It's All About Style

These Baltimore Men Have Cultivated A Look That Suits

April 02, 2006|By ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS | ERICKA BLOUNT DANOIS,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Whether on the basketball court, in the boardroom, or at a casual affair, knowing what to wear is an important part of dressing for any occasion.

Some men can pull it together well and look like they have just stepped out of GQ.

Popular culture calls them metrosexuals or ubersexuals -- men who are preoccupied with the aesthetics of their appearance.

Whatever the label, these are men who like to distinguish themselves from the pack.

And what's wrong with that?

We found some fashionable Baltimore area men willing to share their zeal for fashion. They talk about where they shop and tell how they use color and accessories to set off a suit, sportswear, casualwear or formal attire.

It all started when they became preoccupied with developing their own style.

Eclectic style

Russell Clark was known as one of the fastest runners in the Marble Hill section of Baltimore. But that was before he met Judson Kerr.

"I came around and I beat him," Kerr says.

But their rivalry didn't stop there. Even back then, they tried to outdo each other in style.

"I remember I saw him at the bus stop and he had on these tan cowboy boots -- this is 1985, they weren't in style," Kerr recalls. "And he had this huge blowout Afro. It was just crazy."

Clark was equally dismissive of Kerr's style.

"He was this skinny kid, Izod shirts, a straight prep, maybe like 100 pounds," Clark says. "I was thinking, 'Who is this kid?' "

Kerr, 36, and Clark, 35, eventually became friends. Today, they still are close and still have distinct fashion tastes.

Both say they learned their fashion sense from male role models in their respective families.

Kerr says his grandfather, who taught tailoring in Baltimorepublic schools, and an uncle influenced his fashion sense.

"My uncle was on the flashy side, very colorful outfits," Kerr says. "It would not be uncommon to see him with a yellow sports jacket or a red sports jacket, but always very well-made silks, silk-wool blends and different herringbones."

"My uncle was more casual and conservative," Clark says. "He bought really high-quality items. When we were growing up, major stores like Nordstrom would educate you about how to wear a jacket or how to tie a full Windsor [knot]."

Their styles are eye-catching to many admirers.

"When a woman sees that you pay attention to accessories, she now has the opinion that you pay attention to details," Kerr says.

Clark, who owns a technology consulting business, says, "I have to be cutting edge. I am delivering them [clients] new knowledge about a business."

Kerr, a property manager at a downtown apartment community, sees dressing for success as a must as well.

"As a black man in corporate America, you can't blend in necessarily," he says.

Hip-hop international

Brian "Johnell" Wright, 24, works as an office supervisor for the University of Maryland. But in his "other life" he is an R&B singer who has opened for acts in Baltimore such as Al Green, Teena Marie, Brian McKnight and Erykah Badu.

When he was 6 years old, he started singing in the choir at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, near where he grew up. After winning an open-mike contest at the African American Heritage Festival in 2000, and subsequently opening for big-name acts, he decided to take his singing seriously and is planning an album release soon.

His style -- music and clothes -- is definitively R&B with a little hip-hop and a polished appeal. He says he's not sloppy and you won't see his pants dragging off of his behind.

"One lady says she comes in to work just to see what I am going to wear," he says. "I don't come to work in just the typical suit and tie. I'll wear maybe some tennis shoes with suit pants and a suit jacket and maybe a polo shirt and a shirt under it and a tie. I can get away with it -- I am the boss."

Wright shops for custom-made items online, particularly styles from Japan. He has several hoodies and sneakers from Japan, including a pair of Nike Matrix sneakers, one of 10 pairs in the United States, he says. He also shops at a newly opened store called Shop Gentei ("Gentei" is Japanese for limited edition) on Charles Street in Mount Vernon.

Not without my hat

Danny Macas, 28 wears a lot of hats. Really, he does. About 250, to be exact.

And not just in his job as a music producer and consultant to people learning how to get into the music and entertainment business. He wears bucket hats and wool and skully Kangols -- in various colors. His fashion style is quintessential hip-hop -- a must because he has to dress casually to be comfortable sitting in a studio all day.

He shops mostly in New York, but when in Baltimore he will go to Hecht's or a mall. His style is usually T-shirts, jeans or sweat suits and tennis shoes or Timberlands.

His accessories include a Jesus chain, his iPod, his check card, and, of course, a hat. "The hat is what I start off with," Macas says. "If I figure out what hat I am going to wear that day, the outfit just falls underneath it.''

The athletic style

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