The Park Church is the latest name of a congregation that has been ministering to the city of Charlotte for more than 100 years. It began as the Baptist Congregation in 1913, was renamed Mount Olive Baptist Church in 1953 and University Baptist Church in 1961, and today comprises three campuses including The Park Expo and Conference Center, formerly the Charlotte Merchandise Mart. Bishop Claude Richard Alexander Jr. was installed as senior minister in 1990. On May 20 the church will present The Park 5K Men’s Fashion Show.
“We wanted to give a different message to men, and a different image of men,” he says. “There are a lot of men who honor and respect the women in their lives. One way to elevate the gentleman is through a fashion show.”
Proceeds will be shared with the Jamie Kimble Foundation, aimed at abolishing domestic violence. Alexander is married to Dr. Kimberly Nash Alexander, and they have two daughters: Camryn Rene and Carsyn Richelle.
Q. What piece of clothing was a game changer for you?
A. When I graduated from college my godmother took me to a men’s store in D.C. named Raleigh’s, and she bought me my first Armani suit. It was navy blue, two button, big lapel, single pleated. She said, “If you are going to be taken seriously as a minister who is going somewhere, you need to demonstrate it in what you wear.”
Q. Do you remember the occasion for which you first wore a suit?
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A. As a little boy, going to church, mom dressed me in a suit. Back then, the suits were either full trouser, or the short. And I have pictures of both.
Q. Do you enjoy clothes?
A. I have always, especially during my high school years. In high school I wore three-piece suits, then the doublebreasted suit came in style. I would have a nice shirt, some pleated pants, a nice pair of jeans, penny loafers. Back then it was Calvin Klein jeans, Jordache jeans. If you had a pair of Pierre Cardin shoes, you were doing something. That’s why I got part-time jobs, to feed my clothing habits.
Q. When did you discover pocket squares?
A. I discovered them through my uncles. My uncles and my dad were people who dressed. They wore the complete package: hat, ties, pocket squares. They told me always have your shoes shined because that’s the first thing a woman looks at.
Q. How did their style influence you?
A. It set a standard in terms of a male image. It was a positive male image of distinction, of quality, a gentleman. What I seek to do is exemplify what a standard for men is.
Q. Where do you like to shop?
A. Locally, Bruce Julian, Ike Behar and Paul Simon. I love Paul Stuart in New York, Giorgio Armani; with Armani it is outlets. The thing about my size, is I’m often able to get the sample. Bruce Julian and Chris Ware have done custom for me.
Q. How do you dress for work?
A. It depends upon the occasion. If I were going in to a board meeting, I would wear a business suit. Preaching, I use a robe. I feel as comfortable in a suit as I do in jeans. A good friend of mine teases me that I will come home and sit on my couch with my tie on.
Q. Tell me about your robe.
A. My worship robe is a cassock, in the Roman tradition. It is black with red piping, the red piping signifies the office of the Bishop, and on special occasions, or when I am within the organization, I will wear a Roman purple cassock. I wear the robe because I want to be reminded, and I want to remind people, of the sacredness of what I do. This is different from being a motivational speaker. It speaks to being set apart. The act of ordination is the setting a person apart.
Q. Do you have any favorite pieces?
A. One of my favorite coats is a reversible Armani, knee length, one side is green quilted, the other side is blue wool. I love the white dinner jacket. That’s James Bond, that’s 007.
Q. Where do you shop for your wife?
A. Anthropologie, Escada, Paul Simon for Women. The most recent thing I bought her is a two-piece dress jacket from Elie Tahari. It is cream and white.
Q. Whose style do you admire?
A. I have always admired the style of James Bond. The first James Bond movie I remember seeing at the theater was “Live and Let Die,” with Roger Moore. Then Sean Connery, then Pierce Brosnan. This latest one, “Spectre,” the clothes, from the overcoat to the white dinner jacket, are just sharp. Another movie, “Harlem Nights,” with Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, was set in the ’40s, so the clothes were great. Samuel Jackson, when he is not doing Capital One commercials, he dresses well.
Q. Do you favor certain colors?
A. Blue, gray or black. My wife would say, “Don’t bring home another blue, gray or black anything.”
Q. What’s the loudest thing you wear?
A. It is a yellow Ralph Lauren raincoat, mid-thigh length, blue corduroy collar. The girls say I look like the Gorton Fisherman.
Q. Why do you wear cufflinks?
A. One, for their functionality when I’m wearing French cuffs. Sometimes for how they tie into the color palette. Sometimes you just want to be fun.
Q. I would trade closets with …
A. Colin Firth, in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
Q. What do you look for in shoes?
A. Comfort. I was taught that the way that you tell a good shoe is when you can feel all leather in the upper sole, rather than cloth or cardboard. Then you look how well the sole is made. Some favorite shoes are Allen Edmonds, Salvatore Ferragamo and Prada.
Q. Why are good shoes worth the money?
A. Because they last, they are easy on the feet, they have a mark of distinction. They speak for themselves.
Q. I always splurge on…
A. My wife’s and daughter’s clothes, though my daughters, with their own independent fashion, would rather I give them the money.
Q. What’s a great piece of advice you’ve received?
A. The verse I remember my mom teaching me, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.