Zach Alpert plays rugby. He has an infant son. He lives in Edgewater. He's 28. He loves his wife.
These are the things that define Alpert-or so he hopes. He hopes it's not his clothes.
But he's starting to realize his outfits might be speaking more loudly than his personality.
"I've never thought to look a certain way because I always felt that my actions and personality are the things that define me," Alpert says. "But professionally, I'm not a 21-year-old college student anymore. You can't wear jeans and a T-shirt in a professional environment and expect people to give you respect or take you seriously."
With a kid in the picture, Alpert is looking to the future. He's going back to school to get his MBA, though he feels lucky to have his job as an area sales manager at Groupon.
"My wife has a Master's and I don't want to be the stupid one in the family," he says with a laugh.
To move forward, he needed a new look.
"I always have this ridiculous beard. I'll shear it down and after a few weeks it just explodes. It's a Hagrid-like thing," he says.
Enter stylist Eric Himel. His course of action? To get Alpert the haircut he needs and a crash course in men's shopping at Bloomingdale's.
"He's just wearing things that are not very memorable," Himel says. "They don't really do anything for his body. There's a fine line between comfort and just not looking good. The good thing about men is that they are pretty open to it."
Before shopping, they stopped at Maxine Salon, where stylist Severn Dorre went to work on Alpert's grooming.
"I've never had a haircut like this. When he said he was going to put a fade in my hair, I thought I would look like Kid 'n Play. When I first came home I was a little nervous. But my wife really liked it."
At Bloomingdale's, Himel helped Alpert put together three looks: casual, work and formal. He encouraged Alpert to concentrate on cut, possible clothing combinations and personality.
"It gave me a good idea of what clothes to look for. If you're wearing jeans and a button-down, get the proper color jeans and the proper color button-down and make sure they fit right," Alpert says. "Very simple articles of clothing can change you from looking like a college student to looking like a professional."
Richard Scruggs is in transition. On top of being a freelancer in uncertain economic times and the father of a teenager, he also is a recent widower.
Scruggs, 54, describes his style as "mid-90's IT guy-a lot of Dockers and polo shirts." Before this look? Dozens of Hawaiian shirts. For most of his life, that was just fine.
"Sometime, I may need to put myself out there romantically again. People notice appearance first. I mean, I'm charming as hell and I'm fun as hell, but you have to be able to get them on the hook," he says. "I'm trying to lose some weight. I'm going to talk to a trainer. Now's a good time for self-improvement because I don't have much else going on."
And if he had to pick a new style icon?
"George Clooney. The guy looks like a million bucks no matter what he puts on," he says.
"Physically I'm not that dissimilar, aside from the giant bald patch and the 40 to 100 extra pounds. When I was younger I was more that type."
Luckily for Scruggs, there were a couple of experts on hand to get him into tip-top shape, starting with Jeanette Kemble, owner of Robert Jeffrey Salon in Lincoln Park.
"He needed an update. He's thinning a little on top, and hanging on to a little bit of length I think makes it look worse," she says. "We're going a little shorter and updating him a little bit. We're also doing some gray blending."
But the overall vision belonged to Jennifer Mahoney, owner of A Sharp Dressed Man. She headed off to Nordstrom.
"I thought I'd update his glasses with a frame (from Division Optical) that wasn't so heavy on his face so you can see his eyes a little more. The clothing, he just has no clue, so that was easy: Finding something that fit and looked right and was a little slimming, working with darker colors and layers."
For Scruggs, the makeover was a success.
"I felt great about the experience. It was really fun," he says. "I should be wearing more jackets and blazers and sweaters. I'm not a good launderer. So I need to pay more attention to fabrics."
And he plans on keeping up with the gray "staining" that updated his hair.
"I don't want to hide my gray," he says. "I sort of earned it."
Christy Bonstell spends most of her time making people laugh. The best laughs are the ones she gets from her son, Keagan.
See more of Christy's stories here.