Community Champion

Community Champion

James Proby is the owner of The Men’s Xchange, a small menswear establishment just a few doors down from The Wild Goose in downtown Colorado Springs.  He remembers the day a gentleman named Jackie called him up. “Hey man,” Jackie said over the phone, “I know this sounds insane, but I need a suit and I don’t have any money. I need a suit for a job interview that’s coming up on Monday.  James thought he sounded genuine on the phone, so he told Jackie to come see him. “I don’t think you understand….I can’t afford to pay for a suit….I know I’ve asked for this, but….”

James fielded his arguments, and insisted he come down to the shop. “I think I got you, but come on in and come see me. We can’t do anything until I find out what sizes you are and how we can fit you,” he said.

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When Jackie walked through the door, James immediately noticed his insecurity and tried to make him comfortable. They chatted, and James took some measurements. Jackie explained that he had an opportunity to start driving limos and to do high-end driving services. But he was about three weeks away from being evicted from his apartment. Things were coming down to the wire.

“And as the universe would have it,”  James said, “we had a black suit that fit him pretty well. We didn’t have to do a lot of alterations to it. And so we gave it to him. And a shirt and a couple of ties. I’ve worked in employment services for over a decade of my life, helping people find jobs. So I gave him some feedback, which he was more than willing to hear, about cutting his hair and shaving his face and showing up appropriately and not smelling like smoke at a job interview and not wearing too much cologne, but also not showing up with body odor. He heard all of those things.”

 So Jackie left the shop, and James didn’t hear anything from him for a while. Then, a couple of weeks later, Jackie showed back up. He’d worn his new suit to the interview. He’d gotten the job. He’d been meaning to come back in to see James, but the new job was taking up all his time. “They’ve worked me every day,” he told James. “The thing is, I can’t wear this exact same black suit every day. I need another couple of suits.”  So he bought a couple more with his first paycheck.



For the next two months, Jackie came in every two weeks and bought another black suit, some more ties, and shirts, and built his wardrobe. Jackie began to talk about how, in addition to the financial benefits, his life had changed in another way. He told James how he’s treated differently in the stores he walks into; how people hold doors for him, and how people call him “Sir.”

“I’m almost 60 years old, and I’ve never worn a suit in my life,”  Jackie said. “And now I go over to my mom’s house and she just cries every time she sees me. And it’s had this massive impact.”

The Men’s Xchange is a well-known part of the Colorado Springs business community. And James is a true community champion. James is polite, kind, thoughtful, and eager to discuss social and political issues. He is a man with a keen sense of justice, whose life is primarily about making a difference in the lives of people who have been pushed down by circumstances. In his own words, his journey has “always been about investing in this community.”

Mens Exchange


James attended college at UCCS, briefly played basketball there, and wrote for the school paper. He was the student Dean of Minority Affairs for the campus and the pre-collegiate development program, which worked specifically to get minority and underserved kids into college.

“The belief that ‘We’ is more important than ‘Me’ has always been foundational in my life,”  he explains. “In 1992, when we as a community, as a state, passed the amendment to exclusionary laws, and we got labeled as a hate state because we were excluding our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I sought ways to figure out how to keep that community protected in a minority status on campus. I was involved in protests and places where we got to speak out. In my teenage years, I got in lots of fights being usually the only African American student in my class, usually one of 15 or 20 in school, at middle school and in high school. So I got into fights defending that.” He smiles. “Not necessarily always doing that the best way—but I got into fights protecting people that I felt couldn’t protect themselves. So that’s been a base-level thing for me. And that mindset has applied to this business, and this business has grown because we have a community that is invested in this idea and this concept.”



The Men’s Xchange is a community effort. James explained that the community has been more than willing to donate to, shop with, and buy into the business conceptually. “Without the community, this wouldn’t exist. We have a phenomenal community that sees the value in how we do what we do. And that has created a momentum of growth in this sustainable business model that has continued to grow year over year. And it’s been an absolute fun journey.”

Months after James gave Jackie his first suit the limo driver stopped into The Men’s Xchange to talk.

“I need to tell you something,” he said to James. “You gave me a knife.”

James was puzzled, and thought to himself “I gave him a knife? Did I leave a knife in the pants that he was getting into? Like, did that happen?” And he asked Jackie about it.

Jackie said, “No, man. You gave me a knife so I could carve out a living for myself. I can’t thank you enough for helping me out.” James hugged him, and said, “Dude, this is why we do what we do.”