Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a female and a junior at Yale. As an economics major I am going to get my Masters before seeking employment. I wish to work on Wall Street but I intend to choose my firm very carefully. I want to work for a firm that pays women as well as men who do the same job. I think it’s ridiculous that women earn less than men in industry and if I find myself being passed over for a less qualified man I will protest. In fact, if there is a woman’s organization on Wall Street fighting for equal pay for women I will join it. I am part of the protest movement on campus that has gotten so much publicity.


I’m writing to you because my mother who reads your blog religiously, suggested it. She is convinced that if I approach Wall Street with my attitude they will, if they hired me which she doubts, not only pay me less but probably fire me. I can’t believe that would happen today but I am asking you since you are her expert on proper behavior in business.

Name and address withheld by John T Molloy



Dear Junior:


I was hired several weeks ago by three companies to research a design project. They had hired a design firm to come up with a name and logo for a new company and they weren’t happy with their suggestions. Without going into detail there were obvious flaws in the design, the name was okay but they simply guessed and never researched it while the logo was unworkable. They didn’t bother to tell the design firm that the logo is not only going to be put on shirts but on the outside of their buildings or if they followed my suggestion on top of their franchises. So the fact that it would go from 3 inches to 30 feet and the larger version was just plain ugly was not the fault of the design firm.


It didn’t take me 15 minutes to point out the obvious. so I announced I would cut my fee in half if they would arrange for an early flight home. They arranged for a 12:35 flight and it was 9:30 in the morning. Went I asked for a cup of coffee I was offered breakfast and I accepted. They had time to kill because the meeting was cut short and they had to arrange for their own trips. One of the ladies asked if they could do anything for me since I had saved them from making a costly mistake. I said I have a letter on my laptop I would like them to read and comment on. I passed my computer around and they made several comments.


First was made by a woman executive who earned her MBA at Georgetown. She said they learned everything about their jobs after they were hired. She added she’d never hire anyone who went to Yale because the whole point of going to college was to learn how to think and communicate. The publicity your movement received convinced her that is no longer happening at Yale.


The second comment was made by the second woman. She said the first woman was being a bit too harsh. The girl is probably bright and might do very well in the company. At that one of the men chimed in; what about her attitude, she joins the firm ready, willing and anxious to create problems. I wouldn’t touch her with a 10 foot pole. There were five men and two women at the table. I’m not sure exactly how many but at least four of the seven show their agreement by nodding.


The discussion went on for about another hour. I can summarize what was said by repeating two of their comments. One by a gentleman; who said joining any corporation is like joining the Army, if you want to get ahead put on the uniform and learn to salute. He was the president of his company and said running any large corporation is like being a general in the Army. Your job is to defeat the competition and to do that you need people who know their jobs, carry out orders and are willing to sacrifice for the company. He added that is the primary reason women do not do as well as men. Most take off time to have children and after the children are born they become their primary concern. They often take time off when their children are sick. If you ask a man to move his family across country if he sees it as necessary to move up most will do it. Few women will.


The second comment was made by the first woman to speak. She said corporations are basically male institutions and they use male sports jargon when explaining how a corporation should run. They are not only using sports or military terminology when talking about company projects and they have a unique male approach to most subjects. She added: “The only reason I succeeded in my company is I was raised with four brothers and I know how men think.


I know this is not a logical well thought out answer to your question but of the seven successful women to whom I showed it six said it was the only way to help someone as naïve as you. Tell you exactly how the world works and let you work it out for yourself .


There it is. Good luck!

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Before I start commenting on how women in politics should dress I think you should know about the two most influential women in my life. The first of course was my mother. I think if I tell you a story about her you will get to know her. When I wrote the “Dress for Success” books I was often hired by companies to speak on that subject and I assume that was the reason I was hired by the Bell Telephone Company in New York City. I had been speaking for several years and thought of myself as a very good speaker. The reason I thought that was I usually was treated like a star when I showed up to speak.


That did not happen when I arrived at Bell Telephone’s headquarters in New York City. To the employees who told me where and when I was going to be speaking, I was just speaker number three.

They informed me that I would be speaking three times, at 9 o’clock that morning, that afternoon and the next morning. When I saw the first room, I was a bit disappointed. I was used to speaking to overflow audiences and although the room was almost filled to capacity it wasn’t that large. However, by the second speech I knew I made my mark. So many people showed up that they had to move me to a much larger room and it was not only filled to capacity, the size of the overflow crowd forced them to book me in an auditorium the next morning.


When I returned the next morning I was full of myself because I was once again treated like a star. After I finished my third presentation I was invited up to the president’s office for lunch. When I met the gentleman I assumed he was impressed by my ability as a speaker but the first words out of his mouth indicated that was not the case. He asked me what I spoke about. I asked him why he invited me to his office for lunch if he hadn’t heard me speak. His answer was if your Mae Molloy’s kid you can’t be half bad. He went on to explain that on several days of each year the number of calls are many times what they are on a normal day. The Telephone Company could not afford to hire people full time to handle the billing for those dates so they hired others to do it. The problem with that was almost no one completed the task accurately, so when he was given the job of finding a company to do the billing, he assumed it was the end of his career. Almost everyone before him had failed.


He chose Statistical Tabulating Corporation where my mother worked. When he was walking through the company’s office he noticed a little old lady stopping and glancing at a whole series of numbers on a board and pointing out a mistake. Then she was stopped by one of the employees who asked a question which she answered immediately. He asked the woman escorting him; What is her name and which department does she run? He was shocked when she informed him the old lady was really smart but only a comptometer operator. (A pre-computer high-speed calculating machine) He insisted she be in charge of the job and sign each report.


The first three years everything was perfect on the fourth report they found an error as they did on the fifth. When my mother was informed she insisted on seeing the mistakes. After spending less than an hour and a half going over the reports she pointed out the mistakes were theirs. For the next 12 years the PhD’s who had been embarrassed by this old lady, checked, checked and rechecked her work, in hopes of catching a mistake. They did not.



My wife was the prettiest and the smartest woman I ever met, so even though at first she turned me down I talked her into marrying me. I would’ve never been in the consulting business or written a book if it were not for her. I recognize the fact that she’s smarter than I am as did my son who years ago purchased her a more complicated and more difficult to operate smart phone than he bought for me. Obviously, since I’ve been surrounded by brilliant and capable women all my life I do not think they are in any way inferior to men.


The reason I’m writing this blog is Kansas State Sen. Mitchell Holmes suggested a dress code for the women in the Kansas legislature. He said some of their skirts were too short and their blouses too

low. I don’t know how he made it as a politician without realizing there is an army of self-appointed defenders of minorities, women and other groups. They have dedicated their lives to taking offense even when there is little or no reason for doing so. Since he had made, in their opinion, what was an outrageous statement they forced him to grovel and change his position.


The second reason I wrote this article is many women politicians need image advice from a real expert not political consultants who know nothing about the subject. I will be happy to write a dress code for the women in any legislature which would be designed to give them more power and more credibility. However, I will only undertake this task if I am asked by the women in the legislature themselves. I was hired several years ago by a Democrat and a Republican to oversee research on what tactics would give either candidate an advantage in a close election. We found among other things a woman running for office has to first convince the public she is a serious candidate by her dress, her speaking style and her general appearance before they will even consider voting for her while a man only has to announce he is a candidate.


If you doubt this, all you have to do is look at Carly Fiorina. She would have been a good candidate for president and the first choice for vice president for any candidate running against Hillary Clinton if she looked presidential. She is knowledgeable, articulate and serious but she dresses as if she is still a secretary or a programmer in the silicone Valley. And as everyone knows she’s out of the running even for vice president unless she changes her image.








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Dear Mr. Molloy:


The other day during a major snowstorm I had lunch at a local restaurant. I checked my coat with my gloves in my pocket but when I picked it up they were missing. When I pointed this out to the maître d’ he apologized and said he would replace my gloves. The only problem is when he asked my glove size, I had no idea. I am embarrassed to go into a store and ask them to measure my hands and not purchase gloves from them so I’m wondering if you could tell me how to measure my hands.


New York, NY


Dear JN:

First, find a cloth tape Place the tape on the knuckle of your index finger and bring the tape over the other knuckles and around the palm of your hand until it touches the point where you started.(This leaves the thumb out). If you measure 6 inches you wear a size 6, if you measure 9 inches you wear a size 9 but all that is theoretical. The fact of the matter is you can’t really buy shoes or gloves without trying them on.


The reason you must try gloves on is they are manufactured all over the world and the sizing is hardly standard. I suggest you return to the restaurant to explain this to the maître d’ and ask him where he’s going to purchase your gloves and tell him you wish to go to that store and try them on first.


Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a 5-foot-2 ,26-year-old attorney who works for a very conservative Wall Street firm. I’m sure part of the reason I was hired is I presented a very conservative image when being interviewed thanks to my father and you. He read and liked your column for almost 20 years and once he found that you had a blog he became a follower.

Of course he insisted that I become one as well.


Keeping three things in mind; first I don’t look 26 I look younger, I am what men consider cute and when dealing with attorneys at work or talking to a judge or a jury I must appear to be an authority. I would like you to recommend glass frames. Please be specific as to color ,size and design


. Name and address withheld


Dear Attorney:

Our research into glass frames found that a young woman wishing to be an authority figures did best when they wore brown,black or dark gray glasses made of bone or plastic . Avoid any frames with shades of colors particularly pink and red .


While anyone who wears glasses wants them to be flattering that’s not your primary goal. You should choose glass frames that add weight to your face but do not overwhelm you. I suggest you take a man with you but not your father since he has a preconceived image of you and that would interfere with his being an objective judge . Take your brother, or a male friend who is not a coworker and ask them which frames make you most serious and/or authoritative.



I wish I could be more specific but unfortunately I cannot. There are so many styles and they change so rapidly that I found it impossible to keep pace with all the variations available.


Dear Mr. Molloy:


The other night as I was about to go out with my friends and several gorgeous girls who my sister brought to my birthday party, when my sister said; “You are not going to wear those shoes,are you?” When I asked what was wrong, she said you should not wear brown shoes with a light blue suit. Actually, it was a medium-range blue suit I had worn to work and I told her I’ve always worn brown shoes with this suit and they work fine.


One of her gorgeous girlfriends chimed in, and said at her country club men usually wore brown shoes before 5 o’clock and black shoes after. I did not argue with her, because she was gorgeous. It worked because I have a date with her next week but I wonder is there really such a rule.

K.U, Boston


Dear K.U:

You can wear black, gray and most shades of brown shoes with a blue suit.


There was a 5 PM rule 60 years ago but only in large cities in the Northeast. The rule was you could wear black or brown shoes with a blue suit before five but only black shoes after five.

The people who enforced this rule were European maître d”s in the better restaurants, who brought with them their European sense of what was proper. They enforced this rule by punishing those who wore brown shoes by making them wait for tables, sitting them by the kitchen door, and so forth. Like most silly rules it disappeared, probably when the businessmen who were forced to sit by the kitchen doors started punishing maître d”s by not tipping and not returning.


The young lady belongs to a country club that is 60 years behind the times . However, if that gorgeous girl invites you to her country club wear black shoes| after five. The rule is when in Rome do as the Romans do and when in the boonies ——-.


Good luck!










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Dear Mr. Molloy:

I am a man married to a top executive at a Fortune 500 company. Part of her responsibilities as you might imagine is moving in the right circles so that she can attract clients and handle problems that the company might face. As a result, we entertain groups regularly at our home and although I can avoid many of these gatherings I am sometimes forced to play the part of the supportive executives spouse.


Obviously, I play the part very well because I was asked by my wife to talk to the husband of a friend of hers. She explained that their marriage was in real trouble because her husband couldn’t put up with the BS he was getting from some people at these social-business gatherings. I of course told her I would be happy to do so but shocked her when I explained that earlier in our marriage I had the same

thoughts. When she asked me why I explained that when we first wed she worked for another company and although at the time she wasn’t required to entertain at home we were obliged to go to a number of company functions. At those gatherings I met people who obviously found it entertaining to embarrass me by pointing out that I was only a plumber and probably living off my wife’s earnings


Fortunately we were only married for two years when she moved to the present company and by that time I knew how to handle those jackasses. Instead of being introduced as a plumber,I introduced myself as a plumbing contractor. Nevertheless, in the new company some were determined to get me by asking how many employees I had? I dodged that one by saying I work mainly through subcontractors. Once I started making that claim I started using subcontractors. Because I never went to college I started reading books on business.. Eventually I knew the language of business and the tactics used by successful business people. Once I started applying them to my business I became a very successful plumbing contractor. Today when I get some smart-ass question or comment, my response is always the same, How many millions have you earned this year?. That usually stops them in their tracks.


Naturally,I am also going to tell this young fellow what I did but I wonder if you could add anything?


Name and address withheld


Dear Plumbing Contractor:


Yours is not the first letter I received about this problem,in fact.yours is not among the first hundred letters I received discussing the subject. However, it is the most positive, refreshing and encouraging story I have heard dealing with this very vexing problem. I suggest you tell your story to the husband of your wife’s friend.


It is more difficult for blue-collar men to be effective as executive spouses than women from limited backgrounds. It is not because they do not face the same people it is because there is no shame for a woman to be supported by her husband while the man in the same position is seen as less of a man. Anyone in this position knows that inevitably someone will make a comment that they may find insulting. If it only happens once usually the best thing to do is ignore it. In some cases it’s a coworker competing with your wife who believes that by diminishing you they are diminishing her. The real problem here is in some cases it is true, no matter what anyone says our society has different expectations of men and women.


As I said I had letters from men married to women executives and I have no solution to the problem although I have several general pieces of advice. Let their wives choose the clothing they wear to business social events. Next, if necessary work at developing a smoother more sophisticated speaking style. This requires two steps first hire a speech teacher at the local University to change your speaking pattern from lower class to upper-middle class. This will take some time but before you accomplish this goal the vocabulary you choose is one of those factors that identifies the class of the speaker.


A simple method of developing an upper-middle-class active or spoken vocabulary is to make sure you have a pen and pad with you whenever you listen to the news or political talk shows on television. Whenever the talking heads use a word that you do not use when you speak jot it down. Then take those words and put them in five sentences and read those sentences aloud a dozen times every night for a week. Make a list of no more than five or six words and complete that before you replace it with a second list. When you have finished the third list take a pause and review all the words you practiced. Ask yourself if you have used them when you’re speaking if not repeat the process.


The one thing you must never do is attempt to consciously use the words when speaking to anyone. They should and they will eventually appear in your active vocabulary . The one exception to this rule is when you’re speaking to your wife at home. If you look at a man wearing a tuxedo and say he looks sharp you’re wife might very well improve your sentence by saying he looks elegant. This may be very helpful. Do not expect these changes to take place overnight your improvement will be gradual but predictable.


Good luck and tell the fellow you are advising if he has any questions he can write to this blog.



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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a female software engineer and I’ve been working with my present firm for seven years. As you probably already know very short skirts are fashionable and being worn by many women on television. I work in the department run by a very talented women who wears short skirts and makes fun of anyone who doesn’t so I’ve been wearing short skirts for years. The women understand their dress does not fit into the company dress code which is very traditional and conservative but they work for this woman and not the executives who set the dress code female software engineers make up 40% of this department but only 5% of the software engineers in the company. As a group, they are well-educated and very good at what they do. Our department is one of the superstars of the company, I get along very well because of my job and she appreciates that.


Recently I married an engineer who works in management. He advised me to transfer out of that department as soon as possible because although my department head is very talented she’s never going to make it into the executive suite. He tells me that our department is known as the legs section among the male engineers and no one from my department is going to be sent out to deal with clients.


I’ve been studying two years at night and in the summer for my MBA and in another year and a half I will finish. Obviously, I have ambitions beyond being a software engineer. I find it hard to believe working in a department that does creative work, as we do, will hold me back.


Name and address withheld


Dear Engineer:

You married a smart fellow and he is giving you good advice. Listen to him.


Dear Mr. Molloy:

I have just become a vice president in a very large real estate firm. The next three months I will remain in my small office but once he retires I will inherit the office of one of the senior vice presidents.. I just found that one of the privileges of becoming a vice president is I can decorate my office. I cannot choose the carpet, the carpet in the entire office is gray and wall-to-wall. Other than that I can put almost anything I want in my office.


I would like to know what type of desk, artwork etc. I should choose. There are almost no limitations on what I can spend, several of the vice president’s offices are filled with antiques.



Westchester, New York


Dear Vice President:

The first thing I have to point out to you is that you work for a company which has an official or unofficial dress code for its employees. I assure you it has an unofficial dress code for offices and I’m sure you’re aware of what it is.


If you are not, when you get a chance walk through the other vice presidents offices and study them carefully. Make sure your office does not stand out because it is dramatically different from every other vice president’s office. Which means that the style of your furniture and your choice of art, and the general layout of your office should be dictated by what is already used by others in your position.


Your desk is the central and the most important piece of furniture in your office, so great care must be taken when choosing it. It mustn’t over power the office or be overwhelmed by it. Remember your desk is not simply decorative it has to be functional as well. Although, you will see some executives sitting behind glass desks if you can choose a rich wood desk it is usually best. Wood desks are traditionally prestigious.


Your choice of a chair can be more important than your choice of a desk. Choose a chair that does not overwhelm or dwarf you or your desk. In front of your desk you should place large comfortable chairs. One of the most common mistakes made by executives is they choose chairs for their guests that are not comfortable because they don’t think that’s important since there visitors are only going to be there for a short time. Your visitors comfort on occasion will be more important than yours. Purchase comfortable swivel chairs with candidates and the second like any change to gaming soup which I tasted was malicious with broccoli to salt and i and I couldn’t be anything you think that they c s fr could you hide something that you will discard that much of what you remember that the great wheels.


We found when employees are dealing with executives they are often very nervous. They are more at ease if they can squirm using the chairs. We discovered this while researching real estate sales.


Good luck!

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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I’m a 37-year-old engineer and I have a ponytail. I wonder whether or not it takes away from my professional appearance. My hair is just long enough to pull back and make a ponytail. I am clean-shaven and do not have sideburns which are common among engineers in this department and in this firm.


I must admit this firm is not as casual as the one where I started my career. At my first job most of the senior engineers and the other fellows wore slacks and dress shirts with open collars and about half of the people in management in this company wear that uniform. If I wish to move up in this company do I have adopt that look which would force me to cut off my ponytail.


Dear Engineer:


First rule in business is if you wish to move up, dress for the job you want not the job you have.

Engineers today can get away with wearing beards, sideburns, very casual dress and in some cases ponytails. But don’t kid yourself you do not look like a professional. In some firms that will keep you out of management unless you are an engineering super star. I received an almost identical letter from an engineer 15 to 20 years ago. The reason I remember it is I asked a senior engineer at the time what he thought about ponytails and what advice he would give to the young engineer who wrote me the letter. His answer was a classic. He said; “Mother nature put ponytails on horses rears and if he wears one in engineering that is what everyone is going to think he is.”


I recognize that things have changed. For the last five years I’ve been asked over and over by suit, shirt and tie companies how their salespeople should dress when they are selling to techies. While MBAs still run American business more and more of them are coming from technical backgrounds. Technology has become so critical to success that superstars in any field are considered potential executives. However, in most companies they are expected to adopt the uniform of an executive in their field which in many cases is a traditional suit, shirt and tie but in others is definitely not. Since I have not researched your companies dress I cannot give a definitive answer but my educated guess is if you wish to become a leader in your company imitate the style of the present leaders of your company.


Good luck and write to me if you have any problems..



Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am going to purchase a watch for my husband. Please tell me what works best for a businessman? I am a schoolteacher in my 50s and have been married only for a year and a half. I have no idea what he really likes or wants. All I know is he doesn’t have a nice watch.


Dear Wife:

I suggest before you buy anything you ask if he wants or needs a watch. Most business people like schoolteachers carry cell phones and use them as their watch.



Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am going back to work in a Wall Street firm. I worked there for 22 years but I inherited a business and worked at it for nine years. So I know the routine but has anything changed.


A Stockbroker

Dear Stockbroker:


The only thing in a Wall Street wardrobe that has changed are the ties. There are a greater selection of colors and patterns in acceptable executive ties than there were 10 or 15 years ago. I will go into this subject in greater detail in later blogs.


The most pronounced change in ties is they are less an identifier of background and class than they were 20 years ago. In addition, because of its greater variety the psychological message sent by ties today can help with image problems. For example, you’ll find light green ties being worn by everyone especially sophisticated big men and those with an intimidating look or demeanor because testing shows it makes them less intimidating.


I don’t want to leave the message that things have changed so much that anything goes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Clothing for both men and women still identify the wearer’s status, power and position. Obviously if you wear a suit, shirt or tie or any of that garment that identifies you as lower class, a loser or someone who cannot be trusted, it can destroy your chances of success.

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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am 5 feet 10 and weigh 198lbs. I know that doesn’t make me sound fat but I am. I have a beer belly but never drink beer. My problem is I am meant to be very thin. I have thin wrists, ankles and legs which should be attached to a slim body. Unfortunately, everything I eat or drink turns into belly fat. With my build I find it almost impossible to find a suit that fits properly, specifically my suit jackets hang poorly after the second or third wearing.


In the past, it was not important that I dress well but something wonderful has happened. I will admit to you I didn’t do well in high school or college. I passed all my courses but I never stood out from the crowd. Four years ago, after working in the post office to support myself, I landed a job at a bank. When I started I was overwhelmed and to be truthful frightened by the efficiency of the people around me, so I tried very hard to keep up. To my surprise, in six months, I was not only keeping up I was surpassing all my coworkers. I don’t think I can explain to you or your readers what it means to be a winner for the first time in your life but believe me it’s important.


I’d like some shopping guidelines before I purchase my next suit or sports jacket. I’m going to become department head over the people who have worked here for 20 years. Before that happens, I will have to work at headquarters as a consultant for four months. I was considering wearing double-breasted suits since they cover physical flaws.


Name and address withheld




Dear Winner:



I don’t believe you purchased ill fitting suits and sport jackets because you lacked information but because you made purchases in second rate clothing stores or you were a second rate customer. If you wore those poorly fitted suits when making those purchases, they may have paid little attention to how well your garments fitted. However, I doubt that. I suspect if in the future you purchase your suits and sports jackets from a better store the problem will solve itself. But just in case it doesn’t, I will give you a simple set of instructions. Arrive wearing an outfit that fits well and tell the clerk that you expect a tailor who know his business to take your measurements and to do the alterations.


As for double breasted suits don’t buy one, they add weight, not cover it. I recommend a standard single breasted model. The material should look and feel like rich wool. You should test the wear-ability of the suit or jacket by grabbing the sleeve and squeezing it tightly, if it remains wrinkled after you release it, it’s not worth buying. Good wool will fallout neatly. Next, open the jacket and look at the seams, which should be even with small neat stitching. Proper fit is more easily determined because what feels good usually fits properly. The jacket should fit snugly but comfortably at the shoulders, to test this raise your arms to be sure you have ample room for movement. After you run this test a number of times you will become accustomed to the look and feel of good workmanship and you will never buy an ill fitting garment again.



Dear Mr. Molloy:


I remember years ago you spoke at a convention I attended and said that casual dress and creativity are not necessarily related. I would like you to repeat that in this blog so I can show it to my boss.



A Researcher


Dear Researcher:


I would like to do so but while research showed 30 years ago there was no connection between avant-garde dress and creativity today there is. Since today it has become almost a universal belief that creative people must be allowed to dress any way they wish, any organization that insists on a dress code for their most creative people will find it difficult to attract them. In addition, I believe if they are able to hire them they will be less creative than they could be. While you can argue about the impact of dress on creativity there is no argument that people who feel free to experiment in any way they wish are more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems. In fact, today a casual dress code is almost a requirement of creativity because a majority of those doing the most creative work believe there is a correlation that creates a real correlation.


In case you think there is a real connection between avant-garde dress and creativity I think you should know how that notion started. At one time in Paris the artists had their studios in the better area where their customers were located on the right side of the Seine. Many young poor artists could not afford to rent studios in an expensive area so they moved across the Seine to the poor area on the left bank. When these young artists moved in they emulated the dress of the people around them. At that time the poor were very poor and they usually made their own clothing. Since they were not trained tailors it looked nothing like the clothing being worn by the wealthy aristocrats where their customers. Apparently, these young artists turned out wonderful works and when they sold them to the very rich they wore the only clothing they had. Word passed in the aristocratic community that if you wish to buy art cheaper look for those who dressed strangely. After a while it became if you wanted to buy art, buy from those who dressed differently. Soon all the artist who wished to sell their paintings dressed differently and are they still do today.






























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Dear Mr. Molloy:

Two days ago a buddy andI were invited to a mutual friends wedding.. The groom explained that his uncle became sick and his aunt is taking care of him which left him with two empty seats. The wedding is going to take place at a very nice country club two weeks after New Year’s Our problem is the invitation took place at his bachelor party and we each remember the invitation differently. I thought he said it was a formal and my friend remembers him saying that the wedding was semi-formal. Is there some way we can dress to fit in?

(I emailed him and asked what time the wedding was to take place) He answered at 6 o’clock in the evening.

John Notes

Chicago Illinois

Dear John:

The outfit that works for both formal and semi-formal weddings after 6 o’clock is a conservative charcoal gray or navy blue suit worn with a white shirt and a traditional dark tie.

However, it would be prudent to call the groom and ask. If the invitation reads black-tie you will be expected to wear a Tuxedo. The tuxedo is nothing more than a traditional dinner jacket without the tails that was introduced by Griswald Lorillard at the Tuxedo Country Club in the late nineteenth century to the dismay of most of the members. The next time he came wearing that coat half a dozen of his friends were wearing similar outfits and since they could not throw them all out it became an acceptable jacket at that club. Since the club was located approximately 15 miles north west of Manhattan, in a few years it was being worn in some of the best clubs New York City. Once that happened it was accepted everywhere .

Dear Mr. Molloy:

I am 26 and graduating from college in January with a degree in computer science and a 3.8 GPA. I worked my way through college as a waiter so I’m looking forward to working in my field My question is can I go to a second interview with a beard. I’ve already been interviewed by the people I am going to be working with and I know they want me. However, my parents are insisting that I shave before I go to the second interview. They don’t understand computers, how casual dress is now accepted in industry and how facial hair is now common among young men. In fact, that’s the reason I’m writing to you.

Please back me up on this. I know I am going to be hired because all that counts is technical competence. And I am, to quote my recommendation from one computer science professor, a technical whiz kid .

Name and address withheld

Dear Whiz Kid:

I have no doubt they will hire you. However, which projects they assign to you will depend on your ability to communicate successfully with clients, many of whom, like your parents, know little or nothing about computers. The beard will make that difficult. As a result, they will probably give you jobs with limited client contact. That won’t make much difference for the first two years but after that when you’re looking to move up, it will be a critical factor. Companies find it hard to find whiz kids but almost impossible to find whiz kids who can communicate successfully.

Shave every day !

To my readers:



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Ladies if you love him don’t choose his business dress unless you are a serious business person yourself and you know how the system works. It‘s a simple fact of life in business fashion fails and if you think fashion is important you will impose your beliefs on him.

Any man or woman who wears a high-fashion look while a majority of their coworkers wear more traditional styles or are very casually dressed is operating under a self-imposed handicap. He or she is unknowingly making the nonverbal statement that I am not one of you, I don’t hold the same values and I am not a team player. Most traditionally dressed workers in both traditional, conservative and casual high-tech companies believe that someone who dresses fashionably is less serious, less career oriented and less competent than most of those in the group.

Unfortunately for these followers of fashion their nonverbal statements are often taken at face value by those who control their careers and futures. Believe it or not dressing fashionably sends a stronger negative message in very casual environments where everyone swears there is no dress code and you can wear anything you want as long as you do the job. A majority of the managers in high-tech casual environments could pass a lie detector because in their hearts they believe there is no dress code but the fact is every group has a dress code. Everyone from those work for most conservative Wall Street firms to the Hells Angels wears a recognizable uniform.

My researchers and I surveyed 64 men and women in management positions. Two thirds wore traditional suits, shirts and ties or the female equivalent which in most cases are jacket outfits, while the other third dressed in a variety of more casual looks. Only one man working in a conservative suit company wore a sports jacket instead of a suit while only two men in casual companies wore ties with dress shirts. The remainder wore open collared dress shirts with slacks, which is becoming the unofficial uniform of many managers in a number of high-tech firms. We have been studying high-tech companies while preparing to update the “Dress for Success” books. One of the things we discovered was that even in the most casual offices those in charge usually dressed a bit more carefully and a bit more conservatively than their subordinates. This is partially due to the fact that most of those in charge are in their 40s while most of the subordinates are in their late 20s and early 30s.

Why they wear what they wear is not important .When we gave a quick response test, in which we flashed pictures of men and women on the screen for about 2 seconds and asked the supervisors to make judgments about them as you might expect those in traditional companies said they would be more likely to trust people dressed conservatively with important assignments. That finding was of course no surprise when they judged male workers. However it is significant that women who dressed fashionably were less likely to be chosen for the important career advancing assignments since many women managers and executives were fashionable themselves. We are going to do further research in this area because frankly our results don’t make sense

To our surprise the managers in high-tech casual companies, who had earlier stated that what people wore was not important rejected almost everyone who didn’t dress in a style similar to their coworkers. We asked them specifically, would they assign fashionably dressed workers to projects that can make or break their careers. We wanted to know how much they trusted these people. So we specifically stated that the successful completion of these assignments would probably reflect on them as managers.

Once again, fashion failed.

What makes this information important is those who were fashionably dressed were largely unaware that their careers would be affected by their clothing. That obviously was the case because a majority of the managers stated flatly that they were less likely to promote a man or woman dressed fashionably. This in spite of the fact that a number of these women managers occasionally chose fashionable items for their men and thought they were dressing them for success.

These results are particularly surprising because many of the fashionably dressed people were identified as good or excellent workers by their managers. Most of the managers explained their decision because although these people were good at their jobs they were not suitable to represent the company or them when dealing with clients. The reason is exactly the same as that given in the 70s by their fathers in some cases grandfathers. It seems the more things change the more they remain the same, fashion still fails,

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Dear Mr. Molloy:

The head of sales training keeps referring to your course which he took years ago as the basis for his advice. I took him seriously until he mentioned that the course was given 30 years ago. I can’t believe nothing has changed in 30 years so all of his advice is questionable. Please confirm this in your letter so I can show it to him. He actually told me that I was just too perfectly put together and that hurt my chances of closing a sale. I attended your lecture 10 years ago on dress and sales and I purchased your books which I have been using ever since.

GK Chicago Illinois

Dear GK:

You are both right and wrong. Some 30 year old research is not worth the paper it’s written on while others remain valid. You have picked the one area in sales, how salespeople should dress, where the only significant changes took place. Which means the sales trainer is probably right most of the time and because you are following the instructions of the book which is 30 years old before high-tech companies had a major impact in America business dress, you are wrong more often than he.

In fact, today how a salesman should dress when selling to high-tech companies is so complex that it is almost impossible to cover in a book. For example, if you work for a casual high-tech company selling to another casual high-tech company you would think that most salespeople would have little or no difficulty choosing the right outfits. Nothing is further from the truth. What they should wear depends not only on their dress code and that of the buyer’s company but what they are selling, the age of the salesperson, the age of the buyer, how technically competent the salesperson is and whether he relies on his technical expertise to sell his product, to name just a few. Each of these variables plus others will have a major impact on the salesperson’s ability to sell. The reason this is so, is one of the most critical part of any sale is when the buyer first sees the salesperson . 72% of the time at this point buyers judge the salesperson and if their judgment for any reason is negative, their chances of selling are dramatically reduced.

( I know the first line should be “on which it’s written” but I agree with Churchill who wrote ‘Up with which I shall not put.” To an editor who had the audacity to correct Churchill’s “put up with.” )


How the hell can you give advice on sales? As far as I know you have never been the top salesman and therefore your advice is xxx xxxx. It’s like someone who never played baseball teaching someone to play baseball. I know you won’t print this letter because you’re afraid to answer it and are too xxxxxx xxxx!

Dear Sir:

I knew from your salutation this was not going to be a friendly letter. Nevertheless, I consider it one of the best letters I’ve ever received because you ask exactly the right question. Before you take anyone’s advice you should ask what makes them an expert? I can tell you I went on radio and television and sold my books and they sold very well. However. that does not qualify me as an expert. Being a superstar does not qualify you to teach that sport. I was a boy in New York City when the Yankees won pendant after pendant and the coach was Casey Stengel who was at best a second rate player.

To appreciate my advice it is necessary to understand how I develop my expertise. Selling to corporate America requires salespeople meet new clients and in a relatively short time persuade them they are knowledgeable and trustworthy. If I were to give you my personal opinion of how to make yourself look knowledgeable and trustworthy your opinion would be as good or better than mine if not better since you’re in the situation. That is why I base all my advice on research,

My sales research was simple and straightforward. I placed cameras in buyers offices and arranged for salesmen to sell real products to buyers who needed those products. My researchers then questioned these buyers. The results at first were mixed at best. The buyers often could not tell why they bought from salesman 1 and not salesman 2. To help them remember we put switches under their desks and had them push the switches one way when the salesperson sent a positive message and the other way when the message was negative. Then my researchers played back the videotapes for the buyers with the switches appearing in the upper right hand corner. Once they saw the tapes, they knew exactly what turned them on and off.

We discovered among other things that a majority of salespeople when they moved with a smooth, uninterrupted, self-confident manner were more likely to succeed but there were exceptions to even that finding. It was obvious when we examined the tapes that very big or rough looking men were an exception. It helped them sell particularly to small men if they appeared overwhelmed or even nervous and clumsy.

Those tapes which took us years to make one turned out to be a gold mine of useful information and that gave me a real advantage when training or advising salespeople.

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