Your clothes are vital for the right first impression. So why not ditch the grey for a touch of blue? Angelique Ruzicka helps a mediator put some colour back in his working week
Miles Emblin’s business wardrobe is grey, although if he’s feeling daring he might go for charcoal. As a mediator and expert witness for the insurance industry, the former broker has to look the part. But perhaps he could ditch the safety of grey for something a little more upbeat.
Like most men of a certain age, the 70-year-old Emblin is not into the latest high street trend. But he seems open to getting some fashion tips and agrees that Insurance Times can give him a makeover with the help of image consultant Colour Me Beautiful (CMB).
Like Emblin, many brokers do not always dress to their best advantage – and this can have a knock-on effect on the way their peers and potential clients view them. Image consultants such as CMB regularly help businessmen and women look the part.
For Emblin, it’s not an easy start. “Being current isn’t about following the latest trend, of putting on what David Beckham’s wearing,” says CMB’s Franca McBarron.
Quoting a study on human behaviour by Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor at UCLA, she says that 55% of first impressions is down to appearance and body language, 38% to tone and pitch of voice and only 7% to what you say. “Image is much more important, whether we like it or loathe it,” she says.
Emblin is deliberately dressed casually (not his usual style, he admits) in a cream-striped jacket, blue tie and shirt when he arrives at our offices in Cannon Street. Only his trousers are the favourite grey. Still, it makes for good makeover fun.
He says he draws a sharp line between his weekday and weekend wardrobes: casual and smart casual are strictly for the weekend; only a suit and tie will do during the working week.
“When I walk into the court I can’t afford to make the wrong impression with the judge,” he says. “The judge will be older than me, in all probability, and the last thing I want to do is alienate his affections so that when he looks at me he will be sceptical of my evidence. I want him to take to me, listen to what I say and accept my logic.”
He detests men wearing open-necked shirts for business, even on television. “I think they look scruffy and unkempt,” he says.
McBarron goes on the defence. “That’s down to what’s appropriate. If they are in the media they may want to get rid of the stuffiness. In certain instances they want to get rid of their tie to get some sort of mass acceptance.”
But Emblin believes that ditching the neckwear simply lowers standards. “I know some brokers who don’t wear ties and they look dreadful.
When I go to Biba meetings there are one or two who arrive without a tie. It does raise comment.”
McBarron refuses to waver in her crusade for the smart casual look and insists that everyone has a “style personality”.
“I don’t think it’s lowering the standards. I think it’s just that times are changing. You can still look smart in a shirt and jacket without a tie.” In the end, she concedes: “It’s down to what you are trying to do and who you are trying to talk to.”
Fashion deadlock. But McBarron saves the day by moving on to her colour analysis. One of CMB’s specialties is finding the right colours for men and women according to their eye, hair and skin colour (see box).
Emblin says there’s no way he’s going to wear green. But McBarron says: “It’s about getting the right green. I don’t see why a blue-green tie wouldn’t suit you.”
She says that “unsuitable” colours are OK to wear occasionally, but only in certain ways. “If a colour, specifically for a man, is not your best, keep it below the waist. But in the formal environment it’s the shirt, jacket and tie that you have to get right.”
McBarron says Emblin falls into the “cool” category, which, luckily for him, means grey is one of his most flattering shades. But blue should be a favourite too.
“Overall, the blue-based shades are for you,” she says. “If I were to put you in a shirt, I’d be happy to put you in icy shades. It could be icy greys or icy blues. Pastels are warmer colours, so they wouldn’t work.”
McBarron also says that people should dress according to their size and shape. CMB identifies three different body shapes for men: the inverted triangle, rectangle and rounded. For men with a rounded shape she advises single-breasted instead of double-breasted jackets.
“Some men think, ‘I will wear the double-breasted to hide [the weight]’. But what it does instead is accentuate it and it gives you more of a ‘tent-like’ situation. Go for a slimmer, form-fitting jacket that skims you.”
Emblin heads for the West End armed with this new information – and we find out just how involved Mrs Emblin has been in creating his look. He doesn’t know his shirt and jacket size.
He makes a beeline for some dark charcoal suits. But McBarron persuades him to go for a pink shirt and a loud pink and blue striped tie.
The verdict? “I find the neckwear a trifle violent but apart from that, yes, it’s the sort of thing I’d go for.” He buys the pink shirt. IT
- Light colouring – light hair and eye tones, pale colouring
Wear light to medium depth colours with warm or cool undertones and a mixture of soft and clear tones. Don’t overpower your natural colouring with dark combinations of colours and always wear the darker shades with light contrast. Avoid very strong colour combinations as tonal colours will be more elegant.
- Deep colouring – dark hair and eyes with porcelain to dark skin tones
Choose strong, dark colours, used together or in contrast. Avoid wearing pastel shades together. Mixing light and dark is always a safe bet and two dark shades worn together is striking.
- Warm colouring – golden or auburn tones to the hair, with warm skin tones. Eyes can be green, brown or blue
All colours should have a warm, yellow-based undertone. Basic neutrals (navy and grey) should be warmed up. Clear and soft tones work well and medium depth is better than very dark or light shades.
- Cool colouring – ash to grey tones, or even pure white hair. Eyes might be blue-grey, blue, or brown and skin might have pink tones
Always go for blue-based, cool colours. Wear soft and clear tones. Contrasting shades work well, as do light and darker colours worn together. Avoid yellow and golden-based warm colours.
- Clear colouring – medium to dark hair with bright contrasting eye colouring. Skin will often be porcelain in tone
Clear strong colours worn in contrast work best; avoid tonal colours and a blended or a one-colour look. Warm and cool shades are fine, but light and dark worn as contrast are best. Never wear two light or two dark shades together.
- Soft/muted colouring – medium-depth mousey or blonde hair, and eyes of any colour. Very little definition in colouring
Wear blended colours of medium depth, both warm and cool shades. Use contrast with care and avoid very vibrant colours. Tone-on-tone works best.