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  • photo cards

  • Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    well suited

    Cary Grant

    I can't help but feel that last Friday's post about menswear was a bit like an unfinished sentence. It bothered me to gloss over the suit, because despite the fact that we live in a time when tee shirts and jeans are often the norm for men, the suit is still meaningful.

    Audrey Hepburn & Hubert de Givenchy

    I'm not going to attempt to make an argument for English tailoring vs. Italian, it's really a matter of taste (and body type). I will say that I'm always intrigued by the current media blitz on the end of formal menswear. The cover of Time Magazine was heralding casual wear last week, since they are predicting that the majority of people will be working from home.

    Later that day I thought it was interesting to come across this article by image consultant Sandy Dumont, one of my colleagues at Affluent Magazine. I thought I'd reprint a bit of it here and get your opinion on the whole debate:

    Whether you’re headed for court or trying to chat up a pretty woman, casual attire will decrease your chances for success. Far too many people dress for their own comfort rather than for increasing their credibility with clients. There are also those who dress for “rapport” with the people they encounter. Professors and high school teachers mistakenly do this, and they usually have less control over their classes than the teachers who dress more professionally. Professional attire conveys more authority. Professors are, in a sense, “substitute parents” and most teens and young adults feel less secure when their parents look immature.

    At a recent workshop for the general public, I presented a slide show with before and after photos of a number of my clients. The after photos of both men and women showed them dressed in classy looking professional attire. An attorney in the audience spoke up and said he disagreed with me; that he always dressed casually with his clients, because they were “ordinary folk” who had suffered personal injury in accidents. He was wearing cheap, ill-fitting khakis and a baggy green shirt and tie that “matched.” He explained that he liked to dress to have rapport with his clients. “Tell me,” I asked him, “do you think your clients would like an attorney who would have high credibility with the judge and jury, or an attorney who looked like them?” I rested my case and the audience took my side.

    - Excerpted from "How To Increase Your Chances for Success" by Sandy Dumont.

    What do you think about all this? I'd love to know!


    Blogger Rachel Follett said...

    Interesting article. Even though Hawaii is a very casual place I always like to look somewhat professional in my meetings but more often than not the client is always in tshirt and shorts. One thing I like about the city is that most of the people are really well tailored. Great post!

    2:30 PM  
    Blogger Brent said...

    I read somewhere that today's chic is yesterday's active clothes. The tuxedo is an easier-to-wear alternative to formal tails. The trench coat came from the garb soldiers wore, well, in the trenches. Even the suit comes from English country wear. In our time, high end designers (Prada) increasingly piece together clothes out of performance sports fabrics (Goretex) and sell them as high fashion.

    Whatever its history, the suit has come to mean conventional and conservative. Businessmen wear it because they need to convey a certain image to their clients. A suit means "I am working; I am serious about your needs." The look is comforting, expected, and traditional.

    Dumont's admonition that that a man will find more business success in a suit probably rings true, at least until today's casual becomes tomorrow's chic.

    I might quibble with her romantic prescriptions, however, as I have found many women are *bored* with suits. "They all look the same," one women confided to me about her suited dates. I'd almost have to agree, even though I'm one of the legions who show up on dates ... in a suit. Its business purpose of being conventional so often runs right up against the romantic ideal of being interesting and unusual. In a head-to-head competition, I would seriously doubt that my beautiful seven fold ties, knotted as carefully as I can muster, would get me far against George Clooney in a T-shirt.

    9:44 PM  
    Blogger Rico said...

    I had come across Dumont's article prior to your posting.

    I’m a bit out of my element here, but I like a lot of what Brent had to say. Convention, -I might use the term Tradition, is a powerful tool in personal style. It can be a starting point, a foil, or counterweight. I love seeing photographs from the 50's and early 60's, when all men wore suits and ties, even artists. It reminds me of that line from Madame Bovary, "be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and chaotic in your work." In a sense, the implicit uniformity of the suit frees the person to express themselves in subtle, and arguably more substantial ways.

    There’s something comforting, perhaps even a bit paternal about a man in a suit. I for one have always been a bit disturbed by pictures of recent Presidents in casual attire. It’s not that they don’t have personal lives, but it’s just that I feel they always need to convey that sense of being “in charge.” Suits can be stodgy of course, but perhaps that has more to do with the man than the clothes.

    I love Tom Ford’s new line because of its color story. He constantly plays with the suit, (though not always to such successful ends) but I think it shows how one can take tradition and give it a personal spin through use of color or fit.

    Back to Dumont, I would never dream of going to meet a gallery or dealer for the first time in anything but a suit. It puts us on equal terms immediately. It says, I’m also a person who understands that you’re running a business. I leave the paint-splattered jeans and t-shirts for the studio.

    The suit is also very personal because of gesture. Losing the tie while still being in a suit is a gesture. So much of fashion as well as style turn on gesture to my mind. Someone better versed in design can expand on that, but I love the subtle gesture of things like a woman carrying her heels, a man offering his pocket square to a lady, or that wonderful photo of Paul Newman from your previous post on the bed sewing in sock feet. We tend see people in moments. So style is what makes moments meaningful.

    6:30 AM  
    Blogger Sarah Klassen said...

    There's something so beautiful about a man in a wonderfully tailored suit. As a woman, if I see a nice looking man in a suit, I look twice...Ermenegildo Zegna is my favorite brand.

    10:24 AM  
    Blogger Julia said...

    I feel so uneducated at this point! But you're helping me, heaps!

    2:20 PM  
    Blogger Miss Eve said...

    My dear Mary Jo! I've missed your lovely posts because I was travelling. Such a great subject: menswear (I have to show this post to my boyfriend). I also loved the first part of it (with Marlon Brando oh). Hope you have a wonderful week dear, much love: Evi

    2:49 PM  
    Anonymous Anne @ The City Sage said...

    Here in san francisco, it drives me CRAZY to see all the tech folks dressing like they just got out of bed! dressing well gives me a lot of confidence, and communicates my respect for myself, thereby commanding respect from those i encounter in professional situations. and obviously dressing well isn't the ONLY piece of the puzzle, but to pretend it's not important is to delude yourself!

    In other words, a North Face Fleece is not business attire!

    3:03 PM  

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