Andre Tucker, 20, has the silk of his tie knotted around both hands. “Can we start over?”

Mrs. T.—Tarisse Iriate, the Brownsville Community Justice Center specialist heading this trip to Career Gear’s downtown New York office—has bowed out. As have the other two guys in our Tie Tying Tutorial.

“Nah,” laughs Rashuni Simmons, 21, his large hands waiting for the final instructions regarding the Pratt Knot, the half-Windsor’s smaller, symmetrical cousin. “Y’all got eliminated already.” The other guys titter with nervous laughter. Everyone looks on while Rashuni mashes the silk Brooks Brothers tie into the knot around his neck. Voila.

tie-lessons

“Can we try that again?” Mrs. T. looks intrigued.

The others in the office are ex-cons, vets and young men looking to make a better life for themselves with the help of Career Gear. They will come here for resume assistance, nutrition classes, a crash course in opening a bank account—but what gets them in the door is the high-quality suits donated by Wall Street bankers, lawyers and execs from down the block of their Fulton Street office.

Kenneth Morris, a charming 23-year-old with long braids and tattoos from shoulder to wrist on both arms, waits his turn to go to the back room where a volunteer will help him get suited up.  “Where you gonna wear this suit?” I ask.

suit-room

“Everywhere!” is his enthusiastic response. “In the hood, to the store, to the club. Out with the ladies.” He’s got that million-dollar smile already. And then he adds, “Interviews. Job interviews too.”

In the back room, the guys get suited up by a budding image consultant, Jace Yzaguirre (pictured in the lead photo with Simmons), and a volunteer—an ex-con who went away in the ’90s, then got out in 2010 with a sharp eye for fine clothing. Tucker gets dressed next. He’s light on his feet and full of swagger. He looks even better when he pulls the $2,000 price tag off his brand new Salvatore Ferragamo suit.

“One more time with the tie,” Tucker says. And class begins again.

ferragamo-label

While they’ll need some additional tailoring before their suits are really ready, each of the guys looks fantastic. And each of them feels for the first time that awkward slip-slide of new smooth leather shoes on carpet.

The ex-con gives Tucker a new silk Brooks Brothers’ tie, a new Van Heusen shirt from Career Gear’s recent partnership with the label and a smart pair of leather shoes. And when he has to bag it all up to take home, Tucker looks almost sad putting back on his Nike T-shirt and basketball shorts.

When these guys go home to Bed Stuy and Brownsville, they will return to the real world. There the last three mayors have seemed to agree that young men of color should be stopped and frisked. Career Gear gives these guys the clothes, training and resumes to rise above all that—and look damn good doing it, too.

In case you can’t watch at work—though you really should later—here are some sweet before and after shots.

before and after 3Kenneth Morris

before and after 1Marvin (last name withheld by request)

beforeandafter4
Rashuni Simmons

before and after 2
Andre Tucker

Oh and, just to bring things full circle, before they left I gave them the most important advice I ever received on getting the knot in your tie perfect: YouTube it.

Join thousands of men and women who are dressing up for a good cause. Go formal with Made Man and Career Gear on Friday, October 9th to help empower men in need with resources, training and suits they can use to rejoin the workforce. Because for every photo posted to Instagram or Twitter and tagged #FormalFriday, we’ll donate a dollar to Career Gear. Learn more at mademan.com/formal-friday.