James Proby | The Men’s Exchange

It is 100% success stories in here. We don't have just a couple; we have a thousand of them.

How and why did you start your business?

I’ve been working in employment for probably 15 years of my life, helping people get jobs or get skills to obtain employment. I noticed that there are many resources available to help women dress professionally either at a discounted price or at no cost, but it was harder to find the same type of resources for men.

I wanted to do something that benefits the community. I also wanted to do it at a discounted price, and make sure that we could help those men who couldn’t help themselves.

How are you able to provide suits for discounted prices?

Everything in our shop is donated. Once it’s been donated, we set it up for dry cleaning. We then merchandise and put everything out for sale. Everything in our shop is $40 or less.

We do full suits at $40, sports jackets at $30, shirts at $10, and flax at $10. So, everything ends up being literally about one-tenth the price of what you can get at other retail facilities. We also do full measurements and a whole fit session with all the men that come through, so they get a boutique experience. They pay 1/10th the price and then for every 9 men who shop with us; we’re able to dress one man in our community at no cost. These men are referred to us through the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and the Center for Veterans. Our nonprofit partners, like Reach Pikes Peak, decide when they have someone that they believe is in need and ready, and they send them over to us to dress those men at no cost.

So, it allows us to help the general population at a discounted price, and then take care of those men in our community who could not financially take care of themselves.

What do you think is the value of men dressing professionally?

Our society has gotten worse over time. We now have two generations of men who have no idea how to dress professionally. The majority don’t know how to tie a tie. It’s just a stunning statement, but it’s the reality of the universe we live in right now. We’ve got men who sincerely believe that it’s just absolutely okay for them to wear gym apparel everywhere. They think it’s okay to wear sweats and a hoodie and athletic shoes to every single event that they attend.

The idea is first to help our men dress better and present better. We have a different level of confidence when we present ourselves in a better way. It impacts our whole community. We have an opportunity to show up in a different way, and I’m excited that we have a location where you can get that knowledge that you didn’t have access to before, and to get clothing and help that you didn’t have before. It is absolutely fantastic, and I can tell you that all the men that we get a chance to connect with, come back. They love the fact that they get to do this. The best part is when I get to see them out in the community just dressed differently, and walking with confidence.

What would you say to the younger generation to motivate them to dress better?

We’ve talked to a bunch of transitioning soldiers. We work with three different transitioning military groups that host events. The thing that I say to all of them is to raise their hand and tell me who in the room is prejudiced, and to a man, all of them leave their hands down. I explain to them that prejudice means to be prejudged and that their nonverbal communications and prejudice are two different things. But all of us prejudge the individuals around us every single day. We judge individuals within the first 45 seconds of seeing them, and they have the ability to impact that.

I can change that by putting on a pair of glasses. I can change that by putting on a tie. I can change that by putting on a jacket. I can change that by ironing my clothes. And when we explain to young men that, they understand. When you look like a criminal, I don’t care what color your skin is. When you look like a criminal, and you show up representing criminalistic behavior, I’m not inviting you into my life. I’m not supporting you. I’m not encouraging you to go out with my daughter. I’m not inviting you to my church. I’m not inviting you into my business. I’m not giving you a job. You have the ability to make those changes, and it is incumbent upon you to decide how you want to represent yourself.
Have you had any success stories?

It is 100% success stories in here. We don’t have just a couple; we have a thousand of them. The very first man that we ever dressed at no cost was a cancer survivor. He was living homeless. He ended up getting a place to stay and run an art gallery. Soon after that, he got an award for the growth and change that he accomplished. He’s now one of the rising stars in our community. This all happened within 12 months of him coming and seeing us.
It had less to do with us, and more to do with the fact that once he started presenting himself in a better way, people could see him and see the talents that he provides.

You are impacting the community and helping people out. Thank you for what you’re doing.

Oh man. I’m excited. But this is something we could not do if the entire community didn’t start to buy in on this. If they didn’t donate their clothes here, we couldn’t do this. If they didn’t come and shop here, we couldn’t do this. So, the most significant ways that we can continue to make an impact is when we have individuals who come to our place and donate their clothes, shop with us and refer people over to us. It makes a huge difference.

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