Sep 23

Image goes for a ride

I always wear jeans and sneaks when I fly. To me, comfort trumps appearance, especially in today's unfriendly skies.

September 23 - business_travel

It wasn't too long ago, though, that the very thought of dressing in jeans and sneaks on a business trip was verboten. My CEO at JWT always dressed in business formal wear, even when we were traveling on a Sunday. 'You never know who you might meet,' he admonished me, after spying my open neck polo.

On another occasion in the late 1980s, I sported jeans, cowboy boots and an unshaven face on a Sunday night flight to a client off-site. I figured I'd be flying alone, so why worry. Ah, but my client was also on the flight. We shook hands after landing, and then he offered me a piece of advice. 'There's casual and then there's casual. You represent your firm wherever you go. How do you think your CEO would feel if he saw you looking like this?' Duly noted.

That was many moons ago, of course. Today, there is no dress code for business travel. In fact, any code of airline comportment has been blown to smithereens. Nowadays, the typical fellow traveler is a morbidly-obese man dressed in a track suit, flip-flops and carrying two Double Whoppers with cheese on board. In fact, spying a passenger in suit-and-tie is akin to a sighting of Bigfoot or the Abominable Snowman.

I knew the times had truly changed when I recently spied the always erudite, always neatly coiffed Bill Heyman in a pair of jeans at O'Hare. If the Bill Blass of PR search consultants is ok with jeans and sneaks at the airport, then it's ok with me as well. I just hope Mr. Heyman doesn't lapse into the track suit and Whopper mode any time soon. If he does, then we will have truly reached the end of days.

Jul 23

Mandals should not be part of a business casual wardrobe

Mandals Mandals should not be part of a business casual wardrobe

I am trying my best to keep today's breakfast where it belongs: slowly winding its way through my large and small intestines. I say 'trying' because the man sitting next to me on the good ol' NJ Transit 7:28 to midtown is sporting mandals. And, it's grossing me out.

Men's feet are disgusting. Period. They do not deserve to see the light of day in a work setting. And, yes, the 7:28 to New York is a work setting.

This commuter is otherwise beautifully attired, though. He's sporting a mauve polo shirt. (I love the word 'mauve.' Who comes up with a word like mauve in the first place?)

“Hey Isaiah, that's not purple. But, it's not red either. What the hell?”
“Easy, Esau. I know. We'll call it mauve!”

Anyway, back to mandals. The guy's mauve shirt is beautifully accented by sharply-pressed khaki pants and an obviously well-cared for Coach leather briefcase. So, why mar an otherwise natty ensemble by putting the dogs on display? Why are this obviously well-heeled guy's ragged toenails and hairy toes front and center? Sorry. But, it's beyond being just wrong. It's heinous.

During the dotcom days, Peppercom's workplace was befouled by not one, but two, mandal-wearing employees. We mercilessly pilloried the more senior of the two at our regular management meetings and he sheepishly discarded what I called his Yasser Arafat-branded mandals. (They had a certain Palestine Liberation Organization look to them.)

But, the other offender reveled in his flip-flops and wore them rain or shine. They beautifully accented his laid-back, tropic shirts, torn blue jeans, and overall Jimmy Buffet approach to life, ladies and work. I did everything I could to raise the inappropriate dress code awareness level, even awarding him 'Best Male Feet of the Month' at a regular staff meeting. But, nothing worked, save winter weather.

Happily, the mandal-sporting staffer solved the problem for us by deciding to pack up and head South (presumably for year-round mandal wearing weather conditions.) With his departure, life returned to normal. Male toes were tucked back inside shoes and regular business could be transacted without nausea or vomiting.

I'd really hoped mandals had become a vestige of the dotcom era and, like mullets, jump suits and suspenders before them, had been placed on the 'men should not be caught dead wearing these things in the office' fashion scrap pile. But, apparently not.

As a result, I'm thinking of bribing one of the brain-dead train conductors and asking him to make the following announcement:

“NJ Transit apologizes for yet another interminable delay this morning. We do appreciate your patience but, hey, after so many of these delays, you should be used to it. We'd also like to remind passengers not to place their feet on the seats. This applies in particular to those moronic male passengers who are grossing out their fellow travelers by sporting mandals. Get those dogs off my seats now! Thank you once again for riding New Jersey Transit. Have a pleasant day and be sure to bring shoes and socks if you'd like to ride with us in the future."

Guys: do us all a favor. Save the mandals for the beach.

May 27

Back to being a Brooks Bros. buyer

May 27 - brooks_brothers_ci I'm back. Not that the fine folks at Brooks Brothers were ever aware I was gone. But, I was. I disappeared for about two decades.

I began my business career with Brooks. I can still recall my first boss's advice to '…..ditch that tan polyester number and get thee to a Brooks store.' I followed his advice and, like every other male staffer at Hill & Knowlton in the late 1970s, proudly donned my conservative, conformist blue and gray Brooks' suits every single day.

But, times changed and so did I. I moved up the fashion ladder to trendier American brands. Then, sometime in the late 1980s, I discovered Armani, Gucci and Zegna. I saw Brooks as a snobby, stultifying vestige of the past, especially when the uber informal, go-go dotcom days dawned.

In the past few years, though, Brooks has re-surfaced on my fashion radar screen. I still buy Zegna suits and jackets, but now I go to Brooks exclusively for my sweaters and golf shirts. I love their amazing range of colors and, for some odd reason, really dig sporting their corporate logo (it's almost the anti-Polo which, to me, has become passé).

Don't ask me why, but Brooks is back and this buyer's buying. Life may or may not be a circle, but I've come full circle with a brand that is once again a must-buy.