28 March 2011

Selling Ties

The Black Suit without tie - Courtesy of Esquire 1993

Macclesfield pattern

Small and invisible

Dressy and low key

Spitalsfield pattern from Polo

Trad pinch ensures a dimple

Hard to associate anything negative

Another boring Macclesfield

The perfect interview tie

Rich but simple

Just keep the label hidden

Not just for weddings

Under the stated

Is this blog about holding onto tradition or am I'm just indulging in my own incomprehension of the last 20 years? You tell me.

It's no coincidence the black suit showed up in the early '90s and was touted by that arbiter of men's style, Donna Karan, "If designer Donna Karan had her way, black would be the third basic suit color in every man's wardrobe, after blue and gray." (Esquire Gentleman Magazine S/S 1993) That blue and gray have to be mentioned... Well, it's telling of the early '90s.

It took Esquire 20 years to figure the black suit is dead (recently reported). I guess that means if you bought a Donna Karan black suit in 1993 you're a chump or -- you work in insurance and I bailed you out of jail in Aventura, FL by cashing an expense check I forgot I had in my wallet... you lucky S.O.B.

It's no secret my profession is considered the little yellow school bus of financial services. 'Rate x Exposure ='s Premium' ain't hard to pick up although a liability policy can be. Anyway, I've decided to prepare a short primer on business dress in a sales organization. Should you desire, I am available to speak at your next conference for a small fee - provided it isn't at a Marriott Courtyard.

First (or last, as the post order will be) is the tie. I'm not talking that Asian place with coconut curry or the Chevy Chase character in Caddy Shack. Which, by the way, 92.7% of men over 40 can quote word for word. No, Danny. I'm talking a 58" long piece of silk, wool, cashmere or cotton that you'll have to learn to tie.

And don't tell me about that 'suit without tie look' you saw in Esquire. Today or in 1993. You are not an agent in Hollywood (I have screenplays if you are). You can't be the president of Iran and if you wanna take your tie off after work in Bennigans-- knock yourself out. When you are in a place of business, working with grown ups, you will wear a tie.

I will not tell you what tie to wear in your office. That's between you and your office. Frankly, if you have really bad taste, I wanna see you coming for a country mile and a bad tie will do just that. I will tell you what tie to wear when you are meeting a client, a prospect, a bank, an employer or anyone else you want money from.

It should be silk and it must be understated. Small patterns work best because they disappear. The tie will look rich, have depth and it should bore people to death. Allow your competitor to beat people over the head with the unsubtle: (1) Hermes or Ferragamo Tie (charges too much). (2) Donald Duck or Nascar Tie (charges too little). (3) Rep Tie (born with too much).

Strangers, and especially women, will make petty conclusions about you based on your tie. And a sales call is no time to let the 'real you' hang out. By the way, this is a good time to mention wearing bow ties. Don't. Not on a sales call and I don't care what you sell. You like bow ties? So do I. Wear 'em when you're in the office cold calling. It's fun. Kinda like talking to someone on the phone when you're naked.

Next is shirting or, as I like to call them... shirts. This isn't complicated and I refuse to make it so. Unless someone starts paying me. In which case my Power Point presentation is standing by.


Alice Olive said...

My comment is somewhat related to ties.... (Plus you said women make judgements about ties and the men wearing them - you're right.)

I recently organized corporate portraits for my office.

Our two main offices are in Chicago and New York. Chicago has no dress code. No. Dress. Code. (Sorry, but I disagree with management that t-shirts, shorts and flip flops are appropriate for the office. I don't need to see the cracked heels of our senior team. Is moisturizer that expensive or hard to find? I think not.) Our New York office is 'business casual'. Ill-fitted polyester shirts, salt-stained shoes and definitely no ties.

So for the portraits, I enforced suits and ties. Maaaaan, men look SO GOOD when an effort is made! Especially with an elegant tie. Acccessories maketh the man.

PS: Totally agree with your point on bow ties.

Unclelooney said...

I have an ex IBMer father. I think it was about 1979 or so before a light blue shirt wasn't seen as radical as a Zoot suit.
Tin Tin, was it about 1983 or so when the loud tie revolution started? The yellow and redt ies with Paisley design hordes stalked the Nicollet Mall and skyways of MPLs.

Brummagem Joe said...

Right all the way tintin. I remember most of the guys I used to interview for jobs were wearing Tom Wolfe exploding pizza ties, in fact most of the people I interviewed with for jobs were also wearing exploding pizza ties. Of course I didn't move in exalted financial circles, it was metal bashing, so maybe this made a difference. And the black suit is still surprisingly popular with the under 30's. WHY?

Anonymous said...

Trad HOF post. This is why my man Al invented the internet.

Unclelooney said...

On Fridays I often see Sturgis Run T shirts. I've even seen Affliction and Tap out T-shirts; a sure sign of the apocalypse. Maybe the Mayans had something with this 2012 bidness.

Trailer Trad said...

Don't sell yourself short Tin Tin. You're a tremendous blogger.

james at 10engines said...

why modern politicians are dressing as Iranian presidents baffles me...

Dallas said...

black suit is pop with the under 30 crowd because of shows like entourage and actors our age that wear nothing but black, sans tie.

An asshole that enjoys making myself smirk and reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Tin Tin,

Just curious why you recommend the Repp? What is a preppy to do on the interview?


Dallas said...

Spending a day with clients this week. They will be in sport shirts and dockers, maybe a blazer. Recommendation on what is appropriate attire for their agency partner(me) to wear?

Initial plan was suit, conservative dress shirt and no tie.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding post!

Anonymous said...

"You can't be the president of Iran." - Hilarious.

"When you are in a place of business, working with grown ups, you will wear a tie." - Perfect.

But lets see, you have a blank check in your wallet, are available to speak at conferences, have screenplays and a PowerPoint presentation standing by. You ARE ready for anything. And much more complex than the patterns on your ties, as it should be. And as, I suspect, your message all along.


Sheik of Araby said...

Better yet, go with suit, conservative dress tie, and no shirt.

Makaga said...

Aww, drats, I am such a bowtie fan.
Luckily, I don't work in a sales role, so I can nerd-out as I please.

Cocktail Zero said...

I always cut off the labels. I don't want people to know how much (or how little) I spend on these frivolous bits of silk.

those tricks said...


Hey guess what Tin-Tin?
I found myself a handsome boyfriend who appreciates the finer things in food, dress and travel.
And he's not even older or divorced.
Now I have someone on which to bestow my male-oriented thrift scores. Like a recently found vintage, perfect condish YSL tie (with subtle, small print). Definitely a Trad-approved find.

Main Line Sportsman said...

I have some clients from a Ins. Retail brokerage....all the guys sport the suit with no tie look...puzzling. When I am at their office or they are at mine...I am always wearing a tie...and put the suit-coat on for the meeting.
Many guys show up at the office well dressed...then the coat hangs on the back of the door all day. If you have clients in the conference room....put the coat on before meeting them.
At the first big law firm where I worked, starting in 1989...they still had the rule that you put you suit coat on whenever you left your office....even to go to the file room.

tintin said...

Alice- Chicago always was, how do you say? Too close to Wisconsin. Everyone I knew knew from WI wore Countess Maria ties and had gold chains with little gold nuggets as tie holders.

They can do a $6.95 fish fry righter than rain but the cheese in the clothes is too much and over flows south past Racine, through Waukegan where it picks up the Metra tracks and travels like greased cheddar to Michigan Avenue.

Unc loonney- I started at Aetna Casualty & Surety in 1986 and the old farts always wore their suit jackets at their steel desks and told us how, only just a few years before, they could wear blue shirts. I was usually wearing a pink BB BD when they told me this.

The denim dress shirt was right 'round the corner. I remember the really bad, Nicole whatever-her- name was, ties hitting the market in the early 90s. If that helps.

Joe- 'cause they're 30. How smart were we when we were 30? Not that I'm any smarter now. I've just made more mistakes.

I remember Britches of Georgetown came out with a DB Green suit with light brown bone buttons. It was the ugliest god damned suit I've ever seen. Very popular in Chicago and Kenosha.

Anon- Yeah? HOF you too!

Unc Looney- That's why I'm drinking up. If the world is coming to an end, I'd prefer to have a slight buzz.

Trailer Trad- I sell myself short everyday. I'm 5'8 3/4.

James @ 10- Understanding that, I'd prefer if Orrin Hatch gave up his ties or maybe Mac and Kat at Pierpont Hicks can make a political donation. Not that I wanna help the dark side.

Dallas- Smirking over the Triangle Fire is... Never mind. This place is as unhip as you're ever gonna find. You're a funny guy but you hacked up something that wasn't even intelligent. And you usually are.

EHT - I don't rec the repp. Carries a lotta baggage. Like a BMW that cuts you off at the toll booth. People love to hate. Trust me on this.

Dallas- I'd wear a blazer and khakis with a polo shirt. Then I'd set some deviled eggs out in the sun for 6 hours and feed 'em to your clients with lots of milk. Then sit back and watch the fun. But keep your blazer a good distance away. It would be bitch to spend another $140 for a new one.

DB- I bailed a buddy outta jail with an expense check I signed over to the bailsman. No blank check. We were in Aventura on business. I turned in early. He didn't.

Sheik- Nice rec. Are you really a sheik?

Makaga- Tough guys wear bow ties. Just not in front of the enemy.

Cocktail 0- That's worse than me pouring cheap hooch in expensive bottles. Or, not.

those tricks- you'll have to change your handle, sweetie. Congratulations. I am very happy for you. If he breaks your heart let me know. I have some friends close by in the Army.

Main Line- I knew a guy at Aetna in Philly. An underwriter. He'd leave his jacket at his desk, take a file and go home early. Say 2:30 or 3PM. Then he'd come in around 10:30 the next morning in his shirt sleeves with the same file and everyone thought he'd stayed late and come in early. He did this for years. He still might be doing it. Good enough reason to wear a jacket and a tie.

Dallas said...

i'll tip my hat to the compliments and pick and choose my spots better in the future. smirking wasn't' aimed at the tragedy but at our previous conversation re: made in the usa.

can not pull off the polo shirt and blazer look. dress shirt, blazer and khakis should work. now the decision comes to the collar.

Alice Olive said...

Tintin: Don't blame Chicago. It's the people. Our New York office is worse, frankly. There are two themes: laundry-time or street walker.

tintin said...

Dallas - Fair enough. Button down.

Alice- My rates are low and I'm happy to blow the dust off my Power Point.

JKG said...

Late to this discussion, but if you can be confident that you are, in fact, interviewing with WASPs, then there should be no trouble about a repp with a bd shirt. It will make them more comfortable with you.