Uniform and Weight

Dear Mr. Molloy:


Six months ago our company decided to put our employees in uniforms. The uniform people said that putting them in uniforms would make them feel like a team and illicit better cooperation.  I think, that’s hogwash.


I am one of 8 supervisors who work on the line. We have been given uniforms in the company’s colors that are only slightly different from those worn by the men on the line. We wear the same slacks but the workers wear golf shirts while we wear dress shirts Three of the senior managers have been given sports jackets In the company’s colors with large logos on the back identical to  new logos on the shirts.


I have a meeting next week at which the other managers and I will be asked to comment on the uniforms and  their impact. I don’t think they work but I’d like your opinion to back me up before I say anything,

                                                                              Name and Address Withheld

Dear Supervisor:


Obviously someone high up in your company agreed to this test, so be very careful even if you’re right you may end up making a mistake. I suggest you put your objections in the form of questions. Ask the uniform manufacturer how they know that introducing these uniforms will eventually lead to better team spirit.


If a company chooses the right uniforms and has a program for creating “Team Spirit” uniforms can be a good management tool. However, most often putting employees in the company’s colors is a mistake.  Company colors and logos can and should be used to identify and advertise the company and its products or services. Employees who interact with customers should wear colors and designs  since in your case the employees are not going to be seen by the public or your clients putting them in  company colors Is a poor idea. At least one third of the time uniforms and company colors send negative messages to everyone but those who design them.


I sound as if I  dislike uniform companies, I do not. I occasionally do designs for them.   Nevertheless, counting on them to  produce uniforms that send positive messages is naive to put it mildly. Most  have no idea, how to do that, although they all claim to.


Good luck!

Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a woman 5 feet 4 and weigh 189 pounds. Don’t tell me I’m too heavy, I know that. In fact that’s why I’m  writing.


I have been working for a bank since I graduated from high school 15 years ago.  In that time, I’ve been married and divorced and I’m now raising my son on my own. That is why I went at night  to school and earned a degree in finance and have just earned an MBA from an online university. Although I took several courses on campus it wasn’t until I went for my diploma that one of the instructors took me aside and told me that my weight would be a problem if I wish to move into management. When I asked him why someone had not mentioned that before he said it was because I didn’t want to get sued He went on to say if I repeated what he told me he would  deny he ever said it.


I am sure he’s right but since I’ve tried to  diet a number of times unsuccessfully, I must know are there any outfits suitable for business that will make it possible for me to move into management without losing weight.

                                                                                    Name and Address Withheld

Dear Single Mom:


I really admire your ambition and hard work, that is why I hate to tell you that no matter how you dress, you cannot cover up that much weight. In addition, I have to add that unless you lose weight you’re probably not going to make it into management or at least into top management. Banks have so many jobs with high-sounding titles that don’t pay very well, in theory you can make it but in fact you won’t.


When I first started writing I used an old-fashioned typewriter and kept my research In traditional manila folders. Believe it or not I still have most of those  folders in storage, That is why when your letter arrived  I went looking for one of  my earliest studies. Over thirty years ago I researched how to diet when you’re in business.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it but I will and I will write one or two blogs on the subject. While the study seems dated, it’s not because I’m sure two things haven’t changed, human beings and losing weight.


I do remember several things uncovered by that research. First, when you go on a diet you must stick to it for at least 30 days.  That will dramatically increase your chances of being successful. If you quit before the 30 days it’s like starting all over.  Second, if you exercise even moderately you will lose quicker.  Third,If when you cheat on your diet, and most of us do, you tell yourself it’s all over and go back to eating sweets, pasta etc. you will put  back on the weight. Fourth and finally, even if you diet successfully, unless you decide to go back on your diet if you gain a specific number of pounds, before you  realize it you’ll be  heavy again.


Your first step should be to see a doctor, preferably  one who specializes in weight loss. Not only can he tell you whether your inability to lose weight is or is not due to a medical problem, he can put you on a diet or suggest one.


Good luck!


P.S.I have the same problem and since I am about to finish my popularity book I will be starting my, traditional pre book tour diet next week .


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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a 52-year-old executive in a marketing firm. I have worked for this company for the last 24 years and over that time developed a reputation as one of the more creative executives of the organization. I did so by developing marketing programs for a large corporation which was so successful, that one is being used as an example of good marketing in masters programs at several universities.


Nevertheless, I face a major problem. Three weeks ago I made a presentation to the executives of one of the largest computer companies in the world. In the end I sold the program but it took a great deal of effort and there is no reason that should have been the case. In the past when I made similar presentations the reaction of most clients was that I was interesting and innovative, even when they did not buy the proposal. I definitely did not receive that type of reaction from either that client or a second client I met one week later. I felt like I was 24 and starting over again, they questioned the most fundamental things about my presentation.


I’ve been a fan of yours for many years and decided to research my problem. I have several engineers in my department and I gathered them together and asked if I changed my presentation in the last year. Four of my most senior engineers said they saw no difference. Three disagreed, they said I lost some of my enthusiasm and the youngest member of the group said since I had changed from salt and pepper to gray that made me look older. I’m in excellent shape and have a young face. After some discussion the consensus was that I didn’t dress as well as I did a few years ago and I should upgrade my wardrobe. They said I also chose the wrong colors because I’m very fair and sometimes with my gray hair and white shirts I often look washed out. Almost everyone agreed that sometimes I looked bland.


I would like your input and your advice. Particularly about the type of clothing I should wear when making a presentation. I would also like advice on how I can improve my image as I age. Please don’t tell me to dye my hair, I’m never going to do that. My wife dyes her hair and it is a constant job.


Names and Addresses Withheld



Dear Salesmen:


I ran across your letters while researching problems faced by managers as they get into their 50s and 60s. When I receive several letters on the same subject I usually answer the one that encompasses most of the questions. In this case it is impossible because actually as your letters demonstrate looking older creates different problems in different industries. Although each question requires its own answer I think we can for the sake of this question divide the business world into those who dress traditionally and those who dress casually. That is why I’m writing this blog on a Monday of the second week because it covers two subjects and is twice as long as a normal blog but cannot be separated because they are closely related.


I talked to several of the men and women who wrote to me about the subject and came to the conclusion that while doing research is usually a way of solving problems it does not work in yours or similar cases. The idea of the person in charge asking those who work for him to give honest feedback on anything he or she does is just plain silly. Just think about it, if you are asked by your boss to give him feedback on his dress and image your main concern would be your career not his. As a result, your answer would be to put it politely diplomatic, you certainly wouldn’t say anything that might annoy or upset him. While I am flattered that my friends would follow my approach to solving problems, I suggest if you asked your subordinates to comment on your image you ignore their answers.


If a man in his 50s or 60s wished to be seen as an authority figure he should stick to traditional blue and gray suits. The only thing I would add today is if they are appropriate in your business, since today many of the industries that insisted on traditional dress in the past now have adopted casual dress codes. If you work for a traditional company in a traditional industry and dress suitably I suggest that you give your wardrobe a bit more panache when you’re giving a presentation. Keep in mind, you must present a consistent image or you will lose credibility. Even if you work in a traditional business where you’re expected to dress traditionally never wear a white shirt when speaking, blue or blue pinstripe will make you more effective. Avoid end on end blue shirts for reasons I cannot explain our recent research showed that they do not work well on speakers.


Your refusal to dye your hair is a common reaction. However, it doesn’t solve the problem. Our research shows if you have gray hair people do not think you are as able as someone whose gray hair is dyed. Gray hair certainly makes you look older and as a result you are treated differently. Because my hair turned gray in my early 30s my trips to Home Depot were typical of how most people react to a man with gray hair. I regularly shopped in that store picking up bags of mulch, rocks and so forth. When my hair was gray and that was most of the time I parked right in front of the door and loaded my car. However, when I dyed my hair I was invariably told to move my car. The person in charge of the loading area assumed that I was able to carry those bags down to my vehicle. Not only did the employee in the parking area respond to me differently when I was gray, so apparently did TV audiences. I found very early in my career that if I dyed my hair I had greater credibility with the audience in the studio and the audience at home and as a result when I dyed my hair I sold more books.


However, I must point out that dying your hair only sends a positive message if you do it correctly and maintain it. You will be better received if you choose a color which is identical to or similar to the one you had when you were young. That makes it less likely it will look artificial. If you never dyed your hair before you might consider going to a salon and have an expert do it. Although most of these establishments have been designed for women there are some that cater to both men and women. I’m sure you will feel more at home in one of them.


You also wanted to know how you could be effective with high-tech people. With that group looking old or out of date created serious problems even for managing engineers. When we questioned engineering managers, we were surprised to hear that they often face similar problems to yours when they hit their 40s, 50s and 60s. Their main complaint was they spent much of their valuable time answering what they considered dumb questions. Their expertise was either questioned or ignored by some of the young engineers who worked for them.


This actually created a Catch-22 situation. If they gave in and dressed more like their subordinates they were often treated as equals not as more experienced, better qualified engineers. When they continued to wear casual executive attire which is standard in many high-tech companies they maintained their authority but lost some of their technical expertise in the eyes of some subordinates. Nevertheless, the vast majority of managing engineers decided that looking like they were in charge helped them manage their people better.


Their complaints fell into two categories. While engineers are supposed to solve problems on their own many young engineers apparently waste their time reinventing the wheel. These managers complained that time and again they found young engineers wasted time and money solving problems that had been resolved years earlier. Another habit of young engineers that wasted time and money was when a manager told them to do something they expected him to explain why he made his decision. Most managers thought that was a waste of time.


One gentleman who had a Masters degree in electrical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Harvard was so annoyed by this problem he gathered his team together and said the following. When I tell you to xxxx ,don’t question it, just squat and strain. He went on to explain that many of the young engineers while they understood the technicalities of problems usually had not worked out a cost benefits analysis. He explained he made that statement because his boss actually came to him and said a young engineer had come up with a superior way of solving a problem that existed for years. He quickly explained that while that was true, using his solution would cost 13% more to produce the same product. His boss immediately backed off but he was offended that the young engineer’s suggestion was even considered.




The most significant problems however are faced by those who come from the outside as consultants to sell solutions to nontechnical problems to technicians. They found unless they looked like techies their advice was often not taken seriously or questioned by people who knew little to nothing about the subject under discussion.



In most cases when you’re selling to high-tech people it is appropriate to dress as if you are one of their executives. This is the opinion of most successful salespeople. However, there is a substantial group who follow my advice, if you normally wear a suit  when you arrive wear a suit but before you start to sell take off your jacket and tie. When you leave, put them back on.  They believe it adds to their authority and the research backs them up in the majority of cases. Since it doesn’t back them up in all cases I think the decision has to be made by the salesperson based on their past experience with that company.


Of course if you are in a field, eg. accounting or law, where everybody expects you to wear a traditional suit, you should. Even techies will think less of you if you do not.


As you can see selling to high-tech people is tricky. No one with any common sense can ignore how techies react to the messages sent by salespeople since they impact a substantial percentage of the purchases in business today. It is an area I intend to continue to look at and I will report to you regularly in this blog on what I find.


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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I attended your speech in Georgia on making a great first impression. At the end you said you would train people to be popular on your upcoming television show. What interested me was you announced that you have a self-updating computer program that will choose people’s business wardrobes. I was at the time and still am very interested.


However, you also said you were going to spend the month of January introducing that show on your blog. I read your first two blogs for January and you didn’t say a word about the show. I assume you’ve delayed the show. What I’d like to know is when it is going to be on the air and on what channel?


A Fan


Dear Fan:


Only after your letter arrived did I realize how many people I had told about my upcoming television show. At present, it doesn’t look as if the show is ever going to be produced. I’m embarrassed that I lead people astray but it wasn’t really my fault.


Several years ago I met a gentleman in the entertainment industry who had developed a number of TV shows. He knew I had radio shows on NBC and ABC on success while he was an intern at one of the networks. Both shows were well received and as a young man he became a fan and read most of my books. He believed if I could do television specials on some of the topics I’d researched there would be a ready audience for them and he was interested in helping me develop those TV specials. After several months of negotiating, about who would own what, we finally agreed on a mutually acceptable formula.


Once we had a contract we sat down together and discussed how the shows would actually work and I was surprised and delighted by his input. He suggested I not only demonstrate how to interview, but bring in experts on the subject. I suggested instead of speaking to experts on interviewing I talk to the people who did the interviews. We compromised and said we should do both.


At that point he asked me to develop scripts for three topics covered in my books. As soon as I started he told me he was no longer interested in the project but if I wanted to go ahead with it I could do so. He would have no objection as long as I never mentioned his name in connection with the show. We both signed that agreement. I found out shortly after that he was hired for a management position on one of the networks.


As soon as he bailed out I was approached by another gentleman who had heard about the show and said he had a better idea. I was so fed up by that time I did not meet with him for two months but when I did I was impressed. He said he could arrange financing not only for my show but products to be sold on it. At first I assumed he meant advertisers but he didn’t, he wanted to sell clothing using my reputation and the dress for success research. When he told me he was willing to give me a very small percentage of non-verifiable profits I left without saying a word.


Two weeks later we agreed on a more appropriate division of profits and control. As you might imagine I was very excited, I worked very hard at putting together scripts for shows on the assumption he would come back with a suitable clothing line. He showed me pictures of the line and we agreed to draw up a contract. I waited to hear from him but I did not. Two weeks later I received a call from his wife who told me he died and she had no interest in continuing with the project. However, she offered to sell me his market research which cost a quarter of a million dollars. When I hesitated saying that it seemed I would be buying a pig in a poke, she hung up and I’ve never heard from her again.


Of course I wanted the project to continue so I asked someone who is fairly well connected in the investment community to find me another backer.  He’s been looking for two months without any results and I’ve just about given up on the whole idea.


I’m sure you and others I’ve heard from are disappointed and have every right to be but you can’t be as disappointed as I. When the gentleman who did the market research decided he was going to commit major dollars to it, he said we are going to drive Brooks Brothers out of business. I don’t think he meant that literally I’m sure Brooks Brothers was just the name that popped into his head when he thought of business clothing.


If a miracle takes place and we move forward, I have your address and I’ll write.

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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I just found out that my new department head is going to be a woman. Since I’ve been married for 15 years to a professional woman I understand that women think differently than men. Before I go to work for this woman I wonder if there is anything I should know before I meet her. I’m sure women supervisors have different expectations of male employees than men in the same position.



Des Moines, Iowa


Dear RC:

Since your wife is a professional woman I’m sure she knows how professional women think and since she has been married to you for 15 years I’m sure she knows how you act and behave. I think she would be a far better consultant on any problems that arose at work on a day to day basis. However, since I answered a letter similar to yours when I was writing a column I thought I might be helpful also. Your situation reminds me of my son when he was in the fifth grade when the teacher announced she was going to teach the class how to write. He sat with his arms folded. The teacher naturally asked him why he was not writing and he said his father was going to teach him how to write. When she suggested that both of us could teach him, he thought it seemed like a good idea and went to work. I hope you agree two perspectives on the problem might be more useful than one


Years ago when I was writing a column I received a letter similar to yours. Though I don’t remember the exact content of the letter I do recall the advice I gave to the gentleman who wrote the letter. I told him to treat his new boss, who happened to be a woman, the same way he would treat her if she were a man. That is my advice to you because department heads all have the same goal, to manage their departments successfully and they promote people who contribute to their departments and their success.


But since that letter was written several decades ago I felt obliged to interview a number of women department heads.   In the last two days I interviewed 12 women department heads and ran a focus group with seven women managers two of whom I had interviewed.


They unanimously agreed that my original piece of advice was valid and that is exactly the way they wish to be treated. During the discussion of the focus group I told them that in the past I advised men who work for women to pay more attention to the way they dressed because women brought their own perspectives to the workplace. One of which is upper middle-class women which women managers are dress well.


Many of the women in our focus group objected to my assertion that they paid more attention to the way their male employees dressed than male managers. At the same, they said if you are sloppy and you work for them your chances of succeeding diminish dramatically. In fact three said that no matter how talented they were they would never consider putting someone like that in charge of others or the position where they have to interact with other departments, clients or the public.


At the same time, several of the women took umbrage at the idea that they paid more attention to image than their male counterparts. They said it implied they were shallow and made decisions based on factors that did not affect their department’s efficiency. Others got around this point by insisting that a person’s image did impact their efficiency. They thought slobs were usually disorganized and poor workers and they destroy the professional look at their office. I think the reason for the disagreement was in part due to how we define terms. When I showed them pictures of very talented high-tech people who were so casual they looked sloppy, lower class and unsuccessful even though all of them earned a six-figure income most the women said they would be a lot less likely to put them in charge of anything. So my advice still stands particularly for high-tech people who have to interact with women executives who are not techies themselves. Women technical executives generally not only accept males who dress very casually, but as one woman executive said they treasure them and promote them. So the impact of dressing very casually depends on where and for whom you work.


The focus group generally agreed that women when they were first put in charge were often nervous and reacted negatively if challenged by a man. They said that women had to be better at their jobs than men to move into management. Nevertheless when they first become managers it is not wise to challenge them. If you disagree with your woman boss and she’s new on the job do so privately and in a low-key manner.


I know this advice in not very definite but the women themselves varied dramatically on what a man should do differently if he has a woman supervisor. While years ago women executives were a rarity now they are in every section of the country and in every industry. As a result their opinions on how a man working for them should act or dress differed dramatically.


At the end of the focus group, one woman asked what advice I would give to a man working for another man. I thought about it for a minute or two, and said be a team player, as productive as you can, one of the better workers in your department, and dress appropriately for the job.  And finally and most importantly when dealing with your boss, remember that person is the boss and often holds your business life in their hands. When I finished most of the women clapped and said that was the advice I should have given to men working for women. When I pointed out that is what I advised in the beginning they said they thought this version was better. So here it is.

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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering five years ago. I was not at the top of my class but I did graduate with honors and it should have been easy for me to get a job. However, it took me three interviews to get the job I wanted. Some of my classmates who were not nearly as well qualified as I, were wined, dined and hired after their interviews.


I was interviewed by three engineers before being hired. I overheard them discussing whether I should be given the job. The reason I was hired one fellow said he knew I was like a jumping Jack but since I was not going to be dealing with the public he was going take a chance on me. He added I will be working with other engineers and I’m sure he will be good at that. The reason he made that comment was I am a terrible interviewer. I get nervous, my hands sweat, I fidget and stumbled over my words and generally make a fool of myself. I’ve been to a dozen interviews and every time I fall flat on my face. Believe it or not under most circumstances I am cool, calm and collected.


I’m going for an interview for another position within my company but it will be a real interview and at present I don’t expect to get the job,even though I have excellent references, good recommendations and a gift for problem solving.


Please don’t tell me to relax, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. Can you help?


Name and Address Withheld



Dear Engineer:


Your problem is not only solvable but easily solvable. I’ve dealt with it literally hundreds of times before. You have what is called “sales fright” which is a common problem for new salespeople.


You can be assured I’m not going to tell you to relax, that is like telling someone learning to walk a tight rope to relax. It’s easier said than done. What you have to do is learn to handle pressure and the only way to do that is to practice under pressure. However, before putting yourself in a high-pressure situation you must consult a physician and describe the training you’re about to undertake. I think if you tell him that I refer to it as sales boot camp he will have a general idea of how we are going to treat you.


The first thing you should do is arrange for several interviews for jobs in your field.  Since these are only practice sessions you will be relaxed enough to analyze the approach of the interviewer and the questions they’re likely to ask. Once you’ve done that you will be able to write down the questions you are likely to face in a real interview and develop smooth and clear intelligent responses to them.  You should have several versions of each question and answers that fit each one. Read through these answers several times.


Your next step is to think of the questions that you’re likely to face in the interview you’re going to have at your company. Follow the same procedure and once again develop several versions of each question and excellent answers for each version.


In the second stage you are to enlist the help of a friend or your significant other. Give them the questions you’ve developed then have them ask you those questions over and over and comment on how smoothly and calmly you’ve answered each one. Next, have the person doing the interviewing increase the pressure. He or she should at this point raise their voice, in fact almost shout, challenge your answers and even possibly your honesty. At no time will you react to those challenges or the attitude of the interviewer. They should run this high-pressure interview repeatedly until you remain calm, friendly and seemingly pleased to be speaking to the interviewer, no matter what they say or how they say it.


Once you have mastered your emotions and your reaction to forceful interviewing, your pressure interviewing really begins. The interviewer from this point on must become verbally abusive. He or she is to get directly in your face, which means he will place his face within two or 3 inches of yours and shout. The interviewer must also insult you in ways that are not only impolite but rude. If they cannot carry this out effectively find another person to interview you.


Many women interviewers have a problem using this technique. I found it helped when we showed them a movie in which a Marine drill sergeant puts a recruit through his paces. Tell them to use as many of his tactics as possible. Finally, combine the verbal abuse with physical abuse that is designed to never do real damage to the person being interviewed. While questioning you the interviewer should shoot a water gun in your face, shake your chair, play a radio very loud while you’re answering questions etc. Once again throughout this ordeal you have to maintain your composure. During these sessions, not only should you appear calm, cool and collected but pleasant and friendly.


I realize this is very difficult but it works for 97% to 98% of those who take the time and effort to run through the steps. However, if you’re one of the handful for whom it doesn’t work, the solution is simple, go back and do it again. It will take practice but sooner or later everyone becomes if not a great interviewer a good interviewer, particularly those who are by nature calm, cool and collected.


If you can manage to appear friendly and pleasant through a dozen of these abusive interviews, the real interview should seem like a walk in the park.


Good luck!


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Dear Mr. Molloy:



I just rented a black tuxedo that I will wear with a white shirt. The only reason I chose that one is that’s my image of a tuxedo. I’ve been seeing them on TV and in the movies all my life.


Until last month I had never worn either a tuxedo or a dinner jacket. As a field engineer who has recently moved into management I’ve learned that formal attire must become a part of my wardrobe. In my new position, I will have more responsibility and will earn considerably more than I did in the past. I will be working at headquarters and there it is mandatory to join a very exclusive country club. Frankly, I’d rather not but I have no choice.


Last week I attended a meeting for new members and was handed a schedule of next Spring’s events. The first thing I noticed was many of the events were formal. I think it’s time for me to buy my own tuxedo. When I arrived at the store to buy it I assumed all tuxedos were black, but apparently not. I already noticed that many members were not wearing black tuxedos, but a majority seem to be.


Once the clerk found out that I belonged to the best country club in town, he showed me a deep maroon dinner jacket and a tuxedo in tones of gray. I said no to his suggestion, however my wife said she talked to the other women whose husbands belonged to the club and they all said that black tuxedos were worn by the old timers.


When I returned to the store I tried on that maroon dinner jacket. It was not and never will be me. I decided to purchase a black tuxedo and a traditional white dinner jacket over my wife’s objections.


Was she right?


California Engineer..

Name Withheld



Dear Engineer:


I am not sure whether your wife is right because in casual and sometimes avant-garde California she may be. However, I never knew anyone to get in trouble wearing a black tuxedo and an appropriate white shirt. If you move to any other state I suspect that you’ll disappear in a sea of black tuxedos. Nevertheless, I am certain I am right because from a statistical point of view the odds are in your favor. When a fellow researcher who regularly reviews my work read your letter he showed pictures of men in different colored tuxedos at a company meeting in California. He said he did this because he was attending a meeting and every one in his company wears only black tuxedos. Since he showed the pictures I gave him to a crowd in a very traditional company to men dressed very traditionally obviously the black tuxedo tested best.


However, when he followed up with the question what would you think of a man wearing a tux of any other color?  Their answers were very telling. Their printable answers went from tasteless to low class. Their semi-printable ones were idiot, jackass, clown etc. You will have to guess what the unprintable answers might have been. What was so significant was they judged the man by the tuxedo he wore and I think some of their judgments would eliminate anyone wearing a nontraditional tuxedo from becoming a member of their group. To be ostracized even mentally in a business-social environment would be a disadvantage both in business and socially. Remember when you’re at the club you’ll be meeting clients from all over the world and they will bring their standards with them and make similar judgments.


Further research indicates that on most formal occasions it is best to wear traditional attire. Of course, that means a black tuxedo. Since you are new in your position I think it’s essential to maintain a constant image with your coworkers. The majority of us are more likely to trust and believe others whose visual image is consistent. In short, consistency means credibility particularly when that person is new and members of the community have not had a chance to make up their mind about him.


I mentioned before that white shirts tested best, by white shirts I mean those with a rich, elegant and simple design, with straight pleats no ruffles. Those shirts require using studs or traditional simple gold and onyx cufflinks. You also will need a black bow tie (if you don’t know how to tie a bow tie you can wear a clip on but I suggest you learn. There are simple instructions in my “Dress for Success” book.) In addition, you will need black patent leather shoes, black sheer executive length socks, and black-and-white suspenders.


As an afterthought, my friend asked that gathering what was the most common mistake made by men wearing formal wear. Their surprising answer was that men occasionally wore tuxedos with stains on them to affairs where being crisp and neat is expected.  When he followed up with did you ever do that?  Most admitted they had. What happened in most cases was when they got home after a formal affair usually late in the evening they hung up their tuxedos without looking at them. When they were going to the next formal affair they took them out, put them on and ran out the door. Don’t do that.


Good luck!



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Dear Mr. Molloy:


My husband is a cardiac surgeon and has just been appointed head of cardiac surgery at a major hospital. He was given this position because he is a surgeon with a wonderful record. The doctors with whom he worked appreciated him because if someone in their family needed cardiac surgery they sent them to him.


We live in an affluent area. While we have gotten along with most of our neighbors I never felt we were accepted by others. Possibly that is why some of our friends went to other cardiologists. This was particularly true of old money people who I feel looked down on us. Nobody ever said anything. We were invited to parties at their homes so why they chose others over my husband I will never know.


Since we are going to be leaving in seven months because of my husband’s new position I thought I’d ask a neighbor and a friend who is a leader in this community if she could explain to me why we received this treatment. Her answer was simple. She said people who have money all their lives think of themselves as a superior group and actually believe they are smarter than the rest of the world. She said, in fact they’re not, but if you wish to be successful with them you have to adopt their lifestyle. She said we should furnish our new home with antiques and art on the walls. That will announce to them we are sophisticated and will convince them that my husband is probably good at his job. Is she right?


How can we in seven months develop the expertise to buy antiques and art?


A Doctors Wife



Dear Doctors Wife:


The lady who advised you to purchase antiques and art was giving very good advice. She is a leader in the community and understands it. In fact, I say she is very insightful.


In the early 80s I was hired by an association of dentists and their accounting firm to find out what it took for their members who were attempting to sell themselves and their services in social settings to be successful. As soon as the study started it became evident that the wives played an important role in their husband’s careers and part of that role was maintaining an upscale home and knowing how to entertain.


Once I told them that, they wanted to know how they should dress and how much they should spend on clothing, automobiles, furniture and other items. They had a basic understanding of the problem because they wanted also to know what types of items would add to their status. The accountants were particularly interested in impressing people with money including old money.


This study went on for almost 6 years because I told that group, they could get it done much more cheaply if they allowed me to run their study work in conjunction with other studies. They were asking for too much information. I explained to them that the information I would get would be useful to me and therefore I would do the research at a reduced price if I could get their cooperation. I also insisted they send us photographs and videos of their homes, country clubs and other places where they met potential clients.


That study produced so much information there is no way I could outline results in this blog. However, I will hit some of the highlights and answer as many of your questions as I can.


If you are selling yourself or your professional services in an upper middle-class or upper-class area, your image will directly impact the perception of your competence. If you do not come from a privileged background I suggest you get a copy of my “Dress for Success” book. It will teach you how to buy upper middle-class clothing for both business and social occasions. If you still have difficulty doing this, in every community there are usually several stores dedicated to selling expensive, conservative, traditional attire to the elite in the community. Usually you can trust the taste of the buyers in the stores but if they go against my basic advice find another store.


Since what is worn by members of country clubs varies depending on the nature of the club and the area, I suggest you sit outside the club and photograph the members as they enter. Do this during the day and in the evening.


If you visit any club in the area you would like to join you should pay careful attention to what the other women are wearing including their jewelry. People are invited to join clubs where the members think they will fit in.


As for purchasing art and antiques, you are right, you cannot becom expert in either of those areas in that short period of time. You’re going to have to hire experts. All experts are not honest so before you hire one you must study books on antiques and art and be able to identify the characteristics of different periods and schools. It is not necessary for you to be able to identify a legitimate piece from one designed to fool the buyer that’s why you hire an expert. In addition by checking the prices paid at auctions for various pieces you should have a pretty good idea of what those pieces are worth. Unfortunately, if your approach or conversation tells some dealers you know nothing about antiques or art you’re likely to be taken.


Keep in mind all experts are not experts. We have a 1840 rosewood dining room set and we hired an expert from Orlando to appraise it. We had it appraised before so we knew exactly what it was, we were only curious about what it was worth at the time. She announced that it wasn’t from 1840 but 1890, it wasn’t rosewood because rosewood boards were not that wide and it wasn’t exactly a set because some of the chairs didn’t match. She didn’t know early rosewood boards were that wide and when a family in 1840 purchased a dining set they usually bought a table and four chairs. When additional children came along they purchased a chair for each one. Since all furniture at the time was handmade the new chairs didn’t exactly match the old ones. When I asked her to leave and said I would hire someone else from Orlando she told me she was an instructor for antique appraisers in Orlando. We haven’t had it appraised yet.


Unless you are willing and able to spend a fortune on art I suggest you stick with more traditional material. While the great modern artists are wonderful some of the lesser-known ones are often simply related to someone in the field. For example, many of the people who run art museums have friends and family members who own stores around their museums. And believe it or not they also have friends or relatives who are well known modern artists mainly because their works are displayed in the museums they control. Never was the phrase “buyer  beware” more appropriate.


Good luck



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This has been edited extensively because it contained words and phrases that I refuse to use.


Dear  You Blank-Blank:


When I found out you were writing a blog I knew I had to write. In 2003 I went to a high school class reunion and one of the people who showed up was (name withheld) a tall redheaded nasty nerd. When he first arrived, we couldn’t believe it. Nobody thought he would come because no one in the class liked him. I went to see my old friends, but he didn’t have a friend in the class. He was the most obnoxious person I’ve ever known.


What really surprised us was the way he behaved. He actually treated most of us as if we were his friends, although nothing could be further from the truth. When several people asked him why he was acting as he did he said you had taught him how to be popular and in his new job and where he lived he had lots of friends and was now very popular. He said being popular changed his life but we did not see any change.


He then went on to explain how by teaching him to send popular signals you gave him the ability to charm the world. I know no one believed that but he continue with that charade to the end of the evening, and then thank God he left.


If you have the guts explain how someone who has been obnoxious all of his life can by smiling and pretending to be pleasant can win over the world. Winning over the world is a direct quote from Mr. Obnoxious who wasn’t winning over our world.


We think if you even claim you can make someone like him into a human being, you are a fool or a con man. If you’re not either of these please explain how you work miracles.


Name and Address Withheld for Obvious Reasons



Dear Doubting Thomas:


You will have to understand three things; first I never tried or claimed to change anyone’s personality. Second, I have run across literally hundreds of men and women who before taking my course told me that everyone hated them and they hated everyone. So the world changed them. Third, once I taught them to charm the world they loved almost everyone they met because while the people they met in the past treated them poorly today the same people are their friends and are very nice to them.


As for who I am, my name is John T Molloy and I am the author of best-selling books, most of which were on success and image. I also have had two national radio shows and a nationally syndicated column dealing with the same subjects. My books were bestsellers because they were based on research not my opinion and the advice I gave was accurate and useful.


Which brings us to the subject at hand, you and your friends probably disliked him when you first met, possibly as early as the first grade. You disliked him because of the signals he sent verbally and nonverbally most of which he’d been sending since he was two or three. At that age the majority of us imitate facial expressions and body language of those we love and admire at the time. We may copy our parents, a good friend, a neighbor, a playmate or an acquaintance we like or admire. If that person is popular we may become popular as well but as often as not we learn to imitate signals that turn off others. Which means that being popular is largely a product of our environment and chance.


The first bestseller I wrote was “Dress for Success.” After it was published I was hired by corporations to dress their sales people in hopes of making them more effective. Once I started I discovered that buyers were more likely to purchase products and services from people they liked.


In an attempt to discover which salespeople were successful and why we set up cameras in buyer’s offices and sent salespeople from companies we represented and sometimes trained into those offices. After we taped them, we had the buyers look at the videotapes and tell us why they bought from salesperson A and not B. We improved on this when we put switches under the buyer’s desks and asked them to push them one way when they received a positive message and the other way when they got a negative one. As a result of this research we changed the way salespeople approached and interacted with buyers and sales increased.


Because our initial research worked, we then were asked to teach salespeople who spent their days in clients offices to charm the people they work with every day. Once we succeeded at that we were asked to train executives but since they often sold in social settings that required new research. This research gave us the ability to train almost anyone to be popular in a social setting which I will be doing in my new book on popularity. I’ll be publishing it shortly.


If you would like to receive preferential treatment from almost everyone you meet I suggest you purchase my popularity book. It will also answer your questions more completely and explain why that tall, nerdy redhead might be really be a nice fellow.




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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am one of several women in the executive suite of a Fortune 500 hundred company. Two months ago I became assistant to one of the vice presidents which means if I do my job well I will become an officer in the company.


I come from a small town in upstate New York so I never knew anyone who was an executive in a large company. Just working at headquarters has been an education for me. I now understand that women executives have a different image and approach to problems than the women I met in the past including most of my professors. I earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and believe I’m well qualified to make management decisions. One of the professors said that years ago your book was used in some classes but it was now hopelessly dated because the women’s movement has opened the doors of the executive suites to women and things have changed so much.


Because I had no background when I started working I read your book on business dress but did not take it seriously. Since I arrived here I’ve rethought that and now realize you still have an impact on how women executives dress. While most of the women do not follow your rules exactly I’ve noticed that when they’re going to meetings many of them wear jackets and some wear suits.


I have several questions. Is the professor right or am; I right is your book still relevant? If you have one piece of advice to give me on image what would it be?   Are there any mistakes that women moving into the executive suite make?


Any other hints on executive image would be appreciated.


Name and Address Withheld


Dear Future Executive:


Your short seemingly simple questions are anything but. To answer them properly would take an entire book but I will try in this blog to cover the obvious points.


You’re both right. My book has become dated because today women executives dress more femininely and fashionably than when I wrote the original book and the update. There are two reasons for this, women in most fields are no longer looked on by the men in executive suites as less competent than their male counterparts. There are only a few fields where women have to prove their worth when they walk in the door. They are the traditional male-dominated businesses, construction, high-tech, and energy to name a few and even in those fields women have made it to the top. 30 years ago when women weren’t accepted in construction Donald Trump’s top construction person was a woman. Like most businessmen he was a pragmatist and didn’t care about anything except how well she did the job.


My first piece of advice is keep doing what you’re doing. You said you are learning by studying the people around you and today when dress codes vary from company to company that is exactly what you should be doing. Keep in mind that although some of my specific advice may be dated, the principles on which it is based are not. In any management job if you’re a man or woman you will do better if while not straying too far from the unofficial company dress code you dress conservatively and traditionally. If you’re going into a situation where you think your authority is going to be challenged, the darker your outfit the more authority you will have and the less likely it is you will be challenged.



Every woman in business in a certain sense has to make the bedroom or boardroom choice. If you dress in a frilly and feminine style you will not be taken seriously by most men and if you dress in any way that sends a sexual signal men are more likely to object to your giving them orders. By the way most women do not think that most of their garments send sexual signals even when they do. A majority believe if everyone wears a short skirt to the office short skirts are acceptable. When the fashion industry pushes short skirts they say fashionable to most women but we’ve been testing for years and short skirts always say sex to men. Since I’ve been in this business women told me many times that all that has changed. They often use the date to justify their argument, they usually say it’s 1974, 1994 or the 21st century and that’s simply not true anymore. In fact with men very little changes, although they may give lip service to being politically correct the majority are not. To understand how differently men and women view sexual signals just think about the fact that while most women do not consider wearing very high heels to be a sexual signal, most men do.



The primary weakness of executive women is they often are ineffective when making a presentation before a group. They are usually ineffective not because of what they say but how they say it. Just about all women who have not been trained and a substantial percentage of men speak too rapidly when discussing an important topic. If they slowed down they would be far more effective and have a greater impact on their audience. Another reason women have problems is one third of them have high pitched voices which makes it difficult for them to capture an audience. To become effective, they should hire a speech coach from a local University to help with this problem.


Another mistake made by women is when they get their dream job and the office that goes with it they don’t immediately redecorate. If the person who held that job before them was a man he usually sat in a large leather office chair behind a large wooden desk which added to his power and authority but more often than not the same desk and chair dwarfs most women and makes them look small, weak and ineffective.



Finally, several years ago I didn’t have to tell men or women not to discuss politics at work. Today however many young women come out of  universities convinced that global warming is destroying the world, that socialism is more effective than capitalism, and that a man who uses a locker room speech or makes politically incorrect assertions is a sexist. You can believe whatever you want but keep your mouth shut. If you defend left-wing theories in a conservative, traditional, capitalist workplace it will not help your career. And if you use one of those theories to attack an individual it can and probably will kill your career.


Keep in mind liberal students are attracted to the academic life while conservative students tend to go into business. A substantial number of executives today believe that their careers and their lives were diminished by left-wing professors who did not give them the grades they deserved because they didn’t parrot the left-wing professors beliefs. They like the far left divide the world into them and us. and if they think you are one of them they will kill your career.



Good luck!

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Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am a real estate salesman and have been managing the Commercial Sales Department in my firm for almost 7 years. My standard uniform in the winter   consists of gray slacks and a navy sport jacket. When I’m dealing with corporate types, particularly when we’re meeting in their offices, I wear a suit. I found that this look works very well in Boston, New York, Connecticut and most of the area around Washington DC.


However, I’ve just been given a promotion. I’m now vice president of the company and I will be running nine offices primarily selling residential real estate. I did a walk-through of each office and noticed that there was no dress code. I’m not sure what is necessary because the socio-economic background of the buyers varies dramatically from office to office. I recognize that those dealing with the actual buyers have a better insight into what is needed than I. Nevertheless I believe there should be some general guidelines for dress in real estate sales. After all you are asking buyers to make a major financial and personal commitment.


Can you give me any hint as to how I should approach this problem?




Fairfax, Virginia




Dear CV:


Moving from selling commercial real estate to residential properties virtually puts you into another business. The fact that they’re both real estate sales is really irrelevant. When buyers look at commercial properties they usually have had the property appraised and discussed how much the property is worth to them with in-house financial experts, so there is very little room for negotiation on price. In over 90% of the cases whether they buy or not depends on whether that properly suits their needs. Since you’re dealing with businesspeople you are right, it is usually best to dress in the same style as the buyers.


When people buy residential property however the story is entirely different. Unlike people buying commercial property they are less interested in the bricks and mortar aspect of the building and more interested in the lifestyle of the community. The general rule is to dress as if you are a successful member of that community. If it’s a blue-collar rural community casual dress is almost a must. One very astute real estate person said dress the way you think the people in that community would dress when going to church on Sunday.


The second rule is you must be neat and well put together. People at all socio- economic levels are more likely to trust others who look as if they know what they’re talking about. Most of us trust those who appear to be in control of their lives which means to women, who are often the critical decision-makers, dressing well or at least neatly and appropriately. I wish I could be more specific but with such a broad range of buyers that’s impossible.





Dear Mr. Molloy:


I am 16, a junior in high school and by nature creative. I love the arts and the theater and I participate in theater in school. I read several times if you want to be successful in life find something you love and do that for a living. I want to live in the world of da Vinci, Chagall and the great minds of the 21st century most of whom are artists. The creativity in a Hollywood, on Broadway and in the writings of our great men have changed our world.


My father, an engineer, is the dullest and least creative person I’ve ever met so it did not come as a surprise to me when he said he will not pay my tuition in college if I become an art major. He said it’s a degree in unemployment and I should find something more useful to study. Can you think of any way I can convince him he’s wrong?


A Hopeful Junior


Dear Hopeful:


I do not know you or your father but I think you do not know your father either. At least you don’t have any idea of what he does for a living. Engineering by its nature is creative. Now I will admit some engineers are more creative than others but they are problem solvers, which often requires creative thinking.


Which forces me to point out an obvious fact, in da Vinci’s time the most brilliant  creative minds became artists. In the 20th and 21st century the sharpest and most creative minds have gone into the sciences. Edison and Einstein changed the world so much you cannot imagine the 21st century without them. In fact Edison invented the movie camera and built the first studio to produce movies. The reason Hollywood is located just north of Mexico is the people who first made movies to put it politely borrowed much of the technology needed to make movies. They wanted a location that would allow them to move to Mexico in case they were sued.


I am certain if da Vinci lived in the 21st century he would be a scientist. He was centuries ahead of his time when he drew some of the most accurate depictions of the human body produced until the early 20th century. He also drew up plans for a workable airplane and submarine hundreds of years before anyone conceived of them. He was without a doubt one of the greatest scientists of all time, but in his time creative minds went into the arts so became a sculptor.


Creative scientists have given us the ability to travel into space, to the bottom of the ocean and to every corner of this planet. They also develop technology which helps us live longer and better than the Kings and Queens did just a few hundred years ago. If you really want to be creative you’re more likely to succeed in the 21st century if you become a scientist or even an engineer.


As far as your father’s assertion that a degree in art history is a degree in unemployment he’s right.


Nevertheless, I wish you good luck, I suspect you’re going to need it.




Dear Mr. Molloy


I will be graduating next year with a degree in English literature, I would like to teach. So far I’ve been interviewed twice and both have been disasters. I wore a suit to the first interview and was told in no uncertain terms that I overdressed and would probably not fit in. In an attempt to be more casual I wore a sports jacket and a golf shirt to the second interview where I was told they expected me to be a bit more formal for the interview. I have no idea what to wear to my future interviews, can you help?


Name and Address Withheld


Dear Future Teacher:


Don’t worry, most school principals and department heads would like you to dress more formally for the interview than when you get the job. While a suit might be a bit too much for teaching today I think the sport jacket with conservative slacks, a shirt and tie would be appropriate in most places.


However, since you had such negative experiences I suggest you call the school before you show up, tell them what happened to you and ask them what they expect you to wear.

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