DRESSED TO SELL: Chanel or C&A, Prada or Principles? The sharp dresser may win in the style stakes but do clothes help you clinch the deal? Greg Hughes reports

’Would you wear those to a wedding? Next time you come into my office dressed like that, it’ll be your funeral!’

’Would you wear those to a wedding? Next time you come into my

office dressed like that, it’ll be your funeral!’

That was the upbraiding one sales executive received from his manager

when he turned up to work in scuffed shoes. But while this boss’s

reaction may have been extreme, did he have a point?

In the media sales world, what you wear can mean the difference between

sealing the deal and dropping the ball.

’If you can’t be arsed to shine your shoes,’ some argue, ’you’re not

going to go all-out to make sure the client receives a polished


But is wearing the right kit simply down to shiny shoes and a suit or is

there more to it?

’Dressing well is paramount,’ says Jim Chaudry, automotive client

display sales executive at the Financial Times. ’I’m representing the FT

every time I meet a client. I have to look the part and that means

wearing a suit.’

Vogue’s ad director Rachel Reavley agrees. ’As a sales person it’s

essential to look presentable, professional and representative of your


Working on a brand like Vogue means that’s great fun - every day you can

get glammed up.’

But working in sales does not automatically mean dressing up every day

as dress codes vary widely across the media industry.

At companies that position themselves as young or trendy, suits are rare

on days when there are no client meetings.Virgin, for example, has a

relaxed dress policy. ’One day I’ll come in suited-up for a meeting and

the next I’ll just wear my jeans,’ says senior sales executive Vicki


’We have to look smart when we make face-to-face contact with clients

but, that said, you’re not going to see Virgin sales staff wearing high

heels and sheer tights.

Virgin’s quite a young and funky brand and what we wear reflects


ITN New Media’s commercial director Owen Valentine Pringle agrees.

’I think dressing appropriately is important but the people in my

department are free to wear what they like. It is far more important

that they know their stuff.’

However, many companies insist on smart dress even if their staff do not

have any meetings scheduled.

’A lot of companies have dress-down Fridays, but here you dress smartly

even if you’re not seeing clients,’ says John de Napoli, agency sales

manager at Carlton Digital Sales. ’Dressing well makes you feel better

and you perform better as a result. However, as long as you are smart

and look clean, you shouldn’t have to wear a suit; it’s just that

putting on a suit is an easy way to get dressed.’

TDI also has a smart-dress policy. As well as its famed lapel pin, worn

by every member of staff, male employees are expected to wear a shirt

and tie, although the ’white shirts only’ rule imported from the US no

longer applies.

’I think you need to look smart to sell successfully,’ says business

group director Alison Reay. ’We expect our sales people to wear suits

because TDI is a professional, slick organisation. Besides, even if you

don’t have any meetings scheduled, wearing a suit every day means you’ll

be ready to go if an agency calls and asks you to drop in.’

So while the suit may still be the work garment of choice for many sales

people, the number of sartorial alternatives on offer seems to be


What seems most important is ’representing the brand’ - a phrase that

cropped up again and again during interviews. If your advertisers are

young and hip, that’s what they’ll be looking for in you. Equally, if

you’re meeting more traditional clients, you should tailor your dress


So if you are the type who hates wearing a suit or you like nothing

better than getting dolled up to the nines, the brand you’ll be working

on is something well worth considering next time you apply for a


JIM CHAUDRY - automotive client display sales executive FT

What do you wear to work?

’I’m quite a big guy, so I have all my suits tailor made. I like to look

smart so I always wear double-cuffs, and I’m a big Gucci fan so lots of

my stuff comes from there. I also work on the door at several clubs but

I have a very different look when I’m doing that - a leather jacket or a

long coat. Oh, and heavy shoes.’

Do you buy a lot of clothes?

’I do spend quite a bit of money on clothes . I’ve got 12 suits but I

can’t buy off-the-peg because they just won’t fit me. I’ve got about 40

ties - most of which are from places like Gucci or Connolly - and I’ve

got seven pairs of Gucci loafers.’

What should you never do, fashion-wise?

’Wearing the wrong-coloured socks is bad, like light socks with a dark

suit or vice versa. The worst thing is when people’s socks are too short

and their leg shows when they cross their legs. That’s a serious


Who’s the most stylish person in media?

’Steve Jones, the international sales director at VNU, is an

exceptionally snappy dresser.’

RACHEL REAVLEY - ad director Vogue

What do you wear to work?

’I like to look professional and smart. I’m lucky that I don’t have to

wear a suit, although I do own a couple. If I’m going to see a client, I

make a note of who it is the night before and dress accordingly. For

instance if I’m seeing Paul Smith then I’ll probably wear one of his


I’m passionate about clothes and one of the best things about working

for Vogue is that you get to wear things you might not get away with in

any other office environment.’

Do you have any favourite shops?

’I like Portobello market. I love buying things that are one-offs but at

the same time I love Gucci, so I’ll go from one extreme to the


I think Miu Miu is fantastic and Koh Samui is a great shop in Covent


I also think Top Shop is brilliant; it really is a great way to

accessorise your wardrobe.’

Who’s the most stylish person in media?

’Clients obviously tend to be very stylish. If they work for Chanel or

Gucci or whoever, that’s what they wear. And Stephen Quinn has a nice

line in red socks and red braces.’

Is there anything you should never do - white socks with black


’But there’s an 80s revival just around the corner, so watch out.’

JOHN DE NAPOLI - agency sales manager Carlton Digital Sales

What do you wear to work?

’I’d describe myself as a classic dresser. Branded designer wear is

overpriced; it smacks of the 80s when people would meet you and, instead

of shaking your hand, they’d grab your tie and check out the label.’

Do you have any favourite shops?

’I like nice clothes but I’ll shop around to find them. You can find

quality cheaply and you can pay over the odds for crap. One place I like

is a shop called Magia, which is in Bari where my family comes


Do you buy a lot of clothes?

’If I added up how much I spent I’d be worried. But one thing I don’t

have to worry about is socks. In Italy, it’s a tradition to buy your

nephew his underwear when he gets married. When I tied the knot my uncle

bought me 93 pairs of socks.’

What’s your worst fashion disaster?

’When I was 13 I bought a pair of shoes from Petticoat Lane. They were

tan, had gold toecaps and three-inch heels.’

OWEN VALENTINE PRINGLE - commercial director ITN New Media

What do you wear to work?

’It depends on how I feel each morning. One thing I never wear is ties,

but I’ve got loads of them - people keep giving them to me as gifts.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter what I wear because the important thing

is I know my shit. I wear exactly the same sort of thing in work and out

of work.’

Have you ever bought clothes on the web?

’No. I need to feel my clothing and it’s got to hang right. You just

can’t tell when you see things on a computer.’

Have you ever had a fashion disaster?

’Not a fashion disaster, but there was one time I wore a kilt to an

awards ceremony. I was wearing briefs and, as people got increasingly

drunk, one woman - who shall remain nameless - did the inevitable and my

picture ended up in the trade press.’

Is there anything you should never do?

’Wear dark glasses in dark environments or be a label-freak. And you

should never take your socks off last when you’re about to get into bed

with someone - that can really put them off. I’m not speaking from

personal experience, I hasten to add.’

VICKI CONNERTY - senior sales executive Virgin Radio

What do you wear to work?

’I’m eclectic when it comes to fashion- I tend to go between


One day I can look like a student, the next you’ll find me in a suit.

Although one thing I’ve noticed about suits is that people tend to wear

them when they’re hungover - you don’t have to think about it and it

takes attention away from bloodshot eyes!’

Any fashion disasters?

’I’ve got a green velvet suit. It sounds awful but I love it. I’ve worn

it a couple of times here and they all call me the Little Drummer Boy -

it buttons right up to the neck and it’s got flared trousers.’

What’s the worst thing you see people wearing?

’Those armband things some men wear to keep their shirt sleeves up.

Shoes can also be a problem - tasselled slip-ons, don’t do it boys. And

a disturbing number of guys seem to have a fetish for large amounts of

hair gel.’

Who’s the most stylish person in media?

’Jonathan Ross - he could look cool in a pair of old curtains.’

ALISON REAY - business group director TDI

What do you wear to work?

’I always wear suits and my ’work jewellery’. I’m completely different

at the weekend - jeans and t-shirts, unless I’m going out for the


I think it gives a kind of psychological barrier between work and


Do you have a favourite item?

’A lovely cardigan from Joseph and an evening dress from Ralph


They were expensive but I consider them an investment as well as a


Who’s very stylish in media?

’Simon Speller from MindShare always looks sharp. Steve Bond from

Posterscope and Steve Booth from Booth Lockett Makin are pretty


What do you think about the TDI pin?

’People take the piss out of the pin but the staff are quite proud of it

and it has advantages at social events. It can be an ice-breaker; people

come up to you and say, ’Oh, you work for TDI.’’

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus