Hip Eye for the Sales Guy

Edition: April 2004 - Vol 12 Number 04
Article#: 1818
Author: Mike Farragher

The modern man is under attack!

Shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the runaway makeover show that took the Bravo network by storm, are nabbing big ratings by shining the interrogation lights on a man’s couture crimes. Many of us guys know we need help, but we’d rather not endure a network broadcast of verbal torment from an effete smoothie all too willing to lend a helping hand as we tuck the shirt tails into our pants.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are way too many conservative sales reps out there who, in a mad rush to look like their fathers, try to conform to the vague guidelines of “business casual.” You may be excused if you wear khakis and polo shirts on casual Fridays, but carrying that uptight look on the weekend is just plain wrong. Ladies like a risk-taking man, comfortable in his own skin.

Need convincing? Try this. A spy who attended a local “pocketbook party,” a suburban contact sport that involves members of the fairer sex pursuing purses and neighborhood gossip over cosmopolitans, revealed to me that not one Docker-clad dad on our block made the “must-have list.” No, the objects of their carnal desires were the guys who frolicked in the surf and cut their unique sense of style as they mowed the lawn. Confidence and clothing were huge turn-ons by overwhelming margins in this unscientific poll, proving the clothes-make-the-man argument once more.

Is it possible to abandon the starched corporate look on the weekends? Are you able to add a dash of individuality and style that still conforms to business casual guidelines?

A shopping trip to the mall to freshen up your look might be in the cards, and no amount of teeth gnashing will get you out of it. Take it like a man. To minimize the retail torture, here are five painless tips that will help you avoid a bank-breaking hardcore makeover involving gender-ambiguous stylists.

• Ditch the utility belt. Unless you wear a cowl and have a butler named Alfred, gadgets dangling from your belt loop are a big no-no. In this dizzying age of advanced technology, the executive on the go (along with his brethren in the rap, drug dealing and pimp trades) is expected to morph into a portable office with cell phones, Palm Pilots and Blackberry pagers buzzing around him at all times. Many cutting edge designers are adding hidden pockets in their clothing to hide everything from an MP3 player to that handy-dandy Batarang. If the prospect of darkening the door of one of those pricey boutiques makes you squeamish, why not try your local mall for a cheap pair of cargo pants for after-5 wear? They look stylish and keep your corporate identity secret.

• Lose the logo. You’re in the medical field, which means you don’t work for Napster or some other underground fountain of cool. That means you should reserve the corporate logo golf shirt for a trade show, leaving it in the closet on the weekends. Apart from a pocket protector, nothing says company geek quite like an employer’s monogram on your person. It’s all about the ladies, fellas. Enough said.

• Colors are your friend. The last time I inspected the Crayola box, olive and tan were not the only hues of nature. Experiment with colors, even layering them under that striped button-down shirt normally worn during 9 to 5 to demonstrate the sizzle under the starch. Purple, for instance, is a color that goes great with jeans and is no longer reserved for the guy who wrote “When Doves Cry.”

• Beware of pants that have a mind of their own. There was a time when you had to repent for those repeated trips to the buffet table at your sales meeting by suffering through the embarrassment of a larger pant size. No more! Many clothiers are now marketing ‘expandable waist’ pleated khakis that ‘move with you.’ But pants that ‘think’ make you look like a curved candidate for a makeover from all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. They should be avoided at all costs. Cotton pants that “breathe with you” really let the wind out of your fashion sails. Ditch the cotton for a more sophisticated dress pant. Just avoid the polyester bell-bottoms.

• Surf’s up! You’ve got to hand it to the younger generation: Slackers really know how to hide even the most heinous dietary and genetic atrocities with devil-may-care style! Check out the skater punk mall boutiques that are chockfull of loose fitting pants, billowy long sleeve T-shirts and subdued pattern button-down collared shirts that provide a hipper alternative to those expandable-waist train wrecks. They create the illusion of taking years off your life and inches off your waistline at the same time. Now you can “super size it” with style!

As sales professionals, we make our living representing a company. How we look says a lot about the company that sends us out on the road and could affect our success. Then there’s the vain inner peacock that exists in all of us. He’s the same bird whose very existence you deny, even as it screeched loudly when your wife made you trade in the sports car for the emasculating minivan with stain resistant upholstery. The peacock is dying to shake its plumes, no matter how happily married you might be. Get your tail feather to the nearest clothing store without delay and gift-wrap a new you!

Mike Farragher is a married father of two who is unafraid to moisturize. He is the director of marketing for LifeSign, a provider of rapid tests for the detection of cardiac markers, drugs of abuse and infectious disease. (Check out www.lifesignmed.com for more information.)

He has just released his first novel, Collared, with 1st Books.