Meet the kid inspired his rural school to spiff up each week for 'Dapper Wednesday'
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Getting dressed up for work is pretty much a thing of the past. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, just 3% of men wear suits to their jobs. But in Maine, students at one elementary school are bucking the casual attire trend. Once a week, they get all spiffed up for Dapper Wednesday. Maine Public Radio's Patty Wight reports it's all inspired by a boy who started wearing a suit to school.
PATTY WIGHT, BYLINE: Most days, 8-year-old James Ramage has to decide which T-shirt and sweatpants to wear to Chelsea Elementary School. But every Wednesday morning, he opens his closet and makes a different decision.
JAMES RAMAGE: This is all my - where I keep all my suits.
WIGHT: He has three to choose from. On this day, he selects a black one from his closet. He adds some flair with a bright red holiday-themed shirt, puts on a tie, and tops off his dapper look with a gray fedora. Then, he's ready for school.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR BANGING)
WIGHT: His first stop is the cafeteria to grab breakfast, where he immediately catches attention from a member of the staff.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: All right, let me see this shirt. Oh, is it a Christmas one? I love it. Have a good day, buddy.
WIGHT: In his third-grade classroom, James is joined by several other boys wearing suits. And for kids who forgot to dress up...
DEAN PAQUETTE: Does anybody need a tie in here? Everybody all set?
WIGHT: ...Ed tech Dean Paquette swoops in to hand out bow ties just in time for morning announcements.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: We don't have very many announcements to make today except for it is Dapper Wednesday, and we thank everyone who dressed up in a dapper way.
WIGHT: Dapper Wednesday is new this year at this rural elementary school in central Maine. The trend began, as many do, when one person branches out from the mainstream. That was James, who started wearing suits in first grade. He asked for one for his birthday, which posed a bit of a challenge for his mom, Susie Ramage.
SUSIE RAMAGE: Uh - where am I going to get one? 'Cause it's not something that's very common in this area - that they sell, like, little-boy suits.
WIGHT: His grandmother bought him one. And when James started wearing it to school, other kids liked the look...
LINCOLN BOLITHO: And I was like, hmm, that's kind of cool.
WIGHT: ...Including James' friend, Lincoln Bolitho.
LINCOLN: Then I was like, maybe if I got one, me and him could wear a suit, like, together, as something fun every week.
WIGHT: Lincoln now has three suits, including an all-white one he's wearing for winter. When the two boys started dressing up on the same day, ed tech Dean Paquette joined them.
PAQUETTE: When I first started, it's just that I wanted to support it. That was my big thing as an educator here - two young boys that are doing something a little bit different - and wanted them to know that they did have support.
WIGHT: The trio agreed to wear suits on Wednesdays. They dubbed it Dapper Wednesday. It made the school announcements, and other kids started dressing up, including fifth-grader Lana Pratt. She's wearing a black skirt and blazer.
LANA PRATT: It makes me feel, like, fancy - really fancy - like we're in a really great school.
WIGHT: James says he feels good when he wears suits, and it's nice to share the experience with other students.
JAMES: When we started wearing it, a bunch of teachers just complimented us, and then more kids get involved, and they get complimented. It just keeps on going, and a bunch of people can make - can feel good.
ALLISON HERNANDEZ: It's a great message for James and Lincoln of all the impact they can have on the world just by being themselves.
WIGHT: Principal Allison Hernandez says students at Chelsea Elementary stand a little taller on Dapper Wednesday, and the mood at the central Maine school is a little brighter.
For NPR News, I'm Patty Wight.
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