Style in Real Life: Adam Quirk of Cardinal Spirits

Style in Real Life: Adam Quirk of Cardinal Spirits

This distillery founder and family man shares his style
adam quirk, cardinal spirits, hush puppies

By Megan Collins | Last Updated: Mar 7 2023 | 12 min read

Adam Quirk loves a good cocktail. So much, in fact, that the Evansville, Indiana native left a career as a developer in New York City to move to Bloomington and start Cardinal Spirits, the city’s first craft distillery.

Making fine Indiana whiskey, vodka, gin, and liqueurs, Cardinal’s mission is a lofty one – the company wants to to increase connections between people. “Discussing things over a drink is usually a great way to have difficult conversations, and to celebrate big moments in life.”

I asked his wife – fashion blogger and former Style Girlfriend “What A Woman Wants” contributor! – Jessica, to get the down low from Adam on his style.

adam quirk

Alright Adam, today we’re going to talk about your personal style, so let’s start at the beginning. I know I’ve heard stories about a certain sweatshirt… How did you dress as a kid?

Well, in grade school, college sweatshirts were really popular – just like a plain white or gray sweatshirt with the name of a college arched across the front. And they all looked fairly expensive, but then I found one at Marshall’s with my mom and it said Miami, and I actually never even… I didn’t know there was a college in Miami, but it had orange and green lettering, so I wore that to school and felt pretty cool.

(ed. note: I had a Florida baseball hat for the same reason – found it on sale and liked the colors. Fashion!!)

You were in high school in the late 90’s, what did a typical Saturday look like for you?

Yeah, I’d say  7th 8th and 9th grade, I was really into grunge. We didn’t call it that at the time; we just dressed terribly.

I would go to Goodwill after school with my friends, maybe once a week, buy really old-looking old man trousers, cut them off right below the knee, rip them up, and then we would ride around town on our mongoose (bikes) and jump on stuff.

But you had to wear uniforms at Catholic school?

Yeah, I did.

Do you think that influenced your 180-degree style attitude – shopping at Goodwill, looking grungy, or do you think that was just a sign of the times?

A little of both probably. I did try to dress a bit differently at school, too, but that just meant wearing a Beatles “Yellow Submarine” tie instead of standard red plaid.

I tell people never to wear wacky ties; would you advise anyone to wear a Beatles “Yellow Submarine” tie now?

I would say if you’re a professor of Beatles history at a terrible school, yeah. Go for it.

When I met you, you had long curly hair, believe it or not –

I would call it wavy.

Okay wavy, but it was shoulder-length or maybe chin-length, and now you have a really stylish, tight on the sides/long on top haircut. What’s been your all-time favorite haircut?  

Unrelated to how good it looked, my favorite haircut was when I shaved my head almost on, maybe a 2 guard, and bleached it white in probably 1994… No, it was 1995 – I was either a sophomore or junior in high school.

I just left a post-it note on my parents’ counter that said “I’ll see you tonight, I have blonde hair.” And that was before Eminem, so I felt like I was kind of a trendsetter.

adam quirk

So fast forward to now – what would you say is your daily day-in-and-out look?

I have a uniform, and basically –(to 1-year-old Felix: “Hey, what’s wrong man? Here, have an apple slice”)  – my daily uniform is boots, either black or brown boots, jeans or my brown work pants, and red plaid on top.

If it’s summer, it’s a lightweight cotton plaid shirt, and if it’s winter, it’s a flannel.

How many red plaid shirts would you say you own?

Like, twelve.

So when you’re not in red plaid, what do you like to wear?

Well I wear that every day of the week except for when I’m out with you on the weekends – same on the bottom but like a t-shirt on top.

Do you have anything in your closet that you spent a lot of money on that was absolutely worth it that makes a difference in how you feel about your outfit or your day?

A few things.

I have some blue linen pants, more like a navy, that I bought when we were raising money for the distillery. I bought them when I didn’t have a lot of money, and was thinking “These pants will make me feel so good in these investor meetings” to raise enough money –

That’s a good strategy.

And it worked, because I did go into those meetings feeling like a boss. I have a couple other things…I mean that green coat that you got me in Colorado, I always feel pretty awesome in that.

It’s an olive green wool pea coat.

Yeah, an olive green wool pea coat, thank you.

But the buttons always fall off. I guess you wear it a lot?

I wear it every winter, all winter.

Do you ever notice what another guy is wearing?

Oh yeah, all the time.

And what do you think about the way a guy is dressed, in say, Bloomington, vs. other places in the world, like maybe NYC or Chicago?

There’s a good percentage of people in Bloomington that dress pretty good.

And what does that guy look like? When you say “pretty good.”

Well, he’s not wearing a blue button down and khakis. Or he’s not wearing sweatpants or pajama pants. People do tend to care about how they look here more than any other small Midwestern town that I’ve been to.

So he’s not, like, an office guy… are you thinking of the kind of guy who has cool jeans and tattoos?

Yeah, those guys, and the guys you see at Hopscotch seem to be fairly well dressed. I don’t know – I feel like people here dress like we’re in a bigger city than it actually is.

Do you notice what women wear?

Yeah, all the time. It pains me that I can’t tell them how good they look, because there’s this weird… I’m a guy, and I can’t just say, “You look great today” to some random girl, because….

…Social boundaries, there.

Yeah. But I mean I saw a girl today, she was probably mid 40’s or something, not that it matters, it could have been a 20 year old, but I saw her coming out of her house – she looked great. Like when you get dressed up in a nice Donna Karan dress or something. And I wanted to say “Hey, looking good tonight.”

But you were pushing a stroller –

Even if I wasn’t pushing a stroller, I couldn’t say anything.

Right, you don’t want to yell at girls on the street, “You look cute!” I know it is a lot easier for women to compliment women than to cross any other lines like men to men, women to men… especially at a bar, you’re not going to say “Hey girl, you look good.”

I do remember last month, maybe two months ago, I was also pushing the stroller, and some dude yelled at me from his stoop, “Those are awesome glasses!” I was wearing those translucent red sunglasses…

The red line aviators?


The skinny or the thick ones?

The thick ones, the plastic ones. He told me “Those are like, the coolest glasses ever,” or something.

Let’s talk about your sunglasses collection.

I do have a lot of aviators.

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How many sunglasses do you lose on average each year?

All of them! I buy them 4 or 5  at a time, and they’re all like 4 to 10 dollars each.

Do you know how much I spend on my sunglasses?


You do?!


How much?

I don’t know, like 60, 70 dollars? No?

A lot more than that.

Is it really?


Jesus. See I could never do that, because…

But I wear them every day!

So do I!

But I don’t lose mine.

See, I don’t necessarily lose all of mine, but I lose probably half of them, and the other half breaks.

Yeah. I remember one time I gave you a pair of those vintage Polaroid sunglasses –

Those were gone within a month.

They were gone in like a week! That’s the last time I bought you sunglasses. Tell me about your watch.

Well, it’s the best watch I’ve ever owned.

It’s a Shinola watch from Detroit, and it’s got the phases of the moon built into the dial, which, I’m a huge fan of the moon. I’ve always thought that eventually I will make it there one day.

It also keeps… well, it has a second hand, but also the moon moves very slowly across the dial so it keeps you thinking about time, and how it moves in a slower pace.

I only started wearing a watch maybe four years ago, but I think wearing a watch is very important because it keeps you from pulling your phone out all the time. When you pull your phone out to check the time, you inevitably check other crap that you shouldn’t be looking at when you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone.

I totally agree. It used to be that when you checked your watch it was rude, but now people don’t wear watches as much and they check their phones way too much.

And checking your watch can be so much more surreptitious than pulling your phone out.


Also, I got this watch from my wife Jessica, for my fifth anniversary –

…They know I’m interviewing you!

Probably the best gift ever, definitely the best fashion accessory gift ever.

Good. Because I’ve bought you a lot of your clothes, right?

Have you?

Yeah. The jeans you’re wearing, that t-shirt, I just bought you 3 new pairs of pants, returned one…

I bought these, these are my old jeans. I bought these boots, and I bought this t-shirt.

Okay! Well, not the outfit you’re wearing right now, but when I see vintage red plaid shirts I buy them for you and I do buy you jeans, sweaters. Oh, what’s your favorite winter sweater?

It’s an Irish fishing sweater.

Do you know anything about the backstory of the Irish fishing sweater?

It has a specific weave related to the cable pattern…Irish fishing sweaters are always specific to the family, so if, say, Rowan Cork washed ashore, in county Cork, the random people on the shore would know who to send the body to.

It’s kind of like a dog tag in a more artful way… I heard that pattern in that design came from women who, they had long winters –

And the men were out fishing.

Yeah so, I think that’s cool and I also heard that if you knit a guy a sweater he’ll dump you… the curse of the boyfriend sweater.

That’s why I’ll never knit you a sweater.

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Adam’s Style Profile

My style in three words (or less!)

Simple Man*

*Per Adam: “Lynyrd Skynyrd’s only good song”

My first “fashion” memory

Adidas “Samba Classics” were popular in my school, but I couldn’t afford them. The discount store had another Adidas shoe called “Chelsea” that looked pretty similar, and was half the price. I was wearing a lot of Goodwill clothes at that stage as well. I loved Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins and dressing like a bum.

Finish this sentence: It drives me crazy when I see other guys wearing….

Sweatpants or athletic clothes to a restaurant for dinner. Doesn’t matter if it’s Shoney’s or the best steakhouse in town. Sweatpants are really only appropriate at the gym. 

Favorite fashion tip

Always wear a full brimmed hat when flying by airplane outside the country.

Favorite “splurge” clothing brand

I buy well-made pants. I’ve had too many crotch blowouts in my life from cheap jeans. Now I buy good pants and wear them for years and years. It ends up being cheaper than buying a new pair of jeans every year or two. Imogene + Willie jeans are really well-made. Just eat ramen every meal for a few weeks to save money.

Favorite “steal” clothing brand

Not a single brand, but House of Sunglasses is great for cheap glasses. I lose or break a pair of sunglasses probably every other month.

A man’s personal style is important because…

A well defined personal style means one less thing to think about in the morning. When I put on my uniform (jeans, red plaid shirt, boots) every morning, I feel like I’m ready to go get work done.

I started Style Girlfriend to help guys look, feel, and act their best.