Everyone regardless of age wants to make a lasting first impression. But that can be challenging for young men who are faced with economic or personal issues. That is where Project Pinstripe comes in.
For the past decade, Project Pinstripe has worked with Detroit-area youth to give them both a fabulous suit but to prepare them for going out into the workforce with style and sophistication.
This year, the nonprofit organization sponsored by custom clothier Tom James Co. and its Metro Detroit partners will celebrate its 10th anniversary with its largest event so far. What began with about 25 high-school seniors has ballooned into a day-long affair that will have more than 50 volunteers and 137 teen participants, organizers say.
This Saturday, a lineup of fashion advisors, career consultants and professional haberdashers will provide these young men with a free, gently used suit as well as advice on everything from how to tie a Windsor knot to offering a firm handshake to which fork to use in the salad course, all in one jam-packed happening at Don Bosco Hall in Youthville Detroit on Woodward.
“We try to do it every year in the spring, so the kids get their clothing before graduations. We’ve added new elements every year to keep it fresh and relevant,” said Tom James haberdasher and local Project Pinstripe organizer Rob Wachler.
Tom James haberdashers as well as members of the Detroit A.M. Rotary Club and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Gamma Lambda Chapter) volunteer their time to sort and display the clothing to create an atmosphere similar to a fine men’s store. The haberdashers work with each Project Pinstripe participant to select an outfit, measure each young man and provide on-the-spot tailoring.
Project Pinstripe began at Tom James in New York City, where a young female employee from Livonia suggested the program as a way for the custom clothier to give back to the more than 125 communities where it works, Wachler said. That woman grew up with second-hand clothing, so she understood the struggle to find appropriate outfits and the importance of making a lasting first impression when finances are tight or non-existent.
Tom James in Southfield has grown its Project Pinstripe into an all-day event. It starts with presentations from local business people from the Rotary and Alpha Phi Alpha, who share their stories of growing up, finding success and the challenges they faced. They are the inspiration for students to see if they reach high they can follow the same path, Wachler said.
The event continues with one-on-one sessions on interviewing, networking and more. In between, students work with Tom James haberdashers and volunteers to find a suit, tie and dress shirt, which are professionally tailored and prepared for the new owner by Huntington Cleaners. Most of the suits, which were donated by Tom James clients, range in value from $400 to $2,000. The event concludes with a catered luncheon, during which students are partnered with the day’s speakers and volunteers to continue the conversation.