Sidestepping the ordinary Individualist: Snazzy vests, dramatic hats and unexpected colors brighten wardrobe.


Dan Collins, senior media-relations manager at Mercy Medical Center, wears the same old thing every day: a pager. Fortunately, he knows how to accessorize. His is a closet brimming with eclectic and dapper items, from a three-piece suit he calls "Atticus Finch wear," in honor of the lawyer of "To Kill Mockingbird" fame, to a full-body astronaut suit he wore to the Adult Space Academy. Collins' wardrobe carries him from a long day at the hospital to the Chesapeake Fencing Club, where he perfects his skill with a foil. And he has a wealth of snazzy vests and dramatic hats, including a mammoth black beaver hat, to boot. But Collins, 35, is the first to tell you that he wasn't always a clotheshorse. He was once very overweight and was "quite the master" at assembling a wardrobe that disguised his bulk.

How did you adjust to your weight loss?

I had to adjust mentally. I was still fat mentally, and I wore sweaters in the middle of summer. That may have had something to do with how my style developed. Such as the banana-yellow button-up sweater and banana-yellow tie and charcoal black jacket, that a friend says works for me, but wouldn't work for anybody else.

What other factors determined your style?

I was raised to be an individual, to not care what other people think. My dad said that the end result of conformity was mediocrity. My mom said, "Don't be common." I wear what I feel comfortable in and what looks good on me.

Do you have a particular sartorial era that you favor?

I do like the 1940s look. That's why I like fedora hats.

How far out do you go?

I've gotten into lapel pins. But you're never going to see this guy wear an earring. I'm too Clark Kentish.

How do you approach your dressing decisions?

I like to dress for the occasion, not in terms of what my work is. Today, I'm wearing a teal jacket, a white and orange tie and a white shirt, although I do say I am not going to join the white-shirt brigade. I believe in shirts with color.

What do fencers wear?

I have a new garment, a unitard that's all one piece, and it's all white. It's very comfortable. I also have a lot of club logo patches that can be sewn onto the arms of fencing outfits.

Where do you shop?

Mostly through catalogs, such as International Male or Bachrach. I just don't have a lot of time, and I'm just one of those lucky people for whom clothing almost always seems to fit. If it doesn't, I just take it to the tailor. It saves a lot of time and looking here and there and being accosted by salespeople. I do go to the Cockeysville Exchange on York Road. It's really neat. If you go in, there's a lot of stuff for women, and if you don't take the time to look around, you don't realize there are all these men's clothes there too. There's usually nobody there, which really makes me happy.

Do you have anything else to add?

I'm single.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 6/25/98

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