Ben Rascoe remembers a time, not so long ago, when his buddies at Mt. Lebanon High School were making fun of his choice of attire.
While his friends were sporting ill-fitting jeans and old soccer jerseys, Rascoe was outfitted in chinos and tailored shirts.
The guys are no longer laughing.
Rascoe, aka “Dapper Professional,” has amassed more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, where he features photos of himself decked out in designer duds coordinated into stellar ensembles.
“I grew up shopping with my mom,” said Rascoe, who graduated from Mt. Lebanon in 2008 and went on to study marketing and entrepreneurship at Miami University in Ohio. “My interest in fashion kind of stemmed from that.”
He grew his interest in fashion while in college, but things really got serious after graduation when he took his first position as a financial consultant at a company in Pittsburgh. With no formal training in fashion, Rascoe took the time to teach himself.
“When I started working, I went out and bought a lot of clothes, suits, dress shirts, belts, shoes,” he said. “And then I started reading about how things were supposed to fit, articles and blog posts. And I learned that a lot of the stuff I had accumulated didn’t fit me right.”
Rascoe set out to buy more, better-tailored clothes, seeking brands that were well-made and that could also fit into his budget.
That’s when the idea struck to create a website to help other young professional males by showcasing photos and written content about how clothes are supposed to fit and which labels were economical. At the same time, Rascoe was renewing his interest in photography, purchased a nicer camera and launched an Instagram site.
“In order to make a website successful, you have to post a lot,” Rascoe said. “So, I got other people to write for me, too. But what I found was that the photos of me personally were doing better than the collaborative approach. The goal never was for me to be the face of it, but to be an aggregator. But as I learned in my entrepreneurial classes, you have to be willing to pivot.”
So, about a year and a half ago, Rascoe pivoted to focus on photos featuring him and his clothes. Many show the young professional out and about on the streets of Chicago, where he now lives.
With so many followers, and more than 100 companies working with him to showcase their wares, Rascoe is now known as an “influencer.”
“As an influencer, you’re basically creating marketing content for products,” Rascoe said. “Influencers organically promote products.”
He has worked with companies selling everything from socks to suits, he said. “But I don’t take work from companies that I wouldn’t purchase from or if I wouldn’t recommend their products.”
Although there are scores of other male clothing influencers on Instagram, not too many have the sort of following as the Dapper Professional’s. In fact, Rascoe said, he “is the largest men’s fashion account in Chicago, by far, and I’m almost as large as some of the female bloggers.”
Still working as a financial consultant, Rascoe nevertheless puts in the time necessary to create high quality content for both his website and his Instagram account. Aside from having some of his friends occasionally photograph him — his girlfriend, or those same high school friends from Mt. Lebanon, who, by the way, also have moved to Chicago — Rascoe does all the research, styling and most of the photography himself. He spends at least an hour or two a day on his Instagram account and even more time on the weekends.
“It’s underestimated by a lot of people, but it’s been a lot of hard work,” he said, adding that in the midst of the creation of his online presence, he took time to visit Israel on Birthright.
His website content, which he creates three or four times a month, is well-written and informative, chock full of tips for the young male trying to navigate the professional landscape while looking his best. A section called “Style 101” gives basic tips, such as the importance of the shoulder fit in a suit and what color shirt is best for a job interview. Another entry explains five situations in which a tie is recommended and five when it is not.
He updates his Instagram account with new photos just about every day.
“It’s fun,” Rascoe said. “It’s an outlet that has allowed me to pursue something creative on the side. I’m passionate about fashion and the entrepreneurial spirit of it, and it’s fun putting an outfit together.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.