With this being my first blog post ever and the official launch of the new Loveless site, I couldn’t help but stress over my thoughts, ideas and ultimately what the hell I was going to write about. My posts will usually be centered around fashion, however I know the last thing you need is another blogger showing you grids of outfits. The simplicity and art of having style is something that should come natural. To each his own. My goal is simply to share my thoughts and opinions with anyone who gives a shit.
Fresh Start is an initiative that began along with my first post. I was at a Krispy Kreme in Duluth having my morning coffee and apple fritter before work when I noticed a man outside in the cold asking patrons entering and exiting for money. He was wearing a navy blazer with gold-plated buttons, which I found interesting. The jacket was ill fitted and dirty so I assumed he was a homeless guy, but dude had a lil swag. I’m often intrigued by people whose style can tell me a story. To me being stylish doesn’t mean spending beaucoup bucks on trendy clothes, it’s conveying a message with what you’re wearing and doing so with confidence.
The homeless man – whose name is Thomas – appeared to have confidence, and his style made me want to engage him in conversation. I asked if he would like to have a cup of coffee with me and he gladly accepted. I mentioned to him that I was writing a blog about fashion and struggling with what I was going to write about. Thomas responded, “write about me, interview me!” Although funny, when looking back that moment is the reason for this post.
Thomas and I talked for over two hours while he shared a bit of his story with me. As he sipped his black coffee, Thomas joked about hard times like he didn’t just sleep outside the night before. I asked him how he came up on the navy blazer, and he said he got it from a church that gives homeless people donated clothes. He said he liked it because he felt like it could help him get a job.
As Thomas told me more about himself, I began to wonder how I could help the man. Thoughts started racing by the third cup of coffee. I knew I couldn’t give him a job but what I could do was freshen him up so he could get back on his grind and feel good doing so.
I asked Thomas if I could spend the day grooming and styling him while I document his story and photograph his before and after appearance for a new monthly blog post I would call “Fresh Start.” Reluctantly, he agreed. I called my 9 to 5 and advised I was taking the day off and proceeded to plan out the itinerary.
The first thing I did was take Thomas to a local motel in Norcross called the Knights Inn so I could get him a cheap room good and early so he could use it until the next morning. Part of the grooming process was making sure he was thoroughly bathed. I figured I could get my barber friend to give him a haircut and shave on the house if I told him it was for a good cause, but I couldn’t take Thomas to the barbershop filthy. So getting the motel room (which wasn’t five-star by no means) gave Thomas a place to shit and shower in peace. It also gave him an opportunity to get some much-needed rest.
After making sure Thomas was checked into the room, I left to find some clothes that would fit him, look good and be fully functional for his current situation. One thing on my list was a navy blazer that actually fit him since I knew that’s what he liked. I hit up three Goodwill stores and was able to find a good pair of denim, 2 button-up shirts, a leather belt and the navy blazer minus the gold buttons. I also found a grey pea coat I thought would look good on Thomas as well keep him warm.
I stopped by Wal-Mart and bought him some Axe hair and body wash to take a shower, as well as a pack of plain white boxers, socks, wife beaters and cheap sweats before dropping him off at the room so he would be ready to hit the barbershop when I got back. I decided to stop by my crib to get some accessories like a scarf, hat and gloves I wouldn’t mind parting ways with. I also grabbed him an old Ralph Lauren tote to keep everything neat when traveling. My dilemma was shoes. I rock a 10.5 / 11 on most occasions; Thomas was a 12. A good, stylish shoe is hard to come by in a 12. Usually most stores get one or 2 pairs, and if it’s a good, sought after shoe the 12’s go fast. Even harder to find a good gently used size 12 at the Goodwill. I called a good friend of mine, Q, who wears a 12 and told him what I was doing and asked if he had any shoes he could donate. He was able to give me a pair of casual gently worn Cole Haan Loafers and a pair of black Converse Allstars. Exactly what I needed; shopping complete.
It was now time to scoop Thomas up to go and get a haircut. I had called my other good friend E (yeah I roll with some Alphabet Boys), and told him what I was up too and asked if he would be willing to offer his services. Of course he was intrigued by what I was doing and told me to come through. I decided since E had three heads before us I would scoop Thomas up and get something to eat.
Of all the places, Thomas choose The Varsity on Jimmy Carter. I wasn’t mad tho, I’m from Atlanta and grew up eating at The Varsity off North Ave. before Hawks, Falcons and Braves games, so I was cool with it. We took our time eating and Thomas told me how he had been in and out of Gwinnett County jail the last 3 years for dumb shit like child support. He told me how every time he gets out and gets back on his feet, his son’s mother who is ten years older than him finds a way to have him thrown back in. He told me how he has two boys and hasn’t seen them in years, and how he started writing them letters when things went bad between him and his baby mama so when they grow up he can show them how he wanted to be in their life. I asked him what he does for work and he said he worked for a place called Labor Ready, which is like a staffing agency that will hire you for daily work and pay you the same day. He said usually he can make up to $40 a day, which is just enough to get a room for the night, but if he’s not at the Labor Ready site by 5 am then he may not get any work, which means he doesn’t get paid that day. No money equals no room which means he’s out in the cold, and most often he said he will just sleep in the woods across the street from the Job site so he could be there early next morning.
We finished up our meal and headed to the barbershop. I told E before we got there not to mention to anyone in the shop what we was doing. I told him I really just wanted Thomas to feel comfortable and welcome – not like he was a science project. The barbershop is the perfect place for a man to feel like a man. I chose not to ask Thomas any questions while getting cut up because I wanted him to just enjoy the vibe. The talk in the shop was on the Superbowl and how good the Hawks were doing. Of course there was the occasional female talk and dumb conversations about whether a man should get vasectomy or not. We was there for a good hour and a half and I don’t think anyone could guess Thomas was down on his luck, including Thomas. He got a fresh bald fade and a straight razor shave. I must admit, buddy was clean – a total different man from the guy I met at 8 am in front of Krispy Kreme.
I decided I had enough running and ripping for the day. I had gone since 5 am, up early with my son, and was ready to just chill and put some thought behind what we was doing. I asked Thomas if he had enough for the day and of course his comment was, “just getting started.” I asked him if it was cool if I drop him off at the telly and we pick up the following day when I got off from work. I stopped by the ATM and got $60 out – $40 dollars for the room for an additional night’s stay and $20 so Thomas could get some dinner and breakfast from the Waffle House next to the motel. I advised Thomas before he got out the car that I wouldn’t be back until after 5:30 pm the next evening. I told him his best bet was to get a good night’s sleep, get up early and be the first person at the Labor Ready spot, fresh for work to get a head start on making some money for the days to come. He said that’s exactly what he was going to do, and I left excited about our bootleg photo shoot that was to follow the next day.
That night I kept my wife up for hours telling her about my day. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Not only had I done a good deed for the day, but I also found something to write about. Something I felt had substance and not just a post about the new Yeezys Adidas, although I will be writing about shit like that as well. lol.
I felt anxious the next day. I stopped by the same Krispy Kreme early to get a cup of coffee and was at work by 9 am. By noon I was ready to call it quits and ask my boss if I could leave early to get things ready, but I remembered I told Thomas to go to work if possible and I wouldn’t be by until after I got off. When the clock struck 5:30 pm I was out, speed walking to my Jeep and the first person out the parking lot. It took me a few short minutes to get from my job to the motel. I pulled up at 5:40 pm and proceeded to knock on Thomas’ room door. There was no answer. I waited a few seconds and knocked again. No answer. It was chilly out so I got back in the car. I figured maybe Thomas had not returned from work yet or maybe ran to the gas station. I waited and waited; 2 hours later still no sign of Thomas. I went to the front office to see if he reserved the room for an another night and was told he did not. I immediately became overwhelmed with sadness and anger.
“What the fuck?” I thought to myself. All that time and effort for nothing. I was so embarrassed. I had rambled on and on about this project to my wife, gotten my 2 best friends involved by donating goods and services; all that with no results to display. Needless to say I was heated. Since the room was rented in my name the night before and had not been occupied (or cleaned) the following day, motel management allowed me access to see if anything had been left. When I entered the room I saw that all the clothes I had got for Thomas were still there, ironed and folded neatly. In the pocket of the jeans was the extra $60 I had given him for the room and food. Talk about dazed and confused. I still don’t know what to think.
It’s been 2 weeks and I haven’t seen or heard from Thomas. I go by the same Krispy Kreme in the morning before work thinking maybe he would show up with a great story about what happened to him and ready to do a photo shoot but that has yet to happen. My initial goal with this post was supposed to be me trying to take a regular man, down on his luck, and provide some basic grooming and styling needs while documenting his story through an interview about his situation and showing the world through photos a before and after Fresh Start. Things didn’t go as planned, however, so I am currently re-thinking how I will be approaching the Fresh Start initative. More details to come.