part of their everyday carry.  

Among your many interests, I know you’re an avowed automobile enthusiast. Firstly, I’m curious what single car you would buy if price and practicality weren’t a consideration? 

I’m a wagon guy through and through. I also grew up in a bit of a BMW household. So if price wasn’t a concern, I still wouldn’t sacrifice practicality and would definitely go for the brand new ///M3 Competition Touring. I know it’s only available in Europe, yet there’s something about that roofline that just checks all the boxes for me. Wagons are the true sport utility vehicles, with emphasis on the ‘sport’ in terms of this particular ///M Division variant.

Secondly, I’ve found an interest in watches and cars often seem to go hand-in-hand. Do you have any theories as to why these two passions so regularly intersect?

There’s most definitely a shared fascination when it comes to cars and watches. In 2014, I moved from Salt Lake City back to New York, where I grew up. Here, I went from driving a sporty little hatch each day to taking the train. All of the sudden, the mechanical thing that embodied my personal brand and style was in the garage—and watches came to replace it as the new mechanical objects I could rely on day-to-day to represent my aesthetic.

You’re also a gearhead and design buff—is there a bit of kit that you’ve found recently that you’re particularly keen on?

Yeah, you figured me out. I’m always on the hunt for new additions to my kit. A recent trip to Iceland left me in search of a light weight, but durable optics solution. I took my classic pair of Bushnell binocs, but they were heavy and I was constantly worrying about them. I’d heard of Nocs Provisions and their colorful, waterproof binoculars, but didn’t realize until recently that they have a monocular solution as well. As soon as I laid eyes on the green colorway of their Zoom Tube 32mm, I knew it was precisely the piece of kit I was seeking.

I love its design. Its textured, rubberized housing is grippy in hand and the overall sizing makes it insanely stashable. Not to mention it features a tripod mounting point, which means it’s infinitely compatible with all sorts of carry and stabilization solutions. There’s no case needed, no eye cup protectors included—it’s no fuss magnification in a stylish, yet rugged package.

Kyle Snarr wearing a short sleeve sweatshirt

To turn to clothing for a minute, is there anything from your personal wardrobe you would recommend people check out?

I think so! I’ve recently stumbled onto short-sleeved sweatshirts. They are this weird weather life hack. They’re so great for those days, primarily in the spring and fall, that just can’t seem to figure out whether they’re hot or cold. But I kind of also just want to wear them everyday. If I ever went the Steve Jobs uniform route, a grey short-sleeved sweatshirt would be my equivalent to his black mock turtleneck. 

I’ve been wanting to try those out myself, actually. Also, do you have a favourite spot to go looking for clothes around New York?

One of the best personal shopping experiences I’ve had in NYC was at the Filson Flagship Store. The staff there is so in tune with how their classic lines of apparel and accessories can be styled in a current way. I was recently on the hunt for a midweight layer. I described what I was looking for to one of the staffers, and they instantly pointed me in the direction of one of their plaid shackets. Now it’s a staple of my wardrobe.

I enjoyed listening to your appearance on the Worn & Wound Time on Screen podcast where you discuss your favourite movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. You talk a lot about the watches in the film and also mention Wes Anderson’s attention to detail when it comes to the costuming. It got me wondering: Do you have a favourite outfit from Life Aquatic?

Ha! Nice. Well, thank you so much for listening. I’m a huge movie buff and more than anything, I love how wardrobe and prop choices can bring so much backstory to the table. I’ve always enjoyed how each member of Team Zissou has their own riff on the basic uniform. Recently, I’ve been geeking out on the way Klaus Daimler, played by Willem Dafoe, implements his uniform. His look is totally distinct from the rest of the crew. He goes with a turtleneck in that classic Zissou blue, with shorts, and a shallow red beanie with a pom pom. And I just learned that even his Vostok Amphibia watch has a different dial than the rest of the team, fun little fact.

That’s a great shout. Finally, do you have any advice around developing a personal style?

No matter how hard I try to look effortless, I never do. I’ve realized that I can’t not care about what I wear. So what if your style looks effortful instead? I’ve determined to just go ahead and be intentional in my wardrobe, to care all the way down to the most minute detail. Yes, I want the dial of my watch to sync with my shoelaces. Try-hard is the new effortless.

Kyle Snarr wearing a blue jacket, shirt and cap

All images courtesy of Kyle Snarr