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Outfitter Donates High-End Suits to Men in Need to Help Them Get Back on Their Feet

Recognising the importance of first impressions, a Baltimore-based charity is hooking up men in need with “gently worn” suits, just so they can have a fighting chance at a better life.

‘Sharp Dressed Man’ was started in 2012 by local businessman Christopher Schafer and his son Seth, the owners of custom clothing store Christopher Schafer Clothier. They make high end-suits for a living – usually priced at $1,200 and up – and many of their customers always bring back old suits to be donated. When one client gave them $10,000 worth of used custom suits a few years ago, they began thinking of ways to make a difference.

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That’s when Christopher met Howard Wicker, director of services for people released from prison at Living Classrooms, a nonprofit dedicated to hands-on education in Baltimore. “I told him, ‘If you ever need clothes, let me know,’” Chris said. “The conversation kind of started from there.”

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With the help of Living Classrooms, the father-son duo started fitting men just out of prison with all the spare suits they had lying around. Pretty soon, the program expanded its operations and got its own little place – a former gym and day care center now – on the west side of Baltimore. ‘The boutique’ is now a beautiful space with freshly painted walls, refinished wood floors, and clothing racks that carry all sorts of mens’ formal wear.

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According to Christopher, they never offer their guests anything worn or dated or anything they wouldn’t wear to an interview themselves. He manages to keep the place running with donated clothing and cash donations that he accepts at the main store on Aliceanna Street, and at the boutique. With time, he hopes to add more life to the place, including new furniture, a tune up for the upright piano that stands against a wall, and jazz musicians to play for the men as they line up for fittings on Wednesday mornings.

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“It’s cool to be able to give someone else a hand and say ‘there’s a better life and I’m going to help you get there,’” said Seth, who currently serves as the Vice President of Sharp Dressed Man. “They really light up and they look at themselves differently,” Chris added. “And it’s almost like a metamorphosis kind of happens before their eyes.”

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No matter the size, the Schafers always manage to fit every man who walks through their doors in need of a suit. Some of these men are homeless, while others are trying to re-enter society after spending time in prison. The concept has been a success – they’ve managed to keep several men out of prison in about four years of operation. Like John Jones, one of the Schafers’ very first clients.

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After having spent about 30 years in prison, John managed to get himself a job interview through a reorientation program. But he needed help looking good for the big day, so he walked into Sharp Dressed Man. And he still remembers the moment he saw himself in his new suit. “I felt very proud, it made me stand different, made me feel accomplished,” he said. “I felt like I wanted to go out and conquer the world. They dressed me for the occasion and I actually nailed the job.” John now works with Living Classrooms and wants other men to feel the same way he did.

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Meanwhile, Chris Schafer said that the program is in desperate need of more sets of men’s dress shoes and belts. If you want to help out, you can find out more about Sharp Dressed Man on their official website, here.

Photos: Sharp Dressed Man/Facebook

Sources: Baltimore Sun, CBS Baltimore