Tuesday, November 30, 2010


There are a lot of stereotypes out there. Like it or not, they often exist because there's some basis in fact, which, in itself, is a fact.

One of these stereotypes is that American males simply cannot dress themselves, and judging from what I've seen on television over the past couple of weeks, I can see why the stereotype exists.

Look. I'm not a fashion editor for GQ, ESQUIRE, or DETAILS. I don't know Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, or any of the Brooks Brothers. What I know is that as a PR guy who also wears a number of other consulting hats, I have a duty to my clients to be honest with them. Sometimes, that includes the client's "look."

Whether we're working with a civic group, in the Statehouse lobby, or broadcasting for the world to see, every occasion has an appropriate look. The image of the message's presenter is almost as important as the message, itself.

How can people trust the message if the messenger doesn't look credible? How can I in good conscience allow my clients to present their messages if they haven't dressed the part?

There's a look for every occasion, and it only takes some common sense (or a thick skin if I have to tell you that you look ridiculous) to figure it out.

More and more, especially on television, we're seeing an inability for men to wear jackets correctly. It's a jacket. How tough can it be?

Guys. Two things. First, if you're wearing a two-button suit jacket or blazer, don't button both buttons. This is the first rule you should have learned when you got your first navy blazer. For a more informal or casual look, it's perfectly fine to leave it completely unbuttoned. If you want to go for a more professional or formal look, button the top button only (just make sure you unbutton it again when you sit down, or you'll look like an idiot).

Second, if you're wearing a double-breasted jacket, keep it buttoned or take it off. An unbuttoned double-breasted immediately takes away your credibility with the audience because it makes you look like you don't know what you're doing. Even if your audience isn't sitting there saying, "I can't believe he doesn't have his jacket buttoned," and there's a good chance they aren't, people will notice that something about you doesn't fit. They'll have a harder time trusting you, and that only hurts your cause.

I know there are going to be some laughs about this post, but realize one thing, you got some free advice that everybody else has to pay for.

Just use your head when you're getting ready to go on camera or in front of an audience. If that doesn't work, ask your wife or girlfriend, "Honey, do I look stupid?" It works for me...well the "wife" part, anyway.

Taft Matney is a partner with TM Public Relations, a strategic communications and governmental affairs firm in Greenville, SC. Follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/taftmatney) and "like" TMPR on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TMPRGA).

This op-ed may be reprinted/reposted in whole or in part upon written notification to taft@taftmatney.com.

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