March 4, 2020
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A Baltimore tailor combines his suiting skills with a passion for helping men get a second chance

Trained as a luxury men's clothier, Christopher Schafer founded Sharp Dressed Man to give low-income men the confidence they need to start a new life.

Sharp Dressed Man, a nonprofit that fits men with recycled suits for job interviews, accepts suit donations every Friday and Saturday at their shop in Baltimore, 1400 Aliceanna Street. Photo courtesy of Sharp Dressed Man

Christopher Schafer founded Sharp Dressed Man with a simple premise—to empower men to improve their lives by equipping them with professional attire. The program, founded in 2011, was created to bridge a critical gap between job development programs that provide training and skills, and the professional aesthetic needed to be considered for employment. We provide and fit these men with recycled suits for job interviews. We give them the confidence they need to start a new life.

Sharp Dressed Man’s journey wasn’t easy. It was a struggle for Chris to maintain the nonprofit while keeping his business successful. Sharp Dressed Man means so much to Chris that he would often times put his own money and energy into keeping it afloat. Being the big picture kind of thinker he is, Chris always envisioned great things for his business but dreamed even bigger for Sharp Dressed Man.

With its origin in Baltimore, Chris feels strongly that Sharp Dressed Man should expand to serve the need that so many communities have. Most recently Sharp Dressed Man set up a location in Los Angeles.

[Read more: At this public library, cardholders can borrow business attire]

When I met Chris, he was well on his way to creating a successful business, his namesake tailor shop, Christopher Schafer Clothier. His nonprofit work was still in its infancy. I had booked Christopher Schafer Clothiers as a featured fashion designer for an artists showcase I curated on a monthly basis. We had a great time working together and he pulled out all the stops to promote his skilled craftsmanship. It was obvious he was passionate about his business and getting the job done right.

The same passion and dedication has fueled Sharp Dressed Man over the years. Much of his understanding and immense compassion for the people he serves stems from his own experiences with alcoholism and homelessness. After hitting rock bottom, Chris realized he needed to make serious changes in his life. He enrolled himself in a rehab program and was able to begin his path of sobriety. He pulled himself back from a very dark place that, unfortunately, not many are able to recover from. Chris has been sober for over 15 years.

I knew very little of his past when we first met. I thought, “Here is this guy with an incredible dapper, rock n’ roll, skateboarding, outgoing spirit and energy that is infectious and inspiring!” Chris feels everyone deserves a second chance and makes it very clear that these second chances don’t come around often.

I didn’t realize it when we collaborated on the artist showcase that Chris and I were actually neighbors, living less than 5 minutes from each other. Our families crossed paths on occasion. His wife was pregnant with their youngest son at the same time I was expecting my oldest son—they’re now in the same kindergarten class. This past Halloween during the elementary school costume parade our paths crossed again. Chris and I caught up and discussed the usual chit-chat about family and home life.

When he asked me how work was going, I professed that I was between jobs and feeling a bit unfulfilled. I told him I was looking for work with the desire to put a recent graduate degree I had earned to use. In the past, Chris had asked me if I would be interested in getting involved with his work. I was always interested but the timing never seemed to be good.

This time was different. This time, I was able to take him up on his offer. The same way Sharp Dressed Man empowers men, it empowered me at a time when I felt adrift, between jobs, with no real idea of how or where to focus my attention and energy. I’m honored Chris chose me to help steer the organization. I’m looking forward to what we will accomplish.

Sharp Dressed Man is ready for the next challenge. We will keep fitting those in need with suits and help as many as we can change their lives for the better.

For more information or volunteer opportunities visit Sharpdressedman.org.

Elisa Wells

Sharp Dressed Man

Elisa J. Wells was born and raised in Baltimore. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Towson University and a Master’s in Business for the Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She has over eight years experience working in the Baltimore arts community. Wells produced and curated a series of events where she first met Christopher Schafer and learned of the Sharp Dressed Man program. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for five years at the Creative Alliance. Wells seeks to do her part to improve and support the Baltimore community.