Magazine article Management Today

Sock It to the Monkey

Magazine article Management Today

Sock It to the Monkey

Article excerpt

Don't wear legible brands on shoes or shirts; they shout insecurity and borrowed interest

Last month I was awful, snobbish, metropolitan and cliquey about office clothes. And profoundly non-PC. Well, start as you mean to go on, I say.

So this month I'm going to identify more of the kinds of clothes that could retard your career, cause sniggering in the office and generally reduce your credibility as a viable human being. Let me give you a homely analogy. Many senior managers are Europeanists at some 'economic man' level, but there's one huge cultural argument against Europe European TV in general and the Eurovision song contest in particular. The European Movement should ban Eurovision because it demonstrates the absolute otherness of Euro folk in two areas Brits care about, popular music and the clothes that go with it. Eurovision, German variety shows, Spanish singers and Greek close harmony leave you convinced at a profound level that it will never work.

By the same token, faced with a truly appalling suit, a selection committee find they can't get it out of their minds but they can't talk about it either. They can hardly ask 'What personal failing does your dress sense symbolise?' in the same way they can interrogate your contribution to shareholder value in your last job. But all the time they're thinking 'Why did he wear that suit?'

I've talked to management women about what they see as deal-breakingly awful clothes and grooming mistakes. They happily surfaced a range of styles they associated with generally hopeless characters. Don't, for instance, look like Peter Stringfellow - not even faintly like Peter Stringfellow, unless you want to run a club in Manchester. Stringfellow's sartorials are enormously jolly and I think women secretly rather like him, but imagine any of the look- long bleached hair, earring, 'stage' clothes - in an office. Don't look like Peter Bowles in To the Manor Born, either. That new/old wannabe suburban gent look with its fondness for white collars and cuffs stitched on to solid-colour shirts- condemn you as a man who's playing badly at a game everyone else has given up. It doesn't hack it in the world of global capitalism. Nor does the repressed real-toff look - the thoughtful public schoolboy or serious ex-army officer look. Equally, don't dress as an overgrown kiddy. There are serious men who still wear Fair Isle tank tops, Trek shoes and a superannuated 1970s young teacher look. …

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