His coworkers call him the “fashion czar.” When new employees join Atlanta’s Ron Clark Academy, they’re inevitably sent to see Kirk Brown for a little sartorial advice. Take a glance at Brown’s Instagram account, and it’s no wonder why. The man is the definition of dapper. “I help them get their suit game going,” says the chief development and communications officer of the prestigious private middle school. In his capacity as the school’s leading fundraiser—with $70 million raised in twelve years—Brown adheres to the adage “Look good, feel good, feel good, do good.” But so do a lot of people, and they don’t look nearly as turned out as Brown. One isn’t born with a brilliant understanding of the correct way to fold a pocket square or finesse a bold print shirt. No, Brown’s is a studied look, one passed down from his father. In partnership with Polo Ralph Lauren and Dillard’s, we caught up with Brown to talk about his dad’s style influence, dressing for success, and figuring out Father’s Day plans in his Eastside Atlanta neighborhood.
by RACHEL HAHN
video by MIKA ALTSKAN AND MATVEY FIKS
Outfitted in Polo Ralph Lauren, Atlanta’s Kirk Brown talks Eastside living, Father’s Day, and his dad’s fashion influence
Compliments of Dad
“My dad had all of the shirts, all of the ties, all of the shoes, and he still does,” Brown says. Growing up in the Bronx before moving to Loganville, Georgia, Brown took his style cues from his father, a Jamaican immigrant who worked as a tradesman.
“I have photos of him in Jamaica, and he had everything tailored, pants perfectly fit, ’fro perfectly manicured,” Brown says. “Even though he used his hands and worked on cars and in printshops, that didn’t stop him. After work, that man was clean and crisp from head to toe.”
It’s a fashion choice Brown not only embraces but intends to pass on to his own children, two-year-old Tatum and two-month-old Maxwell.
To shop these looks and more by Polo Ralph Lauren, visit Dillards.com
Shop Sarah's Picks
On Kirk: Solid Oxford Short-Sleeve Woven Shirt, Newport Navy 9" Inseam Chino Shorts,
Men's Keaton Leather Boat Shoes. On Tatum: Little Girls 2T-6X Short Sleeve Gingham Linen Button Front Shirtdress. On Maxwell: Baby Boys 3-24 Months Short Sleeve Nautical Polo Bear Printed Cotton Polo Shortall. On Shanice: Patchwork Print Cotton V-Neck Sleeveless Tie Waist Midi Dress, Feona Burnished Leather Platform Sandals.
Left: On Paloma: Little Girls 2T-6X Belted Denim Shirt Dress. Right: On Amanda: Ocelot Print Pleated Fully Lined Georgette Midi Skirt On Abner (right): Cable-Knit Cotton Quarter-Zip Sweater, Men's Oslo High Leather Boot.
On Kirk: Custom Classic-Fit Big Pony Mesh Short-Sleeve Polo Shirt. RL Fleece Stripe 9.5" Inseam Shorts, Men's Heritage Court Sneakers. On Tatum: Little Girls 2T-6X Short-Sleeve Madras Skirt Mesh Polo Drop-waist Dress. On Maxwell: Baby Boys 3-24 Months Short Sleeve Mesh Polo Shirt & Pony Embroidered Chino Short 2-Piece Set. On Shanice: Patchwork Button Front Shirttail Hem Point Collar Long Sleeve Shirt, High-Rise Straight Hem Skinny Cropped Jeans, Hale Leather Espadrille Wedges.
“I think what's really important as a father figure is the quote often attributed to Maya Angelou: ‘People may not remember something that you said. They may not remember something that you did, but they'll always remember how you made them feel,’” Brown says. “For my mentees, I always want to make them feel like I’m there for them.”
Home from work in his Eastside neighborhood, Brown transitions from father figure to actual dad, a job that calls for clothing that’s a little less restrictive—say, a relaxed pair of shorts and a polo shirt—but still designed with a smart cut. “It's all about being comfortable, but still having that style,” says Brown “I want to wear a polo that's breathable and maybe tuck it in,
or wear some shorts that feel good or some jeans that are tailored but still comfortable.”
That said, outfit changes are inevitable for Kirk and his wife, Shanice, given their busy social schedule. One night that might be a short-sleeved button-down with boat shoes for dinner
at the couple’s favorite pizza joint, Ammazza. On another he might choose casual chic shorts and sneakers for a Tabernacle concert with friends.
With Father’s Day on the horizon Brown admits that both of those diversions sound like tempting ways to celebrate, but he says that in his house tradition dictates a more low-key affair.
“A perfect Father's Day for me would be church first as a family, then a nice brunch,” he says. “That’s how it was growing up.” Every year all of Brown’s extended family would gather back in Loganville at his parents’ house to celebrate.
“We’d always come together for Father's Day and just cook and have fellowship and be together as a family,” Brown recalls. “Now that I have my family, we're building our own traditions. I guess I'm growing up.”
Growing up, but still looking up to the debonair man who raised him, for fashion and fatherly advice.
On Kirk: Hoffman Printed Short-Sleeve Woven Camp Shirt, Classic-Fit Flat-Front Stretch Prepster 6" Inseam Chino Shorts, Men's Heritage Court Sneakers, 56mm Square Sunglasses. On Tatum: Little Girls 2T-6X Sleeveless Eyelet Hem Stretch Mesh Polo Dress. On Maxwell: Baby Boys
3-24 Months Short Sleeve Sailboat Polo Shortall. On Shanice: Floral Crepe Midi Dress, Ellington Logo Leather Sandals in Polo Tan, Marcy Smooth Leather Large Satchel Bag
Brown says that dressing well encourages a better attitude. "I just walk differently. I feel different. I have a sense of confidence,” Brown says. As a leader at a school that serves students from various socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s also his subtle way of setting an example. “It's a way to inspire our youth and let them know that you can be cool and look strong.” Brown says that how he carries himself is a way of broadcasting a future of possibilities to his mentees, both at Ron Clark Academy and within Emerging 100 of Atlanta, an organization he cofounded as an auxiliary of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, a group dedicated to “enhancing educational and economic opportunities particularly for African-American youth in the Atlanta community.”