Personal style is difficult to exude while wearing a uniform. Society is accustomed to seeing professionals – from pilots to clergy and everything in between – in a specific and unchanging uniform. But when the regimentals come off, these Charlotte men have an impressive sense of style.
The ballroom dancer: Clement Joly
Clement Joly is co-owner and professional dance instructor at Metropolitan Ballroom. He has a specific daily uniform he wears to teach his students, and he has a uniform he wears when competing.
When he is in the studio, Joly wears black flared Latin dance pants, a black dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and special Latin dance shoes complete with a heel.
“Most men do not wear heels on a daily basis. I wear heels,” he says.
Most of the components of Joly’s uniform may not seem unique, when in fact they are very specific. The dress shirts have special hidden fasteners to ensure they do not come untucked while dancing. The arches of his dance shoes are simply leather fabric for maximum flexibility. His pants are flared in order to create movement. Every piece has its function for the utmost performance.
At competitions, Joly dons a tuxedo. He wears a jacket with tails, a white vest and bow tie, black dress pants and patent leather shoes. The outfit reflects the style of dance he performs, which is typically a very restrictive and technical dance. In contrast, his instructional uniform is looser and allows for more free-flowing movement. “A lot of competition costumes are sparkly and bedazzled, and that is not for me,” he says.
When Joly isn’t gliding across the dance floor, he is strutting in style. His typical day-off look includes fitted designer jeans, an untucked solid print dress shirt and trendy sneakers. Joly’s profession requires him to be very disciplined, which is echoed in his uniforms. But when he is out on the town, his fashion-conscious yet laid-back style is indicative of his easygoing personality. The pastor: James Howell
James Howell is the senior pastor at Myers Park United Methodist Church. His uniform is worn during Sunday worship and consists of white liturgical robes, a rope tied around his waist and a pulpit stole.
Howell’s professional attire is modeled after his “fashion icon,” St. Francis.
“He put away his French fashions and wore the simplest garb so he could connect with the poor. He gave away his fancy jeweled belt to wear a simple rope around his waist. What I wear on Sundays imitates this.”
Even though it may appear that his main duties are performed on Sundays, Howell has many weekly responsibilities – all of which have their own dress codes. If there is a funeral or an important meeting during the week, he wears a well-tailored suit. Otherwise, he can be seen in his office wearing a jacket, open-collared shirt and dress slacks.
Howell considers himself a “clueless shopper” and finds helpful assistance at Paul Simon. It’s important for him to dress for the individual occasion. His main goal is to make sure his clothing does not draw much attention and is not a distraction. When he is out around town, he often gets confused looks from members of his congregation who are used to seeing him only in robes.
“Children are the funniest in that they have only seen me wearing liturgical robes and are surprised to see me in normal clothes. Last year one little boy said, ‘Look mom! He has legs!’”
The pilot: Alejandro Munevar
Alejandro Munevar is an airline pilot for US Airways. His uniform consists of a black suit jacket with striped cuffs, a white dress shirt, a black tie, black dress pants and a hat. The hat is optional and Munevar chooses to wear it.
“The hat is part of what identifies us to passengers and officials, not just as crew members, but as pilots,” says Munevar.
Shoes are a good way of showing style, but Munevar must adhere to company guidelines for the type of shoes he’s authorized to wear. Comfort and safety are most important to him, but he says some international airlines have a more stylish take on the traditional uniform.
“Foreign carriers are more fashion-conscious in their uniform designs, for which they hire big name designers.”
A man’s haircut (including facial hair) can also be indicative of personal style. While trimmed mustaches are permitted, beards are forbidden. Pilots must put on a specific type of oxygen mask whenever their co-pilot gets up when flying above a certain altitude. A good seal between the face and mask is important and facial hair interferes with this seal. As for hair length, pilots must keep their hair trimmed at or above the shirt collar.
Munevar’s professional attire and performance are heavily regulated, but his dress and activity on his days off reflect his laid-back personality. His everyday wardrobe consists of polo shirts, khakis and Sperry’s or loafers. Munevar recalls a fashion memory from when he first moved to the U.S.
"My college roommate said I always seemed dressed for Sunday morning church, but this was quite normal in South America [where I’m from].”
When it comes to fashion, dressing for the occasion is the most important thing to Munevar. “To dress properly is to dress for the occasion. All it takes is common sense and a little taste.”
Munevar’s real passion is playing classical guitar, and when he is not flying across the country, he wistfully transports himself to a Latin café through music.
Even though these men wear uniforms on the job and their personal style can’t always be in the forefront, they all agree that you can build your own style in the way you carry yourself. Munevar puts it perfectly: “You could wear your uniform neatly or look like a mess with exactly the same outfit.”