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.

30 March 2011

Selling Shirts

Not a good idea


No baggage

Next: The Selling Suit

One of the biggest problems I see with salesmen is their suicidal leap into 'statement.' I know this because I was so good at it. That first photo up there is me circa 1992 telling the world I was fed up with 12 years of Republicans.

I wore my affiliation proudly... and loudly. "How do you vote a straight Democratic ticket?" I shouted to my wife from inside a voting booth in the Republican strong hold of Lake Forest, IL. And if you didn't like my politics then the hell with you. Odd, since almost everyone in my industry (except attorneys) were and still are Republicans. See? I'm still doing it.

Moving on. The matching of a suit color, to a shirt, to a tie, is also common. And shame on the man who does it since he usually has the economic wherewithal to do it right. He just can't be bothered. Instead, he uses the color palette of his 12 year old mind left over from putting together Revell model airplanes. "Gray suit, gray shirt, gray tie." In Philadelphia, they'll even add gray shoes.

So here it is. The shirt should contrast against the tie and suit. That usually means a white or light blue shirt. If the tie is patterned, stick to a solid shirt. If the shirt is patterned, stick to a solid tie. Remember, these rules are not for expression but for getting paid. Getting the job. The free drink. The upgrade. A mortgage. The Order.

The idea is to avoid the baggage that people will associate with certain items of apparel. No cuff links. Plain collar. White or blue. The contrasting collar on a younger man is a first class ticket to affectationville but, if you're over 50, what the hell, you deserve it. Try and stick to the "Gotta Iron" as opposed to wash and wear but if you're young and poor, keep a couple wash and wear in the closet for the, "I-don't-have-money-to-get-my-shirts-outta-the-cleaners" emergency.

Next is the Selling Suit. If you're still awake.

29 March 2011

The Dawn Patrol: Wall Street

5:33 AM on 29 March 2011. Wall Street. Only thing moving is the light. From pitch black to Ektachrome blue and finally to a gold like the honey Foster used in his Americano. Delivery trucks are inspected by man and dog but I'm looking for Chesterfields, camel hair Polo and maybe a covert or two. All I see are parka shells and puffy coats....and a moon.

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.

25 March 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

25 March 1911
Max Blanck and Issac Harris

Just before 5PM, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory at 245 Greene Street. 146 garment workers, mostly women, lost their lives when escape was prevented because of a locked fire door. A police officer at the scene said that he didn't think he would ever forget the sickening sound of the women hitting the sidewalk when they jumped from the building rather than burn.

Max Blanck and Issac Harris were the owners. They stood trial and both were acquitted. They paid the families of the dead one weeks wages and later settled with 23 families for $75 each. Their insurance company settled with the owners for $400 for each of the 146 families. Blanck and Harris netted a $325 profit for each life lost. Two years later Issac Harris was fined $20 for locking a fire door.

23 March 2011

A Ride Up To Jack Spade

The Ride Up...

To the 7th floor


The Staff

Suits start at $1,295

Side vent

Narrow lapel

Made by Southwick

Tweed sport by Southwick coat w/ half lining

and patch pockets with unfinished sleeves for working button $950

Poor Boy sweaters

Camp Mocc is out mid April for $250

with the right soul.

Canvas Dipped Bag - Go Navy $195

Proportions (not too small)

and removable labels are a Go.

Canvas Dipped that glows in the dark

Davis leather brief (named after T. Wayne Davis)

Great idea for a book lover's wallet

University Stripe Oxford. At $185, a No Go

We're pushing bespoke at this price...Made in Garland, NC

Brittany & Aaron - Bags and clothing

I want this pillow

There's an intelligent aesthetic here with details. Lots and lots of details. If you're a Manhattan working stiff who doesn't have the time to scratch your watch or wind your ass -- then Jack Spade can kit you up so you look like you know what you're doing. There's good value here with suits, blazers and sport coats all made in the USA by Southwick. There's sourced (not made in the USA) attire that's good looking but not such a good value...unless you're in a hurry.

Great value lies in the bags. An orange leather brief named the Davis (after the designer's grandfather) is $395. That's a steal in New York. Not so much if you live in Ft Wayne. There's creativity and fun with the bags that speak to the designer, Brittany Kleinman and to the history of the company. Andy and Kate Spade started the business by selling handbags in 1993. You sense that bags are still important here.

Great design and fairly priced. That's not easy to find today. Who knows... maybe the insanity of Thom Browne (BOHICA) is getting old with everyone. Even that New Yorker who works and makes too much can't afford $5,000 mistakes.