If Ne-Yo appears a bit fresher than usual, it's no accident. "‘Distinguished gentleman' is what I call it,” says the 28-year-old—whose third and latest album is aptly titled Year of the Gentleman—of his new look. "Moments when you catch me in jeans and a T-shirt are going to be few and far between.” The pieces representing this newfound maturity include refined suits, loafers, neckties and his staple, fedoras. "Sammy Davis Jr. had an effortless cool when he wore a suit,” says Ne-Yo. "I want to bring that back into the game.” While capturing the legendary Rat Packer's classic swagger may be difficult, listening to Ne-Yo extol the virtues of a tailored Paul Smith suit proves he's up to the task.

What is it about a suit that dignifies a man?
I'm not saying you have to throw on a three-piece suit to be a gentleman every time you walk out of the house, but on the other hand, a gentleman understands what it means to dress for the occasion. I learned that you can put on a suit and be as comfortable, if not more, than in a pair of jeans.

Absolutely. What are some of your style rules?
There are different cuts to suits and slacks, and I'm learning all that stuff with the help of my stylist. I didn't even know what a tie clip was before this album. You have to be clean even if you're wearing jeans. Your clothes can't be wrinkled or stained. You have to make a conscious effort to keep your nails short and clean.

Really? Manicures?
That's something I used to never give a damn about, and I learned the hard way. People were saying, "How's Ne-Yo got on a $2,000 suit and his nails are dirty?”

How have your style tastes changed over the course of your career?
You have to understand that I was the songwriter dude spending 23 hours in a studio. All of a sudden I'm in the spotlight, and what you look like is more important than your talent. I'll keep it all the way real with you: I wasn't the guy who knew how to dress. It was difficult at first, but I take pride now in knowing what looks good on me.
For more with Ne-Yo, cop the July/August 2008 issue of KING Magazine, on newsstands now!