Archive for May, 2010

Business Dress on The Junior Apprentice

Last night we had the third installment of The Junior Apprentice, the spin off of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice. The programme is identical to the main show except that the candidates are ages 16 or 17 and are competing not for a job with the business tycoon but for a business bursary. A lot of the hopefuls have had experience running their own businesses or being involved in some way with the art of making money.

Jordan - he of the shiny suit

However, I have been continually taken aback at the poor standards of dress that most of the candidates have. The first person to get fired was a boy called Jordan. He wore possibly the shiniest suit imaginable. Such suits only look good on Saturday night television and if your name is Graham Norton – for some reason, Graham seems to be the only person able to get away with such an outfit. However, Jordan’s suit was a business/lounge suit and this made it look very cheap indeed.

But for this blog I shall focus on the third episode of the series.

Zoë

There was one shot in the programme that showed Zoë, who clearly takes pride in her appearance (if a little too much), writing. As it was a close-up of her hand with a pen we could see her nails clearly. She was wearing nail polish but it had chipped and cracked and so it looked messy. If nail polish is going to be worn (whether in a business or social environment) then make sure it looks good and is perfect at all times. Regarding make-up, Zoë has a tendency to wear a bit too much (especially for a 16-year-old). She has pale skin and wears striking red lipstick, which set against her blonde hair does cause people to take note of her. In a throw-back to the 1980s, Zoë is clearly a big one for power-dressing, but more-often-than-not she just looks like she’s about to serve us drinks and tell us how to put on our life-vests.

Rhys

Last night’s fired hopeful was Rhys. From episode one he was wearing shirts with collars that were far too big for him, and probably would have been too big for Pavarotti. Although many people complain that they feel restricted when wearing a collar and tie, if you are measured properly by any half-decent men’s outfitters for shirts then this will never be a problem. Rhys also committed the crime of colour-on-colour (in the case of episode 3, black-on-black). He wore a black shirt and a black tie. Never do this! Black shirts look awful full stop; black ties should be reserved for funerals – but really one should never wear the same coloured shirt as the tie (i.e. a plain pink tie would look silly when against a pink shirt).

Tim

There are so many things that annoy me about this candidate’s dress. He has clearly never heard of a razor. Beards are fine, however, Tim’s facial hair is not quite a beard. I would suggest that business people are clean-shaven (unless they are opting for a proper beard). Designer stubble (as he had yesterday – he had given his facial hair a minor trim) is not suitable for the boardroom. Tim also seems not to have heard of a top-button. He is an advocate of the loose-tie-open-top-button look, which, again, should not be found in business. It looks sloppy and lazy (although some may say this is a reflection of the boy’s attitude to business). Last night we saw a close up (for some reason) of Tim’s shoes and socks. He had chosen to wear a pair of green striped socks. You may expect me to slate this choice, but I actually condone it. I am a big fan of colourful socks and I feel that if done tastefully, a man can say a lot his personality through his socks: they give one a chance to show a bit of personality. That said, I have seen all too often people wearing white socks with business suits, which is something that just isn’t done. Socks (if plain and traditional) should match the colour of the shoe or of the trouser.

Adam

Finally, a word about Adam, who also left Lord Sugar’s boardroom last night. His tie was dreadful. The knot was too big, but also too loose. He was trying to go for the big footballer knot, but even so, it should have been tighter. Being able to tie a good tie is a life skill that sadly many are lacking. He also needed to make sure the tie was pulled up to the very top of the shirt. As you can just about see from his publicity picture, you could drive a bus between the top of the tie and the top button of his shirt.

The English Manner offers training in business protocol, which includes dress & appearance. To find out more, please contact us.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Royal Ascot: Dress & Wardrobe

2010 Royal Ascot is just under a month away. Last year, our post on Ascot proved very popular, gaining the most reads out of all of our entries. This is probably because Ascot is a melting pot and people from all different walks of life can be found here.

Next week we will talk about how to picnic in style at Royal Ascot. This week, we recap on what should and should not be worn when at the races.

Alexandra Messervy, Founder, The English Manner: “Morning suits and top hats are de-rigeur, as of course are the most fabulous hats.  Trousers for ladies are now permitted, but skirts must not be far above the knee, and if you are hoping to enter the Royal Enclosure you will need to apply for a sponsored badge many months in advance, with a reference from a member of the Royal Enclosure.  Top hats should always be black silk, and morning suits can be grey or black – my own preference is grey.  Ladies’ Day is the traditional one to ‘be seen’, when even the more conservative hat-wearer can really push the boat out.  A word of caution though:  if you are not used to wearing a hat, practice putting it on and off and wearing it around the house several times before the big day, and learn to relax – otherwise you will have severe neck strain and a bad headache before you go near the champagne!

William Hanson, Tutor, The English Manner: “In 2008 Royal Ascot was in the news as ladies were turning with too much fake-tan applied and in some extreme cases, they deemed it appropriate to go without knickers. This is never acceptable. Anywhere. For women, it is advisable that cocktail dresses are avoided. Having too much flesh open to the elements at a predominantly outdoor event will only cause goose pimples.  Dress colours that work well are pastels, bright colours, neutrals such as cream and fawn, although fashion changes and each year will see a different colour or shade in vogue. As for materials, linen creases easily and for an event where you may be sitting to picnic (smart race-goers do this in Number One car park), this is not a good idea. Lightweight wool and silk are preferable. Dresses and jackets that can be removed easily if you get too hot are canny choices. Skirts that ride up when you sit down are not, however. The Queen often wears one main colour all the way up (including the hat) which accentuates height and can make shorter people look taller. Umbrellas may be a nuisance but are worth it if it begins to rain. They can be left in the cloakroom if needs be: parasols are naff.”

For further advice on Royal Ascot, please see last year’s (very popular) entry, or feel free to contact us.

Maybe This Time: Facebook Invitations

All things considered, Facebook is a wonderful innovation. Like it or loathe it, it will certainly be around for quite some time yet. It has set itself up as a social hub: we can see photos of ourselves and our friends, we can email our friends, we can play games with them, we can instant-message them, we can send them gifts (although if any friend of mine ever sent an electronic gift – or e-card, for that matter – I’d strike them out of my address book), and we can organise events through Facebook. It’s this last one that can easily rile me.

For the benefit of non-Facebook users, let me quickly explain what exactly happens. Any user can invite friends to an event; on the event page they can list the time, place, date, and any other instructions for guests. Invited guests will see the invitation to said event when they log into their Facebook profile. Guests are then given three options as to how they wish to reply: Attending, Not Attending, or Maybe Attending. It is this last one that drives me mad.

I used to send out nice stiff white card invitations to my guests for my parties, but due to the cost of doing them for every party and the fact that a majority of modern guests wouldn’t know what on earth to do with such an invitation, I decided to concede and use Facebook to invite people to my events. To be fair, it works a treat. But when I have guests that respond that they ‘maybe attending’ I hit the roof. In my opinion, you are either attending or you are not. Called me old fashioned but when I am invited to an event I get out my diary, see if I am doing anything already on that date and if I am not, then I respond saying I can do; if I am busy, I respond saying I unfortunately cannot. This conditional clause of ‘maybe’ seems to be designed for the socially far-too-busy. Some of my guests (who have subsequently been struck off my party guest-list) put ‘maybe’ because they are clearly thinking ‘well, I shall go if I don’t have anything else better to do that night’, which is just rude.

People should make the effort, and decide whether they are going or not instead of floundering around in this new middle ground. If a host were going to the effort of putting on a party (probably with food and drink) for guests then said host would quite like to know for how many people they are catering.

You can see this clearly winds me up, and I do wish Facebook would remove the function. It is intrinsically bad mannered.

I am off for a lie down now.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner



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