The Perfect Suit

CareerThere are many organizations, especially in New York, that provide poor women looking for work with the proper interview attire. But there is one just for men called Career Gear.

Targeted at helping men of color, the 12-year-old non-profit organization provides men the clothing they need to help land jobs—everything from suits to ties, shirts and shoes.

“I started the organization to address a gap in services that existed for low-income men — mostly men of color. While working as a social worker helping unemployed low-income individuals find employment, I would send my female clients to organizations similar to Career Gear that helped women transition from public assistance into the workforce. When my male clients asked, ?Why doesn’t something like that exist for men?? I did not have an answer,” recalls founder and?development director Gary Field. “Research indicated that while over 1,000 organizations existed around the country that provided interview clothing and support systems to women, not a single organization?was providing these services to men. Most of the organizations for women sprung up around 1998 in response to President Clinton’s ‘Welfare to Work’ initiative that targeted support to help welfare moms get off of public assistance. I realized that someone needed to address this issue for men and that someone was me. Career Gear was the first organization in the country — and as far as my research allowed, most likely the first anywhere — that provided support and services solely to men-in-need.”?

So for more than a decade, Career Gear has been filling in this gap.

“Twelve years later, Career Gear is one of a few organizations that provides services and programs that serve only men and is designed for men,” says Field. ?We continue to be a leader in the field and a voice for what has traditionally been an overlooked and underserved segment of society: poor men. Clearly, women need support as well, however, if the men in low-income communities do not work or are earning money via criminal activities, the community as a whole will have a difficult time becoming economically viable. Thus, the importance of helping men.”???

Besides clothes, the organization also provides career coaching and counseling. And they have been getting great support. The board is packed with such executives as J. Alexander Martin, director, vice president/owner, FUBU/Crown Holder; Bruce Pask, director, Men?s Fashion Director, T, The New York Times Style Magazine; and?John Saroff, director and head of Strategic Partnership Development for Google TV, among others.