One night long ago, my business partner Ed Moed and I tore up the town after being named PR Week’s best small agency of the year. Upon waking the following morning at our corporate apartment, we realized we were late for a very important date with Paine Webber (today’s UBS Paine Webber).

We’d been invited to pitch Donald Marron, the CEO himself. But we were badly hung over, disheveled, and lacking fresh clothes. So, wearing the same tuxedos from the night before, we staggered into Paine Webber’s headquarters a full 45 minutes tardy. The CMO was boiling mad, but she nonetheless ushered us into Marron’s stadium-sized office.

The regal Marron eyed us up and down, told us to sit on his couch, and asked his secretary to serve us tea. He then told us he was looking for the right PR firm to reach the newly-minted dotcom millionaire market segment, who perceived PW as their “grandfather’s bank.”

We mumbled a few semi-coherent words and were thanked for our time. But as we were leaving, Marron shouted to us and the CMO: “Wait a minute! There’s something about you two I like. Let’s hire the ponytailed guys!”

The odd thing was, neither Ed nor I sported ponytails that day (or ever, as far as I know). But, our fashion look somehow resonated with Marron. And we ended up representing his firm until they were bought.
Looks count

I’ve shared the Marron tale because it’s more relevant than ever in light of two workplace fashion trends. According to reports, more and more Wall Streeters are dressing down, while legions of men are wearing sneakers to work. Holy informal attire, Batman!

I’m seeing the same trends in my world (as well as a reverse one I’ll also relate). My 110-employees dress business casual in the office, but we’ll wear jeans and T-shirts when we meet with technology clients, as well as when we visit our client MINI Cooper’s corporate headquarters. (MINI, btw, has the coolest dress code I’ve yet encountered. Everyone sports some kind of cool black MINI-branded shirt, fleece, hoodie or sweatsuit.) On the other hand, we’ll wear suits and ties when we visit our financial clients.

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