(1) For people that don’t know you, who is Jelani Bilal?
- “I am a man on a never-ending quest for knowledge whether it be scientific discoveries, basis of religion or how to be a good husband, son or father. In my quest for more knowledge my favorite question is not the typical “why” but rather “how”. This question has benefit me greatly both personally and professionally. “Why” can get you a very philosophical answer but how gets the job done when technical understandings are needed. Understanding HOW my wife wants to be loved because I already knew “why”, I knew that we need love in whatever facet to obtain happiness. Understanding HOW to be a leader because without one, direction, motivation and support is almost always lost. Understanding HOW to communicate your thoughts to ensure your message can be effective as possible not just why it was important. Although I am not a teacher I like to share the knowledge I have obtained over the years from others and my own experiences in hopes that it will help those that I’ve shared this information.”
(2) When did fashion become important to you?
- “Fashion got really important to me in middle school because…girls. GIF you have ever heard the famous song by Jay-Z and R. Kelly you already know why. The clothes and shoes was how you would turn heads when you walked into the classroom or at a basketball game when there were girls from other schools there. Around this time, I really started paying attention to what rappers were wearing in their videos. They all had women climbing all over them and it wasn’t like I could rap so the next best thing is to dress how they did. This was back when Enyce, Akademiks, FUBU, Iceberg, Tommy and Avirex was poppin’. But all that was way too expensive for a middle\high school child with no job and my parents were not droppin’ $100 on jeans for someone who’d soon grow out of them. So, the fashion was attractive but I had to find pieces that fit my style so I could make the clothes look good. I’d rather say my attraction was to the style and not so much the fashion. But I was a victim of jeans and shirts 3-4 sizes larger than what I should’ve been wearing. One of me and my boy’s favorite spots to go get a new outfit was Henry’s on 3rd street in Trotwood. We’d go there and get new velours before the city-wide Turnabouts, FUBU shirts for Fly City and whatever fake chain, glasses and hat that matched our outfits for the Black Cultural Festival. Not to mention they sold church deacon, Steve Harvey, wide-leg, 8-button suits which I had one of. Thinking back, I’m glad I grew out of all that. Style is much more important than fashion to me.”
(3) What does fashion mean to you?
- “Fashion to me means “trending”. I don’t like to look for fashion I think in terms of styles. To me style is an extension of my personality. Style can be an expression of mood or a representation of where you want to be. Style is crazy important in our culture especially when incomes aren’t always shopping spree friendly. Anyone can go buy a pair of Louboutin loafers and think they’re doing something. I can take that same $1,400 and get 15+ separate outfits and make then all look better than just one pair of shoes. Finding your own unique style is like finding yourself. The confidence your style brings is unmatched. I have an eye for styling clothes and it’s not about the trend it’s about the person. Anyone can buy a brand it’s up to you to make it look good. Fashion can have you looking crazy if you just wear it because it’s in a magazine or because of the brand. Style is not the clothes, style is what you do with the clothes.”
(4) What goes into choosing a business causal outfit? Is it more about looks, feel, or the occasion?
- “The occasion generally dictates the dress. Business casual can mean some different things in various places and settings. People try to give you fashion do’s & don’ts but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. First find out what is acceptable under the “business-casual” title in that atmosphere. If you’re unsure about any of it you can never go wrong with a white shirt and dark pants and hard bottom, leather shoes with a matching belt. No polos, boat shoes or jeans until you know this is acceptable. Sticking with this rule you can never miss. My business casual is what I described but with a tie and usually a patterned shirt instead of a plain white one.”
(5) Have you ever made a fashion mistake where you thought the outfit you wore would be a good look?
- “I have several times but we’ll leave tall tees out of this. A few years back I bought a Navy pin striped Ralph Lauren single breasted suit and made the mistake of just listening to the sales guy who was a heavy-set older gentleman. Nothing against him but he was dressing me in what he thought looked good on him. I tried it on a few weeks ago and couldn’t believe the salesman let me buy that suit. It was classic cut, which is the roomiest suit fit you can buy. The waist on the jacket was wide even with tailoring, the sleeves were wide, the pants legs were straight and wide and made my feet look small and I wear and 11 1/2. I wore that suit to many occasions and though it was fly but taking it out of that suit bag I just think what a waste. The material is very high quality (Super 100 wool) because it’s Ralph. Since that purchase my style has changed and I use my tailor each time I buy a suit, blazer, pair of pants or any other item that could look better with a custom fit.”
(6) What would be your advice to someone shopping for a suit? Is it more about the price tag, name, or material?
Advice for shopping for a suit.
- Understand your body build. Skinny, Slim, Average, Athletic, Tall., Heavy of Round understanding your body will help find what looks good on you. Generally, I recommend a slim fit suit because a slimmer more custom silhouette comes standard but everyone isn’t built for that. If you can’t go slim go with a modern fit but stay away from classic if possible. Classic-fit suits require too much post-purchase tailoring and tend to be very wide and baggy even if it is in your size.
- Next rule is to get measured and find your size. Your dress shirt size will give you a hint of the range you’ll need or you can check YouTube on how to measure yourself or have someone at the store do it. Size sizes go by chest size and length. The chest size is the number on the suit and is followed by a letter S (short), R (regular) or L (long). Once you know your size, try on several brands of suit jackets and blazers. I say try several because your size in multiple brands will not fit the exact same. If buying off the rack your jacket will come with matching pants. The pants are usually sized by subtracting 7 inches from your jacket size and come with an unfinished hem. Because I wear a 42R the pants that come with my suits are a 35 waist. The pants are usually too big and require the waist to be tailored. And the unfinished hem means the pants will need to be hemmed to your specific length by a tailor.
- “Find a brand and size that fits your back and chest the way you want it. So how do you know a suit fits? “
- “There is no bunching or dimpling in between the shoulder blades under the collar. This part of the jacket should lay smoothly across your back. The width of the jacket across your back from shoulder to shoulder cannot be changed unless the manufacturer was very generous in leaving extra material. Even then, widening or narrowing the jacket across the shoulders is one of the most expensive alterations you can get and not all tailors will perform this alteration.”
- “The most important part to me is the shoulder fit. IF the shoulder doesn’t fit do not buy it either that size, that brand or that cut is not for you. The shoulder of the jacket should not come to a peak, bunch or dimple. This is a sign that the jacket is too small or too big. The shoulder of the jacker should curve naturally over the shoulder to the arm. I find it difficult to find suits with shoulders that fit me well because of the size of my arms so I go for jackets with a more natural shoulder (less padding). This is a challenge for all athletic builds but there are brands like Banana Republic and Saks that carry suits with natural shoulder profiles.”
- “Buttoning the jacket. Buttoning the jacket should not be a struggle. IT should button easily and there should be no sign that the button could pop off if you breath out. The waist should be comfortable and not too tight. If the waist is too loose but the shoulders fit you can have it tailored to shape the jacket. This is an easy job and most if not all tailors offer this service.”
- “Lastly the sleeve length. This goes back to the S, R and L lettering that I spoke of in the jacket sizing section. When you go suit shopping wear dress shoes and a dress shirt representative of hoe you would dress in a suit. This will help you get the most accurate depiction of the true suit fit. The shirt is important because it acts as a marker for the length of the jacket. Your jacket sleeve should expose ½ inch to 1 inch of your dress shirt underneath. If too much more is shown it looks like your jacket is too small and if none of your shirt is showing the jacket looks too big. The good news is that the sleeve length can also be altered easily if need be. One rule to keep in mind is if you need an alteration it is much easier to remove fabric to make sizing smaller but near impossible to add fabric to make something larger.”
(7) Where does your motivation come from?
- “My motivation comes from my father. He always dressed nice for church and when he and my mother would go out. He would make the simplest suits fly and when he got dressed up his swag would jump to 100. HE taught me about suits and tailoring, how to tie a tie and how to shine my shoes. All skills I still use today. As I go older I appreciated those teachings even more and not have added that inspiration to my own style. I like the way my style makes me feel. I enjoy the compliments my wife and I get on our dress when we are on dates from passersby. I also like to give inspiration where I can. IF I see someone struggling with a decision in the store on what to get of feeling like they cannot fit anything I try to lend a hand because I know what the feeling is like once you find something that suits you well. And ultimately, I just like to look good.”
(8) What are the challenges in dressing others?
- “The challenges are majority of the time budget and body type understanding. People do expect to buy a suit off the rack and wear it that day but do not account for the tailoring that is required to make it look good. I pride myself on being a deal finder but there are some instances where you do not want to skip on quality and that sometimes calls for a higher price. Also understanding what looks good for one person may not be the same for them. So, it’s my job to find something for them not what I like or what GQ said wear. I can’t put a bodybuilder in a slim fit Topman suit and I can’t put a slim guy in a classic Ralph Tuxedo. I have to customize the look for them and everyone so far has been happy with the outcome.”
(9) Do you see a different challenge from men’s clothing to women’s clothing in choosing their clothing?
- “Yes, men do have it much easier than women it seems because men have tops and bottoms. Some type of t-shirt or button-up and bottoms which are pants or shorts. Women on the other hand have blouses, tee’s, cami’s skirts, dresses, pants, short, jumpers, rompers plus tons of other variants. I would say the ability to mix and match is about the same and women definitely have more options which comes with more complexity. Pinterest has been a big inspiration for my wife’s outfit ideas and it helps limit the stresses of the daily work outfit choosing. The overabundance of options is what I think makes it more difficult for women.”
(10) What are your favorite sneakers and dress shoes to wear?
- “Favorite dress shoes are Cole Haan. Nike comfort with classic style and exceptional quality. They do an excellent job with all their leather goods but the innovative shoe styles go unmatched.”
- “Favorite sneakers are LeBron’s. I love mid-top and high-top sneakers and right now I’m feeling the all Anthracite Lebron 14’s. Comfortable, lightweight and stylish. Can’t want to see more colorways of the 15’s.”