PITTSFIELD

A blazer, $150; dress trousers, $80; a nice T-shirt, $29.50; leather shoes, $135; the look of admiration on her face, priceless.

Steven Valenti has a mission, to get men to "step their game up" when it comes to dressing up to go out with their significant other.

"No more dirty jeans and sports memorabilia," he said. "Pretend it's the first date all over again. Let's put a little effort to impress the people we care and about and love."

As the owner of Steven Valenti's Clothing for Men, he has become an expert on men's fashion and has seen, first-hand, hundreds of examples of how a simple addition to an outfit, such as putting on a blazer, can transform not just one night, but also a relationship.

About a month ago a husband and wife came into his store on North Street. The man was dressed in what had to be his favorite Red Sox shirt, jeans that made it appear he had just finished cutting the grass, and a tired pair of sneakers.

With some hesitance, and some encouragement from his wife, he agreed to let Valenti select a simple outfit for him.

Ten minutes later and the woman was in tears.

"She told me she hadn't seen her husband look that good since their wedding day," Valenti said. "I almost felt like I needed to reserve them a hotel room."

Valenti said he doesn't have anything against casual dress, and actually encourages it when the time is appropriate, but if the woman has put in a conscious effort to look good, then the man needs to as well.

"When you put on the right clothes, it provides a sense of pride," he said. "Men should enjoy pampering themselves every once in a while. It's a confidence boost and the results are amazing."

Early last week, he invited me to his store to see for myself what he meant about "dressing up America."

I was wearing my Red Sox jacket, jeans and sneakers, something I'm known to do often. Valenti said I was a perfect candidate.

The black T-Shirt, trousers, leather shoes and blue jacket, he picked seemed like overdressing to me, but he assured me it was nothing more than an exchange of comfort, for comfort with style.

As soon as I had the T-shirt on, I felt the difference in how the fabric hung off my shoulders and provided a different silhouette.

After covering courts as a reporter for the past 2 1/2 years and attending numerous weddings, I've worn my fair share of "monkey suits" but this was different.

Slipping into the jacket, I expected it would feel constricting, but the cotton blend felt more like a cloud.

"The clothes don't have to be uncomfortable to look good," Valenti said. "Fashion designers, especially in the last decade, have really latched onto this idea of making it socially acceptable to dress up to go out and expect to get positive comments instead of mocking ones."

He said this past April was his busiest since 1994.

"People are attracted to the shaper, crisper, slimmer silhouette," he said. "Pleated-front pants are a thing of the past. People want to look contemporary. They want to look like they're in the game."

He said other local clothing shops are noticing a bump in sales of men's clothing as well. A Michael Kors suit recently sold on special faster than any garment, he said.

With high school prom season approaching, he said many students decide to purchase business suits instead of renting a tuxedo so they'll have something to wear again and again, whether it is to graduation or a job interview.

"It's time to leave the ball cap at home," he said, "and get into something that will impress those around you."

To reach Josh Stilts:
jstilts@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @JoshStilts