In episode 8 season three of Love Is Blind, “The Perfect Fit,” dating show contestants descend on Dallas haberdashery Ken’s Man’s Shop to be outfitted for nuptials that might or might not end in marriage.
“I love the way it fits,” finalist Bartiste Bowden says, as Ken’s owner Kory Helfman, an East Dallas resident, slips a jacket over the 25-year-old’s buff shoulders.
Bowden’s sister asks him how he feels. “I like this!” he replies, admiring himself in the three-way mirror. “No,” she says. “I mean about the wedding.”
The set up
Bowden and the others shopping for the perfect TV-marriage tux are taking part in a Netflix reality show in which contestants meet from individual pods that hide their appearance. They spend a few episodes “dating,” hoping to fall in mutual love with someone, sight unseen.
Pairs who connect get engaged and decide during a finale, at the altar, if they will tie the knot.
While living together in the Dallas area and navigating their weird relationships, couples prepare for a dicey wedding day. That’s where Ken’s comes in.
When producers called Helfman in spring 2021, he said “I will,” because he had worked with them before.
“Usually, I am not a big fan of doing this kind of thing,” Helfman says. “But if I know and trust the team, it makes sense. I (outfitted the grooms) for them a few years before on a series called Married at First Sight.”
Ken’s air time in Love Is Blind totals 10 minutes, but the production crew, grooms and groomsmen were in the store two days, not only acquiring menswear but also filming pivotal content. On day two, the family members joined. “That’s when you get the scenes of Bartiste talking to his sister or Matt (Bolton) talking to his best friend,” the clothier says.
In game shows or real life, dressing a groom for the big day involves getting to know his style and personality, Helfman says. In doing so, he also gets a feel for the engagement.
The guy’s vibe often indicates whether he has a good chance of making it, Helfman says. He formed his own guesses about what might happen at the altar. He had a good feeling about Brennon, for example.
“He’s just down-to-earth, like your friend next door, and grateful to be there,” Helfman says. “Of all of them, I said this guy is going to say ‘yes.’”
He saw something different in Cole Barnett, who did not marry Zanab Jaffrey.
“He was really nice, they all were, but I think he was vacillating even in conversations with his friend. He seemed maybe emotionally young. Even though I didn’t know her, I felt that one wouldn’t happen.”
While the haberdasher predicted those two, he says Bartiste’s change of heart in the finale, where he said “I don’t,” surprised him.
Keeping it real
Helfman also witnessed the families’ concerns about their respective children and siblings.
“We heard conversations about, ‘You want to do this on live TV? With someone you barely know?’ And, ‘What if you embarrass yourself or us?’”
The shop owner also noted that the male contestants all genuinely liked each other. “They really had a great chemistry together. You could see that they spent a lot of time together and could already see friendships being formed, maybe long-term.”
When the series aired in late 2022, Helfman received countless calls and texts.
“I was a little surprised how many people were watching Love Is Blind. And who was watching,” he says. “Like a football coach in Arkansas texted me that the football team was watching it in the locker room.”
Helfman says his dad, Ken Helfman, who founded Ken’s Man’s Shop in the 1960s, while less interested in the show, was thrilled at how great the store looked on TV.
“I’m happy that we did it. It gave us a lot of exposure, and never in a negative light. That’s my fear with anything like this,” Helfman says. “I think that they really did an amazing job of capturing the store, the ambiance, the chemistry we have with clients and the way people come in and shop.”