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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Profile: Aaron Marino, image consultant

When he’s not busy appearing on reality television or writing style and grooming advice for the masses, Atlanta's Aaron Marino can be found saving fashion-challenged men across the country, one computer programmer at a time.

How did you get involved in your line of work?

I used to own a fitness center, and I had a male client that came up to me one day and was like, “Hey, I don’t know what to wear on a date.” And I said, “Well, why don’t I come over and we’ll go through your closet? By the way you need a haircut, so let my take you to my stylist. You also need to trim your nose hair.” I had no idea that I was setting the groundwork for an actual career.

Describe a typical day as an image consultant. What is it that you do?

I meet somebody at their house, and from that point we start going through all their old clothes. The idea is to create the best possible picture of somebody. It’s basically fashion smoke and mirrors. We take a gentleman’s best attributes and maximize them while simultaneously minimizing the negatives.

Where do you think your sense of style comes from?

I’m Italian, baby. One of my earliest memories was taping the end of my pants going to kindergarten, because I didn’t like the way they flared out. My wife likes to joke that I’m a gay man with a straight penis.

What is your typical client like?

GQ is not my average client; it’s not a 23-year-old, six- foot-two model. My clients are regular guys. If their pants are ironed, they're in good shape.

What are people’s responses when you tell them you’re an image consultant?

If I’m talking to a bunch of computer guys, they think an image consultant is someone who works on graphics. The first question is, “Well what’s that?” And I say, "Well I’m an image consultant for men. I help men look their best so they can have more sex." Is that inappropriate?

So have you ever had a client that was unwilling to take your advice?

Absolutely. A lot of times, there will be the moment of reckoning with clients, when I have to say, “Hey you’re paying me. You need to trust me. I’m not going to do anything that is going to make you look silly.” It’s difficult for them, because I’m a third party. I don’t have to sit next to you in church, I don’t have to sit next to you at dinner, and I don’t love you. So I don’t need to sugarcoat anything and blow smoke up your butt.

Sometimes you help your clients prepare for first dates. What’s that process like? Do you have special words of wisdom that you give them?

I basically help plan the perfect date. I will grab a guy, turn him towards a mirror and say, “Would you kiss you? If not, then we’ve got to make you sexy." I can make anybody sexy, relatively speaking.

What would you say is the most common style error that men make?

Wearing clothes that don’t fit them properly, be it too lose, too tight, or too baggy. You want to create a visual streamline, and anything that takes away from the line from your neck to your toe we’ve got to change. If there is something your eye gets hung up on, we’ve got to modify. If you have an over-sized belly, we can minimize it. But wearing over-sized shirts and jackets is just drawing more attention to the size of the person. Also, it's important to pay a little bit of extra money to get clothes tailored.

You were a contestant on Vh1’s "Glam God"?

Yeah, and I also I just finished up production on a new reality show that my producer and I are starting to shop around, called “Man Made Style.” It’s basically taking what I do and making it a little bit more fun for television and chronicling it

So what was the "Glam God" experience like?

It was a train wreck, but the experience was interesting. I realized very fast that they were casting for specific types of people. I was cast as the normal, everyday guy that just happens to know more about fashion than football. It didn’t work out because I don’t really care about what they're doing on the runways of Milan and Paris. That’s not what I’m about. I want to help people come up with real-world solutions to their current problems. High fashion doesn’t interest me.

Name one male icon past or present with impeccable style.

I think Frank Sinatra. Guys back in the '50s and '60s understood that you had to put yourself together and you had to look good. Your clothes were tailored and they were pressed. Modern day, I’d say George Clooney always looks good, though it's sort of safe and boring. Tom Cruise understands dressing to maximize his height. David Beckham is fantastic, because he takes a lot of style risks. Patrick Dempsey, since he’s gotten his contract with Armani, is always dressed pretty sharp now. There’s so much to choose from.

Do you have any favorite stores in Atlanta that you like to go to, not for your clients but for your personal shopping?

This is boring, but I love Macy’s, because you have such a variety of different designers and clothing. I also like K&G. It's cheap, it's discount — but you can also get some great stuff there. As far as high-end stores, Guffey’s is great if you’re looking for anything custom made or tailored. But you’re going to pay $1,200 to $1,500 dollars for a sports coat

For all the guys out there, any final words of advice?

Understand your body, understand how clothes send a message, and dress yourself the best that you possibly can. And don’t take yourself too seriously.

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