At 29, Jim Chapman has established himself as one of the world’s biggest digital stars. I caught up with the YouTube sensation and GQ writer to discuss the evolution of his career and becoming a leading face in men’s fashion.
I’ve been sat for quite some time looking through Jim Chapman’s YouTube channel. In the space of an hour, he’s taught me how to make an Old Fashioned, shown me his monthly favourites, done a HITT work out with The Body Coach (Joe Wicks) and taken me behind the scenes at London Fashion Week. This is just a fragment of his life, yet it’s enough of an insight into the life of a digital star.
You may be reading this and wondering who these people are, so, let me give you the low-down. Jim is one of the world’s biggest YouTube creators; for the past seven years, he’s posted a video every week on his channel to share with his audience. Something that started off as simply a hobby while trying to figure out what he wanted to do after graduating from university with a degree in Psychology, turned into a full-time job.
The digital world has been a part of Jim’s life since he was 22, when his then-partner Tanya Burr, uploaded a video to her channel where she transformed him into Twilight’s Edward Cullen back in 2009. “I don’t think I said a word in that video,” Jim says with a laugh. “I remember her coaxing me into it and I said to her I’ll be on it, but there’s no way I’m talking.”
Little did he know that his albeit incredibly shy appearance on Tanya’s channel would be the trigger to him launching his very own. “When I first started doing it I was the best of a bad bunch, there weren’t a lot of people doing vlogs,” Jim says of the early stages of his career. Does he look back at his old videos? “No, no way,” he laughs, “I’ve grown; I started doing this when I was 22 and if you watch my videos chronologically you can actually see me grow up and my life change.”
I ask Jim if he’s ever felt pressure to adapt his content to keep his audience happy. “I did,” he says with a slight severity, “and then I just decided not to.” With an audience that ranges from teenagers to readers of GQ Magazine, Jim’s content has evolved over the years, and he’s now discovered what he described as a “happy medium.”
“There was a time where I kept thinking, ‘I need to do these things to keep the younger ones happy, but then I need to do this because that’s what I actually want to talk about’. It just got to the point where I told myself ‘this is my channel and I need to start creating things that I really want to do.’”
One thing that strikes me about Jim is just how down to earth he is. While many consider him as a celebrity, the reality is he’s just a super-friendly guy who happens to share his life on the internet. Did he ever think that posting videos of his day-to-day life would turn into this? The answer? No. “I didn’t have an inkling,” he says with a hint of excitement running through his voice, “I just did it because I wanted to communicate and connect with people.”
In a time where anyone who has a camera, smartphone and a good internet connection can upload a video to YouTube, viewers may believe that building a social media empire is easy, but Jim’s success didn’t just happen overnight.
“All they see is the final product, which is my five-minute video or something similar, they don’t realise what goes into it and the videos are all a bit of an illusion. There are so many people who want to do what myself, Tanya (Burr), Marcus (Butler) and the latter are doing, but actually, I don’t think they realise quite what goes into it.”
Regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, someone, somewhere will be listening or watching my content.
Earlier this year, Jim called time on his second channel Everyday Jim, where he posted videos documenting his day to day life. “Daily vlogging is great if you do really fun stuff every day because you can take your audience on that journey. The reality for me was that I was just sat in my office writing or hosting something that I couldn’t talk about and share, and the stuff that I could share was just a bit dull.
“I was just filming the same thing day in and day out. When you look at someone like Alfie Deyes who’s daily vlogging, he does a lot of really fun stuff which is amazing, but it didn’t suit my lifestyle anymore, it just became another thing to stress about on top of everything else. Having to film and edit every day was a lot to maintain.”
Jim’s ascent to a rocketing social career is something that can’t go unnoticed. It’s provided him with opportunities one could only dream of, allowing him to work alongside some of the world’s biggest brands – Burberry, John Lewis and Jaguar Cars, to name a few. But with all these highs, which Jim tells me countless times he’s been incredibly fortunate to have come his way, come some lows.
“The hate always speaks louder,” he says. “You can read 100 nice comments but the negative one will always stick with you. I actually really like good hate now, I make videos dedicated to it; I’ll sift through some hateful comments and react to them because sometimes I think people deserve credit for coming up with something that’s so original,” he laughs.
Jim admits that YouTube is just a very small part of his job these days, with so many opportunities coming his way he’s having to turn them down, but I’m keen to know if it ever becomes too much to handle. “I don’t really have time to myself or with my wife and dog and I think that’s the hardest bit, but I love what I do it’s such a cool thing, I’m very fortunate.”
It’s not easy for Jim to just step away from social media. Opening Instagram on my phone, his face pops up on my story timeline, where he’s spending a few days away with his wife. Flicking over to Twitter, he’s telling his followers about the release of his book, 147 Things.
“I have been told to step away from social media in the past because I get too carried away and people tell me to relax. It’s nice to be able to disconnect for a few days when I can. You don’t realise how amazing it is to take a break from it until you actually do it. My job is 24-seven, so regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, someone, somewhere will be listening or watching my content.”
With a close-knit group of digital creator friends and family – his sisters, Sam and Nic run a channel called Pixiwoo and are the creators of beauty brand Real Techniques, while his twin brother John is one half of The Lean Machines, a personal training channel he co-runs with his friend Leon – Jim is surrounded by people who are able to understand every aspect of his career, but he tells me that when they do see each other, the last thing they normally want to discuss is work.
“It’s great if you do want to have that conversation, it’s lovely to talk to people who know what you’re going through, but most of the time all we want to do is talk about something else,” he explains. Equally though, telling someone with a regular job that he’s having a bad day isn’t always the easiest. “People who don’t understand what I do will say to me, ‘mate, you’ve got a really calm existence and I’ve been stuck in an office all day,’ so it’s nice that I have my friends who understand when I do have something I need to talk about.”
I feel really privileged to be a part of the industry, it’s quite a tough nut to crack.
No longer just a familiar face on the internet, Jim’s become a popular name in the world of fashion. After being named GQ’s Best Dressed of the Week a few of years ago, he met with its fashion editor, Nick Carvell, and became a contributing editor shortly after.
“Writing for GQ is something that I will always be proud of, it’s like the Holy Grail to me,” he beams. “I feel really privileged to be a part of the industry, it’s quite a tough nut to crack. I didn’t expect to be accepted so well, but I’ve been very open and honest about it from the beginning.”
But writing for GQ was just the tip of the iceberg. Back in January, Jim walked for Dolce and Gabbana alongside other digital creators. “I don’t know whether it was just me being a bit over-confident, but I just saw it as walking and I’ve been doing that since I was two,” he jokes of his catwalk debut. “You do get a really big buzz from doing it because even though it’s just walking, you have to make sure that your posture’s right, you’ve got 200 people just sat staring at you.”
His fashion sense has seen him recognised not only as GQ’s Best Dressed of the Week, but also Best Dressed of the Year on numerous occasions. But when it comes to his personal style, Jim likes to keep things classic. “I have rules that I stick to; I want to maintain a masculine silhouette and I want everything to look like it fits well, from there I can chop and change it to suit.
“People tend to like my general look because it’s not overthought, it’s kind of easy and anyone can do it. Once you know the rules of your body shape you can take what I do and make it work for you.”
When it comes to building a wardrobe, for Jim, it’s all about staple pieces and investment. “I have lots of pairs of basic trousers, jeans, jumpers and shirts which I mix and match in various ways and the odd statement piece that makes a bit of a difference.
“Clothing is all about cost per wear. Whether it be £500 or £5, if it becomes something that you wear as a staple and it’s in your wardrobe for years, then you’re going to get your money’s worth out of it,” Jim explains.
“I don’t really condone fast-fashion because I feel like it’s terrible for the environment, it’s terrible for the people who produce the clothing and it encourages people to buy something, wear it a couple of times and then bin it if they find it doesn’t wash or fit very well.
Once you know the rules of your body shape you can take what I do and make it work for you.
“I’m all about buying quality over quantity and then just using it as many ways as I can. It’s a bit like an investment and I think that’s where basics come in, especially when it’s something seasonal like a current loud jacket, which is great, but what are you going to do with it next year?”
Alongside running his channel and presenting, Jim recently released his debut book 147 Things. When I ask Jim to describe what the book’s about, he ponders for a second before letting out a slight laugh. “It’s about the inner workings of my brain,” he says. “Everything in it has a purpose which is aimed to give the reader a perspective of their lives so they know that all these things happen to you everything’s going to be ok.”
“It ranges from what would happen if you found yourself in outer space or you can learn something that I’ve experienced in my life such as a family member passing away. To me, I just find it really beneficial to know a lot of different things and I’m hoping people might feel the same when they read it.”
Someone that’s truly grateful for everything that’s come his way, Jim’s respect for his viewers and the digital community is something that’s brought him a long way in his career, and there are no signs of him letting the fame go to his head anytime soon.
“I try to take it all in my stride,” he says with a slight chuckle, “but if I ever do take a moment where I think ‘wow, that was amazing, I really appreciate that I was able to be a part of that situation,’ straight after that comes the fear of thinking that it’s all going to come crashing down. I try not to overthink or overcomplicate anything, I tend to just go with it.”
That sounds like a smart idea to me, Jim and I’m pretty sure millions of people agree.