Calvin Edwards -- that's Lt. Calvin Edwards of the Baltimore City Fire Department -- remembers his grandfather going to his job as a crane operator in a suit, hat and top coat.
Nobody had to know he slipped into overalls on the job, because at day's end, he'd shower and put the suit on again.
That meticulous attention to first impressions has gone a long way in shaping Edwards' approach to dress and life since he was a youngster. Now 40, Edwards also physically resembles his grandfather, who died about 15 years ago.
"As I began to grow and pay attention to my appearance, I wanted to look like him," says Edwards, who lives in Randallstown. "I didn't realize until years after his death how much I started to favor him. Relatives and my grandmother would always say how much I looked like him."
Give an example of your grandfather's fastidious ways.
He bought an Ironrite, a pressing machine used at the cleaners. He pressed everything. He pressed his own shirts, his own pants; he used to iron the tablecloths and the cotton sheets.
At what moment did you realize you were consciously emulating your grandfather?
When I started buying more ties and more suits, I liked being referenced to my grandfather.
I felt the dignity he must have felt when he was in a suit. I also noticed that elderly people and strangers were more friendly to me when I was impeccably dressed.
Were you a sharp dresser in high school?
At Frederick Douglass High School the senior class voted me "best dressed male." It was surprising. I didn't know they were watching.
Where do you shop?
I go to the Men's Wearhouse and Hyatt's and Gage. And then I order a lot of things through the Bacharach and other catalogs.
As a lieutenant in the fire department and a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, you spend a lot of time in uniform. Do you have a chance to wear anything else?
Even on days off, I stay dressed all day.
I try to go to the gym four or five days a week, but you'll never see me in gym clothes or tennis shoes.
It must be hard to keep a uniform looking smart all day, especially if you're fighting a fire in it.
There are little secrets and shortcuts. You can take the bottom button of your shirt and button it to your pants to keep a straight "gig line" from top to bottom.
And there are braces that attach the sides of your shirt to your socks.
You can run a marathon and the shirt won't come out of your pants.
After a fire, I'll be wet and filthy, but my shirt is still tucked in my pants.
My colleagues don't understand it. I tell them it's just that I'm neat.
Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.
Pub Date: 1/14/99