They say the suit makes the man, but Gerard Kersey is taking that to another level.
Kersey is founder and president of the nonprofit organization That Suits You. The organization empowers men in job assistance programs across the city by providing them with suits for job interviews. The model is similar to that used by organizations Dress for Success and Bottomless Closet, which do the same for women.
That Suits You was started in February 2013 when he was working for the state and conducting job interviews. He noticed that while many of the men he interviewed were qualified for positions, their attire prevented them from getting the job.
He recalls one situation where one candidate had superior skills but had on jeans, Timberland boots and a button-down shirt. The professional faux pas cost the applicant the job, which he could have started that day, even though he had a superior interview.
“I would see men come in and they were not dressed properly,” Kersey said. “Even though they had the skills, they were not dressed properly, and that eliminated them from the job.”
While cleaning out closets with his brother, Kersey came across several suits and did not know what to do with them. He started to give them to family and friends, and the idea came to him to take things a step further.
He said, “I realized that this was something that was needed, so I reached out to different programs.”
To date, That Suits You has distributed a total of 150 suits, and Kersey wants to increase that number to 500 by the end of 2014.
The suits come from donations and drives that Kersey holds at churches and businesses. He also gets clothes from local cleaners who, by state law, are able to give away unclaimed clothes after six months. That Suits You recently received a major donation from Earl Graves of Black Enterprise.
“The suit is what makes a first impression,” he said. “When you see a man walking in the suit, it says to society you are about business and you are doing something productive for society. Some of the men get emotional because it’s the fist time they’ve worn a suit. It’s empowering to them.”
Along with working with men who are looking for jobs, That Suits You also provides suits for young men who are going to prom. Kersey has also partnered with Polished Bar in Brooklyn to give manicures and pedicures to men, as well as haircuts from A.F. Grooming.
“This is really growing and taking off faster than I anticipated,” Kersey said. “It’s given us a voice to make awareness about how men without fathers are not being taught the importance of a suit or how to even tie a tie.”
This month, That Suits You is hosting a suit and prom dress drive. On May 3, a suit drive is taking place at Brunch and Lime in Brooklyn, and a male prom suit drive is taking place with Project East New York on May 17 and May 24 at George Gershwin Junior High School.