The Photo Booth: Two Exercises in Sartorial Transformation (ap musc mc)

I'm very pleased to post the results of my collaboration with SS . It's been a true joint effort: we took turns writing sections and sending them back and forth. I've really enjoyed working with SS, and hope that you all enjoy what we've made.

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“There’s another one,” Paul muttered to himself, flipping to a fresh page in his sketchbook as he sized up his latest unwitting subject.

The man was quite a looker. A strapping college guy, about Paul’s age. Taller than Paul—and Paul was already 6’2’’—broad-shouldered, his muscular back’s contours stretched through his polo shirt. Really buff—

—and really not well dressed.

None of the guys who worked out seemed capable of dressing. The closest he’d seen was this guy, and he still wearing baggy khakis, beat-up loafers, and a polo shirt that had been washed too many times.

So instead, Paul’s pencil executed a sketch of the college jock without his clothes: imagining his biceps, his slim waist and long, sculptured legs, Paul whipped out a likeness of the jock in swift lines, then clothed the jock’s muscles in the rigid geometry of a fine, well-fitting suit.

Paul’s greasy, half-Cuban features smiled as he gave the jock in his sketch a nice, fat tie, cufflinks, and long, pointed laceups that would emphasize his height. THAT was how the guy should dress. The mental image, aided by the sketch, was sensational. Paul was tempted to jump up and show the guy how incredible he could truly look.

Of course, Paul would never ever do that. But man, was it tempting sometimes…

This was the way most of Paul’s sketches went as he sat in the food court everyday, nibbling at his lunch while watching the eye candy stroll by. Usually fresh from their workouts, most of them were about Paul’s age—23—and some were even taller than the lanky mechanic who sat at the table with his sketch pad.

His fellow mechanics would call him “Picasso.” An art school dropout, he never liked the name. He never liked formal artistic instruction, either: his life drawing professor always chose “real” people, and would grow frustrated with the way Paul idealized their physiques, correcting their flaws, producing figures that could have sprung from the pages of comic books.

And now, with only a high school degree, his grungy job as a mechanic wasn’t proving much better.

Paul paused, glancing up: he could see his co-worker Roy lumbering toward the food court.

It was times like this when Paul really wished he’d bought a smaller sketchpad. He couldn’t stand it when his co-workers saw him sketching. The way Roy’s head bobbed side to side, not fixed in one place, indicated that Paul hadn’t been spotted yet. Paul discreetly looked around for a place to which he could escape.

But Paul knew there was nowhere really to hide nearby. The indoor palms weren’t bushy enough, and he’d be a sitting duck if he tried hiding in one of the fast food lines. The stores were too far away for him to walk without being noticed, and the closest store was a lingerie retailer. Being caught going in there would be potentially be even more embarrassing than being caught sketching.

And that’s when he noticed it: a photo booth, sitting about fifty feet away. It was a strange old thing, with a long curtain and some odd console inside that looked like a hand scanner.

It was worth the risk, Paul decided. So, tucking his pad behind his back, he waited until he was sure Roy wasn’t looking his way—then bolted for the photo booth.

He practically threw his sketchpad onto the bench as he hurtled himself toward the booth. One hand drew the curtains shut while the other—which happened to be on top of the scanner—supported his weight.

It took Paul a second to realize the booth had curtains on both sides, and the other side was still open. He yanked those shut too, quickly.

And then something really strange happened: he went blind. Well, only for a second, like when a blink lasts a little too long and it’s like the lights are flickering. Except the lights in the booth weren’t getting darker, they were getting brighter. A momentary whiteout.

The distraction passed quickly, and Paul’s thoughts went back to that guy from work who had been heading to eat. Paul hoped that his scuttle to the booth hadn’t been seen. Although he hated looking so casual, it was good that he was wearing the old t-shirt and torn jeans that he wore every day for work. His casual look blended right in with everyone else, and as long as his coworker hadn’t seen his face, Paul knew there was nothing too suspicious about a guy in jeans and a tee getting into a photo booth.

The sky-blue jeans crinkled as he set his elbows on his knees and twiddled his oil-stained thumbs. Just had to wait a few minutes for the coast to be clear…


With his head still aimed down at the booth’s floor, Paul only shifted his eyes upward to look for the source of the pleasant chime. He realized the noise had come because, for some reason, the booth had taken his picture and was now displaying it.

Of course he looked terrible, so terrible that he had to chuckle. His eyes weren’t looking in the right spot, his mouth was pulled tight because of his nervousness – nothing looked good.

Ironically, the best-looking thing was his white t-shirt. He’d put his uniform tee through the wringer; the collar was frayed to bits, the hems were tearing, the sleeves were worn, and the entire shirt had stains all over it from months of tinkering with, and under, automobiles. But the brightness of the flash gave the illusion of smoothing all those flaws out. The crewneck looked normal, the sleeves were fine, and the color was a completely bleached white.

Paul was able to gauge just how blinding the flash actually was, because his dark hair was actually reflecting the light bouncing onto it. The dark-black waves looked like they were glowing white in response to the picture-taking, giving his hair color a sort of silvery quality.

Paul was looking for the booth’s camera. It was really hidden well. Even after another flash surprised him, he was unable to locate it. He was also unable to explain why his chest felt so tight all of a sudden. Or was it his shirt instead of his chest?

His second picture rolled out, not much better than the first. But still better. Paul guessed he must've been expecting the blinding flash a little better this time: his eyes weren't so squinty, and his mouth wasn't as drawn, his cheeks more relaxed. In fact, he could've sworn that something in his expression looked confident. Maybe even a little cocky.

Confidence! That was an odd look for a lanky college drop-out to have. What could he possibly be confident about? Was it his thick, tanned neck? His broad shoulders? As he looked down to his greasy hands, he swore he never noticed how nice and thick his arms were before. In fact, the picture seemed to suggest that his shoulders had some kind of definition. Some kind of tone. Some kind of—


—Deltoids! That's what they were called. Those life drawing lessons included some anatomy. They really were doing the trick, those lessons. In fact, he started wondering whether he should pose for life drawing classes himself. His bleached white undershirt and frayed mechanic shirt—even more frayed now than he remembered it—were bulging, straining, trying their very best to contain those swelling pecs of his. Maybe he didn't need to go to the gym this year after all.

As the picture appeared on the screen, he noticed that all of his acne had miraculously vanished. And, for once, his stubble wasn't all patchy. It was growing in as a full, handsome beard in the making. His hand—now veiny, his knuckles downed with just a little bit of black hair—stroked his clefted chin. He'd always had a clefted chin from his father's side of the family, but he'd never noticed how manly it made his face look. Olive-hued, handsome Cuban features. Curly, light brown sideburns. A hot little soul patch beneath his lips. His looks were masculine, classic, even a bit sultry. He had the whole tall-dark-and-handsome vibe on lock.

And his body! His pecs seemed to be stretching holes in the collar of his white undershirt: it was still clean, but it had been washed too many times. He couldn't spend money on clothes at this point—had to save up for college—had to get his degree, get his life back on track. No time for clothes shopping. He really needed to go up a shirt size, but he just couldn't make himself do it; Paul knew how fast his body grew, and as soon as he’d buy himself a new shirt, it would feel just as small as the old one. Besides, he was actually a pretty good tailor and he could sometimes fix his clothes to fit, or at least make them look like they did, because he had a God-given styling ability. His old mechanic shirt—his lucky old mechanic shirt, with his name "Paul" fading on the pocket—showed off his biceps too well. Why would he want to get rid of it?

All the girls who went to the autoshop asked for him. He was very popular with the ladies there. And, sometimes during the summer, his boss would yell at him for taking off his undershirt or rolling up his sleeves. He couldn't help it. It was so damn hot working in that garage during the summer. Besides, the look on the faces of the female customers when he'd drop their keys in their hands—the way their eyes would take in the curves of his biceps, triceps, and delts—the way they'd just drink in the sight of his tight, broad chest—their admiration, mingled with more than a little lust, made it worth it—


—College made it worth it, too, working at the garage. A bachelor's in graphic design was just what he needed. Not that he disliked working at the garage, but it was time to move on. That out-of-shape asshole he worked with—whats-his-name—was getting on his nerves. And why did his mechanic shirt look so dark in his picture? Its light blue had turned to navy, its buttons had disappeared, and its sleeves had lengthened to encase his massive, tight arms. His white undershirt wasn't frayed anymore, either: it was a button-down Oxford, worn two buttons open to show off a few curls of his chest hair and that nice, deep ridge between his high pecs. With strong fingers, he pinched a bit of the fabric and felt the luxurious texture. His confusion both abated and grew as he looked down:

What once were oil-smeared jeans now had lightened to crisp khakis, and his dirty old work boots had shrunk into polished penny loafers. He wore no socks, his tanned ankles showing between the classy penny loafers and his khaki cuffs, going for a kind of beachy, Caribbean look, combined with the elegant Brooks Brothers styling of his blazer. A blazer? Yes—it was a nice, dark, tropical wool blazer. He'd gotten it custom made for him last month, since he'd grown too big for the standard off-the-rack sizes. It was only custom clothing that could show off both the impressive scope of his shoulders and beautiful detail of his taut waist. High-quality, velvety wool, very breathable for the summer temperatures. It went well with the crisp white pocket square that now rested where his old name badge used to be.

Looking at his picture, Paul was amused that the first thing he noticed was his collarbone, framed by the open part of his white shirt. He had a really beautiful clavicle that emphasized the divide between his pecs and the height of his traps. And of course he loved the way it stretched across the sweeping expanse of his shoulders.

His facial features looked so alien in the first couple pictures, but they were really fusing together superbly. Paul had always loved his chin, the same as his father’s, a handsome square cleft dotting his jawline. He loved it so much that it had been a tough decision, did he want a beard or did he want the view of his chin to be unimpeded? Turns out, as his silky whiskers filled into a glossy beard, he found that he wouldn’t have to choose. As long as he kept his beard trim, short and neat, the powerful cleft of his chin was still visible and impossible to hide. Paul loved the maturity that his beard offered. It served as an accent to his jawline, which had always been strong and square and was still as sharp as ever. His smooth beard and virile body served as a reminder that he could still grow hair somewhere, since his head wasn’t producing much anymore.

Sure, the blazer was a preppy look, but it fit. And the menstore owner liked it, though he did prefer for Paul to wear a tie more often. Paul found it hard to, not because he didn't know how, but because he just liked showing off his buff chest. In fact, after work, he'd usually open his shirt three or four buttons, slinging his navy blazer over one shoulder with his sleeves rolled way up past his elbows, just to see the kind of looks he'd get strutting down the street on the way back to the parking lot with his bulging biceps and hairy pecs in full view. Even at work, the ladies liked him and the guys related to him. Seeing a built, buff, masculine Cubano there made them feel a bit more at home, like this whole suiting up thing wasn't an insult to their masculinity after all.

In fact, if anything, it was a complement, which was precisely his point for working at a downtown menstore—


—it was why he’d opened the store in the first place, to make men feel good about themselves, showing them it was okay to embrace their masculinity. It was okay to coddle it, nurture it, dress it.

With a slight sigh, Pablo began buttoning up his shirt, covering up his now-massive hairy pectorals. He loved to wear his shirts open, always at least three buttons, usually four since it was so much more comfortable due to the muscular mass of his incredible body. Sometimes he even dared to open five, though that was only during the summer. He didn’t mind seeming like he was showing off: after all, he had plenty of chest and abs to flaunt. And, after hours, he had no qualms about sporting a plunging neckline to display his bulging, hairy pecs.

But as the store’s owner, it felt wrong to not be wearing a tie during work hours. So, begrudgingly, Pablo flipped up his collar and began knotting. He was such an expert by now that he didn’t even need a mirror.

Deftly the luxurious silk looped itself into a double Windsor in his tanned, hairy, but now elegantly clean hands. He hardly ever wore button cuffs anymore, favoring French cuffs instead. He loved the way they complemented his big, masculine hands, folding back around his wrists in just the right way. And that extra touch of elegance, the gold and amber cufflinks, always added just the right finish to any outfit. He'd give the same advice to any man coming into his store.

But Pablo felt so strange, all these thoughts cluttering his head: graphic design, suits, car parts, fabrics, a flat face, a handsome one…why was he so out-of-sorts? And his name, wasn’t it, hm, it was right on the tip of his tongue, something with ‘P’ but not Pablo. He kept looking down at his chest expecting to see his name embroidered there, but of course it wasn’t. His cuffs were monogrammed though, the first initial a P. P for Pablo. The more Pablo thought of his own name, the more comfortable he felt with it. It bloomed within him along with his confidence and masculinity.

In the pictures, he was wearing an Oxford, but that was too casual for this outfit. He liked his tailor-made white dress shirt, with a herringbone pattern so fine that it shifted to different shades of white depending on the observer’s perspective. The stark white collar—a sharp cutaway collar, its angle custom-cut to frame his thick neck—gave emphasis to the firm, conical double Windsor and luxurious dimple of the gold Bugatti tie that was being knotted just below his Adam’s apple. Finishing the full, fat knot, Pablo pushed it all the way up and flipped down his cutaway collar. Then he tucked the other end of the tie into his fitted waistcoat. He’d be sure to make sure it looked alright when the next picture came.

He wasn’t wearing a tie yet in the fourth picture, so he could see the round pecs trying to force their way out of his shirt, chest hair spilling forth. It was a rather crass look, but Pablo couldn’t help but swoon a little at how manly he was. No matter how big he made the sleeves of his suit jackets, his arms always felt like sausages in their casings, about to burst through.

He would check out more of his suit later, but for now, he was focusing on his grooming. His beard reflected the light of the flash beautifully, with his perfect white teeth popping through the black whiskers. The deep tan of his Cuban heritage made it look like he owned a subscription to a tanning salon, but he had nothing of the kind, just pure genetics. He had his father’s height and muscular build—and the jaw and chin, of course!—but he facially resembled his mother more. Pablo’s father had an overly large nose, but Pablo had gotten the nose of his mother’s side, a straight slope with a tight bridge. It was a lovely nose, aristocratic, as beautiful as the soaring cheekbones on either side of it. His shimmering eyes wavered somewhere between green and brown and changed color depending on the light, flashing anywhere from deep emerald to a golden hazel. At the moment, they looked exceptionally light, a champagne green framed by dark lashes.


He shook all over, muscles continuing to swell outward with obscene pride, making him physically tremble with power. Pablo felt shifting all over his body as his clothes and muscles both continued to change, pushing him into a godlike arena of beauty and masculinity.

Testoni captoe monkstraps, black, polished like mirrors, paired with elegant sheer socks, gleamed up beneath the cuffs of his black suit trousers, which were now woven with subtle gold chalkstripes that traced the contours of his calves and thighs. Likewise a black suit jacket appeared over his waistcoat, gold chalkstripes running through both, forming a complete three-piece suit: the stripes followed every contour of his muscles, his biceps and delts, luxurious wool just gliding over them with his every movement. Notch lapels on the jacket, working button cuffs on the sleeves, a ticket pocket—all the extra little touches that subtly announced that this was no ordinary suit. He even had the suit cut a little too slim around the waist to make it bulge a bit around his ample chest, and certainly the sleeves were generously cut, but not at all loose on his massive biceps. Slim grey stripes cut their way through the crisp white cotton of his custom shirt, whose collar was changing to a contrasting white tab collar, with a gold button that he now fastened behind his Bugatti tie.

Ah, yes, perfect. His hairy hands brushed the thick, lustrous silk, feeling the way the tab of his collar made his tie knot jut forward a bit, causing it to blossom out of the top of his waistcoat almost in the manner of a cravat. Alternating with stripes of amber and brown, a vintage silk handkerchief ruffled from his breast pocket. And, encasing his tremendous muscles—customers told him all the time he should pose for a calendar—a copper satin lining ran throughout the interior of his suit, letting the jacket and waistcoat ride over his broad shoulders and expansive chest with ease. Out of the waistcoat's pocket was draped a slim golden watch chain. It was an antique, almost Edwardian touch, but it complemented his gold tie, gold chalkstripes, and gold cufflinks perfectly.

His clefted, bearded chin jutted a bit as he adjusted the dimple in his gold tie, trying to get it perfectly centered beneath that fat knot. He used to be concerned that dressing to the nines would make him stick out, back before his menstore expanded. When he first started wearing them, the sheer dress socks especially gave him pause, but after only a week he soon realized that nobody would make a snide remark about them. Sure, they were thin, more than a little see-through, but their silky texture looked exquisite. Whenever he'd get a guy to try them on, they'd always be amazed at how good they felt. Why would a man wear any other kind of sock with a custom suit of this caliber?

Indeed, why would a man wear anything other than a custom suit? That was the root of his business. The small, slim man who couldn't quite find his size, or the large, muscular man who needed custom tailoring to fit his physique—these both were his customers, and he served them well. It's too bad his wife divorced him a year into the business, though. It had all happened so fast—and they were so young—married at 20 and with three babies by 25, and then he’d gotten the chance to open the store. They had just been overloaded. Taking care of the store was too much of a strain on their relationship, but at least one of the two sons wanted to take over the business when Pablo would retire. Not that he was considering doing that anytime soon, though. There were still plenty of men who needed his keen eye, and he was only, uh…how old....

Guys who looked at the way he dressed would always say, "I can't pull off a suit and tie like that." His response: "That's only because you haven't tried on the right one."


Damn. Damn! Who was that stud smiling back at him in the picture? That handsome, macho grin, just brimming with confidence. And that beard! Even with a few strands of grey mixed in, he still looked stunning. Completely bald now, except for his well-kept beard, his head gleamed, neatly and crisply shaved. "Go bald gracefully. All or none," he'd always said to himself, ever since his hairline started receding.

All at once, his outfit had changed: gone were the gold chalkstripes, the gold pocket square, the gold watch chain, the gold cufflinks, and the golden tie, now all replaced with the velvety, lustrous texture of a black tuxedo, silver mother-of-pearl cufflinks matched with silver shirt studs set in a pique front shirt, matched with a black and white paisley pocket silk, and topped with a plush black bowtie beneath a slim wing collar. Satin stripes traced the lines of his calves and thighs beautifully, leading down to his sheer silk socks and plain black velvet slippers—a dandyish touch, but understated enough to go with his formal outfit, and certainly the ladies at the reception wouldn't mind. He was the best-dressed father any bride could ask for. He was just 44, his daughter twenty years younger than that, and the resplendent strength of his face mixed perfectly with the mature wisdom he was acquiring as he entered middle age. There was a certain debonair, devil-may-care quality that his velvet slippers lent to the formal look, the sort of thing Tom Ford might wear to a red carpet event, but the decadent touch of the velvet slippers was subdued by the classic styling of the double-breasted tuxedo and the masculine power of his bodybuilder physique. And speaking of Tom Ford, Pablo could smell notes of figs and cedar wood swirling up into his nostrils. Oh, and some patchouli…It was one of the newer Ford colognes, but everyone complimented Pablo when he wore it, so he was adding it to his collection.

He was even bigger now, but his shirt collar and velvet tuxedo lapel fit around his thick neck perfectly, not straining in the least. He'd have to control his breathing, though: his pecs were larger than the last time he wore this formal shirt, so he didn't want any of the studs to pop open. Not that anybody would mind seeing that perfectly toned, tanned, hairy chest of his, of course, but it might not be very appropriate for the occasion.

And what the hell was he doing in this photo booth anyway? His daughter was about to get married, and of course he was escorting her down the aisle. Sure, this would mean having to sit beside his ex-wife for a few hours, but it was worth it, seeing his daughter experience the happiest day of her life. And he made damn well sure that the groom was dressed in a custom tuxedo of his own. "You'll need one sooner or later, kid."

The curtains flew open and Pablo looked over at the handsome, built young man who was staring at him. The man’s thick dark hair was swept back from the widow’s peak in the center of his forehead, about a foot above the deep cleft that divided his strong, clean-shaven chin. The outfit he was wearing was strangely familiar to Pablo: a white Oxford shirt with two buttons open, a navy blue wool blazer, beautiful khakis and loafers.

“Are you crying, Dad?”

Pablo whipped out his pocket square and dabbed his moist eyes with it, all the while denying that he was crying. “No, no, just some of these damned allergies, you know. All the fibers in the store make my eyes flare up—”

“Yeah, well, pull yourself together,” his son Adam said with a big smile and an affectionate slap on the back. “Veronica wouldn’t want you to have puffy eyes when you’re walking her down the aisle.”

Pablo smiled at his son. They stood eye-to-eye, the same height, 6’2”, and close to the same weight. At 44, Pablo was broader and more filled-out than his 21-year-old son, but his boy had the same beautiful shoulders and broad chest, and muscles that just popped bigger and bigger with every workout.

“Okay, I’m fine, let’s go to the store,” Pablo said as he unhooked a hanger from the side of the booth. Inside the suit bag was his rehearsal dinner outfit, his custom chalkstriped suit with all the gold accents: pocket square, cufflinks, tie. He loved that suit, it was one of his sartorial masterpieces, and he always left it in the back room of the store so that he had something to change into after his workout. He’d usually strut right out of the gym in it, with the tie draped loose around his neck and the shirt five buttons open. “You’re going to love your tux.”

Pablo’s massive shoulders swayed beneath the sharp tuxedo, his 6’2’’ frame swelling with machismo and confidence, his every muscle bulging through the velvety black fabric. He was a walking billboard for his business, and the way his leather-soled velvet slippers tapped on the floor emphasized his presence as he walked with his son.

It had been a very busy week for Pablo. He’d already made the custom tux for his new son-in-law, but he had two more left to finish, the ones for his sons. The rest of the men in the wedding party were renting their tuxes, but Pablo wanted his boys to feel supreme in tuxedos made expressly for their fantastic bodies. His youngest, the 19-year-old, had merely requested a tuxedo suitable for James Bond. Adam, the middle child and oldest son, was the one who wanted to take over the shop, and thus he had much more specific requests.

“Are the French cuffs on the shirt going to be mitered or square? I’m pretty sure I wanted them mitered, like yours.” As they walked, the question fell out of Adam’s mouth without him really realizing, and Pablo smiled. “Mitered French cuffs,” he beamed, radiating with pride both at Adam’s love of clothing and how handsome his son had become. Really, really stunning, almost a clone of Pablo, just younger and with a full head of gleaming hair. Adam, being only one-quarter Cuban, had just a slight tan quality to his skin, although he went bronze after a couple hours in the sun. He had his father’s jawline, the same clefted chin and refined nose and cheeks, but the smoldering blue eyes of his mother—so beautiful that they surprised people. Those eyes were part of the reason why Pablo had fallen so hard for his ex-wife, and he loved seeing them sparkling out of Adam’s sockets. Maybe Pablo and his wife had gotten divorced, but they had made three strikingly gorgeous children before they’d gone their separate ways. Both his sons were working as models through college. Adam had started off by posing for a bunch of life-drawing classes.

Pablo's massive shoulders swaggered in his tuxedo, emphasizing his breadth and adding sheer machismo to his formal elegance. Out of his periphery, he couldn't help but admire his reflection in the storefronts as he and his athletic son strode past. But one in particular—familiar, but still new—caught his attention: "Pablo's Clothiers." Scanning the sign, Pablo knew that it was only a matter of time before he'd have to order a new marquee to add "& Son's" to that title.

As the leather soles of Pablo's velvet slippers left tile and stepped onto carpet, several female customers gasped, some giggled self-consciously. His presence could be felt throughout his domain, and even the men at the women's sides couldn't help but gaze at the solid masculinity and sartorial splendor that Pablo had become. With only a nod, one of his employees quickly went to the back of the store to fetch Adam's tuxedo, and, letting a sheer-socked heel slip out of his velvet slippers as he leaned against his counter, he waited for a moment, his velvet shawl lapel glossy in the store lights.

Pablo was accustomed to this kind of reaction when men saw him in his store: intimidated by his 6'2'' body that he'd built like a tank over his years at the gym, men would at first be intimidated, then curious. How could a masculine bodybuilder of this caliber sport a tuxedo so perfectly, so naturally, as though he were just wearing a t-shirt and jeans? And how did the garments fit and complement his musculature so perfectly? Sooner or later, the curiosity would prompt them to approach him and ask.

And that was precisely what one customer did, though his reason for approaching the huge, brawny menstore owner first was quite clear.

The customer was devastatingly handsome, only a few years younger than Pablo. It took Pablo a moment to realize the man was just wearing a blue t-shirt and flat-front khakis, because the customer’s face was so commanding and beautiful that a suit seemed to appear on his body. His most compelling feature was his jaw, which looked like it had leapt from the pages of a comic book – it was even a bit oversized for his face, but it worked. It was gorgeous. His cheekbones were like arrows on the sides of his face, and the eyes above them were absolutely captivating: sexy but wise. It was a hero’s face, attached to a hero’s body, a broad, chiseled unit that looked like it had stepped right off of a magazine cover or a calendar spread. And as it turned out, it was a body that had posed for both of those things at one time.

The man’s voice was a perfect fit for his heroic aura. “Are you Pablo?”

“I am indeed, and you are?”

“Clark Coleman,” the man said, shaking hands with the tuxedoed vision in front of him. “You were recommended to me by a bunch of my friends at the gym.”

Looking at Clark, Pablo already knew what a man of his beauty and size needed. “Ah, muscles too big for an off-the-rack suit?”

“Well, mostly. I’m Deputy Chief Fireman,” Clark said, pointing to the small logo on the front of his fire department t-shirt, “and I’ve just been wearing my dress uniform to formal events. It’s a perfect fit, obviously, but I’m ready to have a non-uniform suit, for weddings and things like that. I like dressing up, I love suits, but they’re hard for me to buy. My shoulders are, uh, kind of broad compared to my waist, so-”

Pablo was already envisioning the flawless male specimen in front of him, clad in one of his masterpieces. Two buttons, or three? Tab collar custom shirts, definitely, in conservative but bold colors. Single-breasted? Yes, that too: a single-breasted suit to emphasize the broad shoulders and lats on this firefighter hulk. And most certainly a three-piece suit or two, to highlight the taper between his chest and waist. Pablo's brain was already racing to put together the possibilities this stud could wear.

Clark would look so dashing in a three-piece suit. Pablo smiled. “I know exactly what you need.”



Even on sale, Greg couldn't afford these. Not anymore.

He could, once. And perhaps, back in his heyday, he'd acquired enough Robert Talbott ties, or Billy Reid ties, or Ralph Lauren ties, to last him a lifetime. He certainly didn't bother throwing any of them out, ever since he'd lost his position as CEO.

They had told Greg that he was too valuable to let go. They had told Greg that his services to the company would still be necessary. They had told Greg that being demoted to "Assistant to the Regional Associate Manager" would be new, even exciting for him. But they didn't tell him that they'd keep him in that position for two years, with a 75% paycut.

Greg sighed as he stared in the window of Pablo's Clothiers. Damn, those ties were beautiful. And those pocket squares. And those suit trousers--the glen plaid, the windowpane, the herringbones and pinstripes--he wanted them all. And some of those beautiful tab collar shirts, too. And those abalone cufflinks. And those Testoni triple-toned monkstraps. He'd look like a million bucks again.

It wasn't that his sartorial code had slackened in recent months. He kept wearing his satin-lined suits, his French cuff shirts, his Italian shoes and rich ties. The only difference was that, despite the quality of the finery he still tried to wear, his lack of enthusiasm, and lack of income, were both starting to show. Today's super-130s Coppley chalkstripe suit, with powder blue stripes against a lustrous charcoal grey wool, was really a 3-piece suit, but he wore only two pieces of it. He couldn't fit into the waistcoat anymore, and even the jacket--cut for a slimmer, more successful version of himself--couldn't be buttoned across his advancing waistline, so he wore it sloppily open. The wool was very fine, velvety and soft to the touch, but the sleeves and trousers were wrinkled from way too many wearings. He hadn't drycleaned this suit in months.

Indeed, a close inspection would've shown that there were holes in the heels and toes of Greg's sheer dress socks; that his $1500 Moreschi alligator loafers were badly scuffed, in desperate need of a polish, their soles nearly worn through; and that the high quality tab collar shirt he wore hadn't been laundered in weeks. He wore the tab collar carelessly unfastened behind his loosened tie, letting its yellowed edges show clearly against his unshaven neck. He just didn't care anymore.

The reflection Greg saw of himself in the menstore window further reminded him of the has-been he'd let himself become. It wasn't that he was a bad looking man, or even old. But his hairline was already receding--stress, his doctor said--and the weight he'd gained made him look much older than his 29 years. People who saw him assumed he was in his forties. Perhaps catching a glimpse of that reflection made him wander away from the menstore window, and perhaps that was when he spotted the odd photobooth sitting not far from the mall's food court.

A part of him realized what a miserable bum he must look like right now, and a part of him grew ashamed that he was letting himself be seen in public like this. The Greg he knew two years ago wouldn't stand for it.

The Greg he knew two years ago also had friends, a social life, and enough money to go out and get a drink.

But today's Greg had no such luxuries. Instead, today's Greg decided that it might be a good idea to feel sorry for himself in a place where people wouldn't think to look for him. Like a wounded animal wandering into the wilderness so it could die alone, Greg wanted to hide. His hand absently placed itself on the scanner as, with difficulty, he climbed into the booth. A few shots would show him how far he’d fallen and give him a chance to flounder about in his own self-pity.

But at the last second, he decided he couldn’t bear to look at himself. Greg bent down out of the aim of the lens and saw the flash go, only catching the top of his forehead.

“Thing’s like a fucking sun lamp.” The booth sweltered like a sauna. Beads of sweat rolled across Greg’s brow and began to slide their way down his face. Soon, he could feel perspiration beginning to sneak its way onto his body, under his arms and on his lower back. He felt strangely dizzy – maybe he was dehydrated, or just so tired. So tired of pushing and shoving and trying to be noticed.

The heat was starting to reach its boiling point. Greg began to try to remove his suit jacket, but as he moved to pull out one of his arms, he heard a noise that makes all suited men shudder with horror – a loud rip. Looking down, he saw the shoulder seam had torn wide open, even the satin lining clinging in ragged stitches, revealing the shirt underneath.

“No,” he gasped, suddenly near tears, the last little vestige of his former success now being taken away from him. He couldn't afford to go to a tailor, not with his salary. “No no no!” And as he moved to inspect the rip, his other arm tore through its seam, too. “NO!”

As he tried to check out the shoulders, his movements became more manic, causing the back of his jacket to split down the center. The torn dress shirt a considerably darker color than before – not because the color had changed, but because Greg’s sweat had completely soaked it, like the custom garment was now a wet dishrag. He looked like he’d run a marathon in his suit, rings of sweat seeping through even the outer layer of grey chalkstripe wool, around his underarms.

His voice was a small, pitiful whimper. “Haven’t I been embarrassed enough?”

As Greg bobbed and rolled, trying to get the suit jacket off, another flash blasted the booth. Instead of trying to take the jacket off, he’d been sort of trying to wriggle out of it, pushing his chest out far and pulling his arms in to let the jacket fall off his body. But Greg must have arched his back too much, because right when the flash took, the middle two buttons of his shirt exploded off and his tie, despite already being loose, began to choke him. Greg tried to cry out but couldn’t. The tie was too tight. With his jacket still hanging halfway on--it was so much tighter than he remembered!--he desperately began to yank the tie loose, his hands fiddling wildly with the knot as his mouth was dropped open in a silent scream.

The sound of each stitch of his finery straining and groaning began to fill his ears as the sweat continued to well out of each pore on his body. As his once-elegant chalkstripe suit absorbed the perspiration, his costly attire began to feel heavy, filthy, like an old cocoon. Across his chest, which was much broader and firmer than he remembered it, his shirt began to rip, vertical tears rupturing the fine cotton around his collar as another of his buttons popped. Adding insult to embarrassment, his sweaty chalkstripe trousers started to sag around his waist. In fact, strangely, he felt as though his belly and waist were shrinking, like every last ounce of fat on his body were being sweated away.

His suit was dripping, literally dripping with sweat, and felt awful, filthy. It was like he'd been wearing the same suit and tie for years, working out in it, letting his ripe stink soak right into it. His arms, chest, and legs felt tight, as though he'd been doing hundreds of pushups followed by miles of forced jogging. How on earth did the knees and cuffs of his trousers get so dirty all of a sudden? And why were his $1500 Moreschi alligator loafers covered with mud?

By the time the third flash hit him--and indeed that's what it felt like, a smack across the face--holes were starting to gape through the knees of his trousers, and his shoulders were stretching at the seams of the jacket, each stitch starting to pop apart as his traps swelled. His neck was swelling, too, and, too desperate to care, he ripped open the second button of his shirt, yanking his tie loose. Having his shirt four buttons open like this should've brought relief, but his sweat continued to pour in this stifling booth.

He didn't notice how the third picture that came out showed his receding hairline shorn down to a buzzcut, and how every last thread of his suit and tie was soaked in sweat and mud. It was like he'd been crawling through an obstacle course for months in his custom Coppley suit.

And his body started to show the change, as well. If he had looked, the picture would've shown ridges between his pecs, valleys between his abs, his belly gone. Perhaps those hardening pecs explained why his shirt was continuing to rupture, while his arms--his biceps, triceps, and delts--started to bulge through the sweat-drenched wool of his suit jacket.

Greg just wanted to slow down for a moment. Sweat rolled into his eyes and stung him, making him thrash blindly against the confines of his clothes. Just get it off, his mind said. Just get everything off. He felt disgusting, broken and battered. The very limit of his spirit was being pushed and tested….but he would overcome it. Greg knew he had it in him. Life was a learning experience and he was going to learn.

Just get it off…

From somewhere deep within him, a part of Greg that had lain dormant since his demotion was reawakened. A sudden surge of strength blasted through him and the desperate clawing at his shredded clothes became powerful tugs. Seams groaned, complained, stretched, and broke, and with each snapping stitch he felt stronger. The once-elegant, now sweatsoaked and filthy chalkstripe wool simply tore away like wet tissue paper, buttons popping and satin lining ripping away. “Get it off,” he said through gritted teeth, exposing more of himself with each yank.

And underneath the ruined layers of his corporate uniform, he could see lean, powerful arms start to emerge. Every ounce of fat on his body had been burnt and perspired away. Greg had never seen his abs, or pecs, “pop” quite like they were. Cut and defined, but well-worked. A body that was earned. It seemed so…wrong to him. But as he crawled out of the pants that were, by now, comically baggy around the waist, he felt like he was ascending to a better place. A snake shedding his skin.

The suit he had loved was now just a pile of worthless, sweat-soaked, mud-covered fabric. Dirty rags that wouldn’t ever be completely clean again. Sitting in his undershirt, boxers and muddy shoes, Greg looked down at the mess, sad on the one hand at the ruined suit, the last symbol of his former success now gone; but on the other hand relieved, weightless, glad to be rid of it.

The overpowering heat had become much more comfortable, swaddling Greg in a soothing warmth. For the first time since he’d entered the booth, Greg smiled a little. He just felt so good.

But still so tired…maybe he could just rest…just for one moment…his eyes shut sleepily and one of his hands wandered down to his prominent erection. Simply touching it made Greg moan softly, connecting him to an extreme sensuality that he’d never felt, even in his masculine prime.

Indeed, touching that throbbing member both soothed and aroused him, releasing the tension of his newfound muscles and replenishing his energy at the same time. He let out a slight moan, so satisfied and relaxed that he didn't even notice the fourth flash.

His undershirt and boxers felt impossibly tight. Had his eyes been open, he would also have noticed that they were bleached white; not a single drop of sweat or mud was left on him, in clothing or body. It was as though all the grungy dirt of his old garments had simply vanished.

In fact, his old garments had vanished, as well, but he likewise didn't notice.

What he did notice was that his cock was expanding in his fingers, stretching, thickening, engorging. By the time his phallus rose to full mast, his wrists had likewise grown thickly corded with veins and muscle: powerful squarish hands, knotted with veins, suggested the kind of strength developed from hundreds of thousands of chinups and dips.

The groan he emitted was also dropping in pitch, growing into a deep, rich, masculine growl. His Moreschi alligator loafers were losing their texture, growing glossier and more polished until they shone like mirrors. The stitches in the black leather rearranged themselves, forming the shape of captoe shoes as laces sprung and wove themselves up the front of each shoe. His socks likewise turned into solid sheers suspended by plain black garters while threads of deep navy blue fabric began to weave themselves around his tremendous thighs and calves. Pleated black trousers hugged the powerful curves of his legs, and broke slightly over the tops of his brilliantly polished uniform shoes.

Meanwhile his undershirt seemed to be growing extra layers: one layer was of white cotton, perfectly ironed and stiffly starched, while the other layer was of navy wool that matched his trousers. The white layer stretched its crisp folds over his massive pectorals and bulging abs, scarcely concealing the topography of his hard body, while the navy layer grew gold stripes and gold buttons arranging themselves in a square, as the navy wool draped itself into rigid shoulders that emphasized his hulking traps.

Climbing down his arms together, the crisp white sleeves just barely stayed ahead of the thick navy wool, riding over the contours of his powerful biceps, triceps, and delts before ending in gold striped cuffs. Bigger and bigger his arms grew, and his chest continued to widen: beneath his shirt and jacket, he could feel the sleeves of his undershirt climbing up his shoulders, barely able to cover his swelling deltoids. Greg put his hands on his pecs and felt the round muscles moving outward, as if they were being slowly inflated. Already, they were unusually large for any man, but they stubbornly refused to stop growing. The starch of the shirt crinkled as a warning as his shirt struggled valiantly to remain closed: the plackets between his shirt buttons buckled outward, threatening to show (if an onlooker saw from the right angle) glimpses of an undershirt stretched as tight as spandex across the massive barrels of muscle his pecs had become.

Every muscle in Greg’s body was on high alert. His ass was swelling out as a counter-balance to his front. Right when his uniform shirt and pants had reached maximum capacity, the massive muscles stopped growing outward and began to instead move upward on his body. He could feel the seams of his pants moving and tailoring themselves to frame his powerful, high behind. His spine was forced to straighten as his pecs further defied gravity, pushed up by unseen hands. They had become so elevated and pendulous that they blocked Greg’s view of his admirably flat stomach and the gold buttons on top of it. He shifted on his seat, trying to find balance for his new glutes, and the thighs that rubbed up against each other. The unfamiliar width of his stronger fingers made it difficult to button his collar, but after a little finagling, he was able to do so. The act made it a little harder to breathe; Greg could feel his neck being tightly encased by the perfectly-fitted collar, and his fingers landed on the knot of a black necktie nestled in between the tabs, right under his Adam’s apple. Had that been there a second ago? Why was everything so confusing…

The fifth flash scared poor Greg. He swore he felt hands grab his jaw and pull on it, a sensation so intensely real that his own hands reached up and pawed the air around his face. He could feel bones of his skull shifting, his teeth realigning, his chin and brow literally growing out. It was so foreign, but it all happened within a matter of nanoseconds, and it was so maddeningly quick that Greg was pretty sure he’d just imagined it.

The face in the picture was handsome—extraordinarily so. Having never been ugly, just unkempt, Greg’s features were still very distinguishable as his own. But they were improved. His eyebrows had taken on an arch, while his jaw had widened drastically, pulling the skin of his neck tight like a drum. His face was perfectly shaven and his haircut was immaculate. He looked so…alive. Vivacious. The bags under his eyes were gone, although a few crinkles had webbed out from the sides of his eyelids. Crow’s feet, but the best kind. Maybe his skin wasn’t as smooth as it had been when he was a younger man, but that was because all the fat had left his face. A few wrinkles were a fair price for the beautiful cheeks, the regal jaw. “What a looker,” he purred in his authoritative bass. He felt so much calmer looking at himself. Greg’s eyes glittered with gentle power. His mouth was tight, a little stern, but the corners of his lips had a natural upward turn that gave his commanding gaze a needed dose of levity, as if he was holding back a smile.

It was a face that was clearly in control, and unafraid to be so.

A final flash sealed the transformation. Greg swore he would have to visit the tailor once again: for the fourth time this year, he was nearly outgrowing his uniform. The seams all held intact, of course, but he could feel them starting to bite a bit into his huge muscles fettered beneath two layers of cotton and one of wool. The gold stripes on his uniform trousers bulged over his thighs and calves, his legs causing the fabric just barely to fit, and his trouser cuffs resting just barely on the tops of his glossy laceup shoes.

It was automatic, the way he scooped up his hat as he got out of the booth, nearly hitting his head along the way. The uniform righted itself over his colossal frame as he stood upright, planting the white Navy hat atop his cleanly groomed buzz cut. The way his uniform's seams gave out a little groan with his every movement reminded him why he'd visited the mall to begin with. There was a menstore around here--some really nice menstore he'd heard about--wasn't it called "Pablo's Clothiers?"--yes, that place, that specifically catered to men of his massive build. He trusted the tailor there more than the Navy tailors back on base.

His heels crisply tapped on the tiles of the mall as he walked along, his gait assuming almost a strut or a swagger from the way his broad shoulders and pecs swung in rhythm with his steps. With a mug that would make a superhero envious, he glanced at his reflection in the store windows, stroking his clefted, cleanly shaven chin, though his fingers could detect a trace of stubble already forming. Testosterone has its side effects, he supposed.

Greg arrived at his destination and sighed as he stared in the window. How he loved suits. He looked at the ties, the pocket squares. And those suit trousers…and the cufflinks, oh, the cufflinks. Greg grinned and wondered if he should’ve brought someone with him to hold him back before he bought out the store’s stock and spent a year’s salary. His eyes landed on the knot of his tie reflecting back at him in the glass. It was crooked. “Tsk tsk,” he thought disapprovingly to himself as he adjusted the knot and made sure it landed symmetrically between the tabs of his shirt collar.

“Excuse me, sir,” a voice next to him said. Greg turned his head and saw a male model with a build very similar to his own: broad shoulders and a brawny chest that stretched a sky-blue shirt to its limit. The man’s crisp white French cuffs were clasped with antique mesh cufflinks. A fat purple medallion tie, richly draped, perfectly covered the ridge between his pecs. Its thick silk and complex pattern gleamed like a symbol of royalty. His olive complexion and thick black hair indicated Spanish descent, although his sensational blue eyes suggested that one of his parents might have been of another heritage.

Both men had perfect posture and stood at almost identical heights, their broad shoulders filling out their tailored attire, though Greg's seemed on the point of bursting through his uniform. “Yes, sir?” Greg responded with a small smile.

The man’s voice was young and fresh. “I couldn’t help but notice that your uniform is-”

“-rather tight,” Greg finished, his smile widening. “Yes, it is. You are Pablo, I presume?”

The young man grinned broadly, obviously extremely flattered. “Thank you, but no, I’m his son Adam. I was wondering if we could alter your dress uniform for you? It’s always an honor to give back to the men who serve our country.”

“Wow, your father’s taught you well,” Greg said, shaking hands with Adam. “I appreciate that. I don’t even know if I should set foot in there, it might be dangerous for my wallet. I don’t think I can leave your store without making some sort of purchase!”

Adam didn’t miss a beat. “But my father’s inside, I’m sure he would love to meet you.”

Greg’s curiosity was too great. If this was the son, then what did the father look like? Greg's broad smile reflected Adam's. “Lead the way,” Greg responded, and the two men walked into the store together.

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