UK: EDITORIAL - A FITTING IMAGE FOR ALL OCCASIONS.

UK: EDITORIAL - A FITTING IMAGE FOR ALL OCCASIONS. - How's your image? What kind of message do you want to project in the workplace, the boardroom or at a social function? For many, especially in the past, this question would have sounded frivolous. Men

by RUFUS OLINS.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

How's your image? What kind of message do you want to project in the workplace, the boardroom or at a social function? For many, especially in the past, this question would have sounded frivolous. Men wore suits, and women wore ... suits. They were the safe, professional, anonymous armour that enabled you to get on with your work.

Yet we all know how important image is today. Scuffed shoes, crumpled shirts and clashing colours can all create a damaging impression. The safe suit is no longer a straightforward proposition, coming in so many shapes, weights, styles and colours. Even the normally conservative Financial Times has put its stamp on the importance of appearance by introducing a series on clothes at work, telling us which shops cater best for the captains of industry.

We at MT believe you are the chief executive of your own career and that how you present yourself is important. So we assembled a group of judges to seek out the best-dressed men and women in British business. Joining me in this task were Rupert Howell, chairman of HHCL; Denise Kingsmill, deputy chair of the Competition Commission; Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue; Stephen Bayley, design consultant; Peter York, managing director of SRU; and Alice Rawsthorn, the FT's design and architecture critic.

What struck us about the winners was the importance they placed on looking at ease. Vittorio Radice, the Selfridges chief executive, said he considered anyone who wears things naturally to be well dressed. We think each of our six winners falls into that category. It was interesting, too, that the best-dressed men were more informal than the women, who still felt themselves at war in a man's world.

The panel put forward far fewer well-dressed women - a sign that they are still establishing themselves and their style at the top of British business. Once we had selected our three role models, the panel was unable to agree on one winner. Their tastes and personalities are so different.

Lord Saatchi, the advertising mogul and the unanimous winner in the men's category was the most coy about discussing his carefully put-together style. The image-maker to Margaret Thatcher and British Airways brushed off the accolade, saying he liked to hide his light under a bushel.

You can believe that or not, but he agreed to pose for our pages, where you can see his trademark uniform of dark suit, white shirt, grey tie and distinctive spectacles that make him look at home anywhere from his brother's fashionable art gallery to boardrooms, banks or the House of Lords. Can you do the same?

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