by Robin Gee
Five Questions Friday: Gents
“Clothes make the man” goes the saying, and Sandi Slusser, owner of Gents in Dayton, agrees. Her shop specializes in gently used and new pre-owned men’s fashions from suits to sports wear.
Slusser is on a mission, not just to sell well-designed men’s clothing on consignment, but to help men look their best. She explains how to find a suit that really fits, why the hulk move is not the best way to try on a blazer and shows us how to turn a tie into a bow tie.
1. What made you decide to open a consignment shop especially for men?
My youngest daughter and I were out shopping and saw a young guy dressed to the nines. His shoes were buffed, and when he reached out you could see three initials monogrammed on the cuff of his shirt.
I made the comment to him that he was impeccably dressed. He said he was a new lawyer just starting out and had to shop at Goodwill but his grandmother had told him that an iron and some starch could change the world.
It got me thinking. Where do men on a budget go shopping for clothes? I researched men’s only consignment shops and found only two, one in New York City that resold suits that a business couldn’t sell in their main store and one in San Diego that just sold suits.
I knew what to do. I called all my friends and said clean out your closets!
2. What do you tell customers who have never purchased a suit before?
First, I explain that suit size is your waist size plus six inches, so, for example if you have a 36-inch waist, add six inches and your suit size is 42.
And, when you hear the terms “short, regular and long” it does not refer to sleeve or pant length. It refers to the length of your torso. Sleeves and pant legs can be adjusted, but the length of your torso, from the shoulder to the waist, cannot.
I encourage customers to try on a sports jacket or suit coat to feel how it fits. I want them to be comfortable. I find that many men pull their arms in front of them to test fit, but that’s not how you would live in it. Move as you normally would.
[Editor’s note: At this point Slusser demonstrates what could be called an “Incredible Hulk” pose.]
3. Any men’s styles from the past that are coming back?
Men’s hats are starting to come back and top coats — not necessarily as part of a suit. A car coat or a jacket looks very good even with jeans. Men’s fine dressing may not be what it used to be but that does not mean you can’t jazz it up a bit.
I had a customer who stopped by in jeans and cowboy boots. He said he planned to propose to his girlfriend that day. I put him in a nice camel colored blazer, and he seemed to get taller right before my eyes. You could tell he felt really good about himself.
It’s nice to see some popular musicians and actors out there like Pharrell and Usher, even Robert Downer, Jr. , who are influencing men’s fashion.
Some things remain classic. Camel and cashmere are always in style. On interviews, I think the old saying that you should dress for the job you want is good advice. I’d just like to see more men take pride in their appearance.
4. How important is the community to your business?
I grew up in Dayton so I am very comfortable and happy to be here. I had the store in Bellevue for three years and moved here to Sixth Avenue last year.
One way I’ve found to give back to the community is to provide services to widows, mothers and family members who have lost a loved one. Lots of times men die and their families don’t have a suit for the funeral. I sat down with local funeral directors to find out where they got suits to bury people in and how I could help.
I extended services to families to come in to shop for their loved one, and it is free to them. The funeral homes put my card in their bereavement packets.
What I can’t use in the store I donate to the emergency shelter in Covington or to area churches. I also donate to Transitions [a local substance abuse treatment center] and have taught dress-for-success classes there for men getting back on their feet.
5. What has made your business a success?
Service. I try to make my customers comfortable. I get them properly measured and help them try things on. If I don’t have what they are looking for in the store, I will take down their information and contact them when I find something they might like. I try to give that kind of service, to make each customer feel special and appreciated.
Our suits are reasonably priced, running from $35 to $65 with tuxedos going for around $100. We also offer alteration services. I have special days and events, too. For example, we have $10-a-bag sale coming up in March, and on Father’s Day someone will provide straight razor shaves here in the store.
Gents is located at 530 Sixth Avenue in Dayton. Check the Gents Facebook page or call 859-415-1505 for open hours or other information.
Bonus: Slusser shares how to turn any tie into a dapper bow tie in this quick little video: