31 March 2011

Selling Suits

Brooksgate 3 Piece $275 in 1985

Glen O'Brien in four button Gianfranco Ferre - M Inc Magazine April '91

Brooks Brother's 'Own Make'

Notch lapel DB in Philadelphia

Mr. B in a Mani gabardine with Countess Mara tie

Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece

Chester Barrie suit

J. Press Tweed 3 piece and navy chalk stripe

J Press Stance
J Press Hook

Paul Stuart Stance

"I remember that guy. He was wearing the green double breasted suit and he had a tie pin that kept falling off."

You never want to be remembered for what you wore in a sales meeting.

About 14 years ago, a client of mine joined a large and well known real estate company as CFO. Shortly after starting he was given $1,200 by the company and told to go buy a suit. He was told not to bring any of the money back but to spend it all on the suit. He was told the suit was to be worn when he met with banks.

It made sense to me then and it still does. By dressing employees, my friend's company took "cheap suit" anxiety out of meetings with people who had huge sums of cash to give them. Doubtful any of us will work for a company as wise and as generous but there's a valuable lesson here. If your employer won't invest in your selling appearance - then you must.

Figure $900 to $1,600 for a budget. Solid navy or gray to start with. If you're new to this, I recommend a worsted gray. In a pinch, you can wear the gray trousers with a blazer or sport coat. If you already have gray then it must be solid navy. When the navy trousers wear out replace the horn buttons with brass blazer buttons. A trick I learned from the cheapest Scotsman I know.

25 years ago the sack suit from J. Press was popular. Today, it's unique to the point of being fashionable. Still, it's an option and very close to the bottom of the budget. It's also excellent camouflage if you're packing an extra 15 or 20 pounds. But understand this...Nobody's gonna say, "Nice suit, Jim." because, like a good haircut, nobody will notice it. This is what we want when we're selling.

25 years ago, Brooks Brothers gave me a credit card and an employee discount. My first purchase was three suits. All Brooksgate 3 piece. Solid navy, Navy pinstripe and gray pinstripe. I'd still have them if I was a 40 Reg. They did see me through a ton of interviews. The FBI, where I failed the psychological exam twice. The DEA, where they failed my psychological exam once. The Director's Guild (East & West), where I failed the AD test both times. Doyle Dane and Bernbach, where I failed the, "Where did you go to college" test. And 20th Century Fox, where I failed the, "I don't know what I'm doing here" test. I never did test well.

If I did get the DDB job, I would've made a bee line for Paul Stuart. Sitting near the top of the budget is a beautiful navy suit with side vents and a low two button stance. Very flattering on shorter men. No ticket pocket or other bells and whistles. Just a simple Samuelsohn made suit. I was told it was their most popular model and who can argue with that.

It's impossible not to mention Brooks Brothers. Back in 1992, I worked for Bill Bartholomay. Chairman of the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Parks Commissioner and owner of Puerto Rico. Bill asked the Straight Arrow I worked with if anyone still shopped at Brooks Brothers. Mr B was a card. That's Bill up there in the bad Mani gabardine with the ugly, but ever popular mid west, Countess Mara tie. The picture's from M Magazine in April of '91 but Bill would look timeless if he had only worn a navy Golden Fleece chalk stripe. They're pushing $2,000 today but are frequently on sale which puts it within our budget.

A mentor told me the idea of thinking yourself "special" is like finding yourself on the very end of a tree branch. Like a black suit, you're far from the support of the trunk -- you're literally out on a limb all by yourself. There's great comfort in being one with the tree. These 'tree' suits will communicate nothing negative but, their quiet quality can put you on the buyer's short list. The rest is up to you...and your shoes.


Oyster Guy said...

I've enjoyed the writing in the "selling" posts. In essence, a serious person will not try to substitute personal character, integrity and content with a distracting or gimmicky appearance.

It follows that a distracting appearance in others will provoke a serious person to question the character and content of the other.

I've always considered this view to be the essence of trad clothing
but thinking about it this morning has caused me to perhaps have a little more respect for the Canada Goose down parka trend. By dusk I am sure to be back to normal.

The problem is what do you do when good taste becomes, as you put it, "unique to the point of being fashionable" ?????????

ann said...

Wait a minute, that J. Press Hook . . . the chalk stripes don't line up. It's incremental, but it is very noticeable. Is that the back vent?

Brummagem Joe said...

Good to see you giving a plug to Chester Barrie. I've been buying their suits OTP since the sixties and had a few MTM and many of them look better overall than some bespoke suits I've had made by well known names. Where you work very much sets the tone of what you wear and you break the code in the first week. I've moved between high end suits/power ties (which don't have to be red) and midwestern sack/thick soled wingtips and it's when in Rome.

Alice Olive said...

"...because, like a good haircut, nobody will notice it. This is what we want when we're selling."

I would like to suggest this should be a goal in more than just selling.

Simplicity and elegance - they never scream at you.

(Love that J Press Tweed.)

Will you be covering shoes next? I look forward.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Sound points for a basic set of suits to deal with everything from the Boardroom to the Courtroom.
You mention haircuts in passing...I have actually had to send young Law Firm Associates to the Barber....(Jimmy on Sansom st)....to get clipped 'cause they looked like crap....something that can distract a Judge or potential Client. Now, what about the guy with a great suit and all...but shubbery in the nostril and ear area...horrific.

brohammas said...

I have a black suit. I wear it while scaling walls on covert ops.

Anonymous said...

I miss Marshall Field's.


Anonymous said...

I'm really liking the look of that Paul Stuart Stance combo. Just having a little difficulty seeing "interview" in it. Seems a little "look at me" for some unknown reason. Perhaps after the job has been secured?

Whatever happened to the intriguing and rich sea-blue hues in suits of flannel or serge?


tintin said...

Oyster Guy- Here in NYC, the cool of the cool will abandon the fashionable when the word is out. "It's not cool anymore. Everybody's wearing it, drinking it, eating it, driving it, whatever. I've worn Ray Ban aviators for 34 years and have seen then cycle thru popularity at least 5 times. I'm not gonna abandon what's good just 'cause it's popular.

Ann- Yes, that's the back vent and you're right, they don't line up but I'm ok with it. It's a favorite suit.

Joe- That's the only suit I liked in that M pictorial. That DB notch couldn't sneak up on a glass of water and I never did like the 4 button stance on DBs.

Alice- Yes. Yes and yes. Shoes will follow.

Main Line- I have a friend who is Greek. I keep telling him he doesn't need ear muffs.

Bro- That cubicle must be getting to you.

E- Tell me about it.

DB- It's low key but look at me.

Unclelooney said...

When is Charcoal black and when is it gray?
I had a Great Great Grandfather, a Great Grandfather and a Grandfather who were in the funeral business. I know from black suits.
Are shoes next?
I believe shoes should have some
heft to 'em. You can't look
poncey in 10 pound Florsheim wingtips. LOL

Anonymous said...

Atlast, a more recent post that I can use.
Main Line Sportsman mentioned Sansom St. I had an office int the Architect's Bldg. on 17th and Sansom. Good bar/restaurant for lunch near there. Can't recall name. Bought shoes at Sherman Bros. on Sansom after they moved there from Mole St. Good restaurant used to be on Mole-Kelly's.
The Litvak