Appearances can be deceiving

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 21, 2005

In one of my first newspaper jobs, the publisher had a rule that all male reporters had to wear ties to work. &uot;At least look professional,&uot; he would say.

I got accustomed to wearing one. He was right in that it did make you feel professional and I’m sure it projected a good image for the newspaper in the community. But I liked the rule for another, selfish reason: I have this tiny head in proportion to the rest of my body and the bizarre effect seems to be exaggerated by open collars, so I almost always wear a tie to work.

I’ve noticed in the past couple years that fewer and fewer people are wearing ties. New, younger publishers in our organization don’t wear ties to work and I can’t even recall ever seeing my bosses in a tie when they come to Suffolk.

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I suppose, like my kids and wife have suggested, I’m pretty much a stiff where clothes are concerned. If left to my own devises, I would have a closet full of gray and navy pants and white and blue shirts, which I did until recently.

My wife apparently had enough and decided to try to remake me. She came home recently after a day of shopping with pink, orange, brown and purple shirts and matching ties – the kind of things a man needs to be reasonably secure in his masculinity before putting on. In other words, if you drive a Hummer, you probably wouldn’t want to wear these.

While I didn’t really care for the shirts, I care a great deal for my wife, so I happily put them on from time to time.

On Thursday I had on the orange shirt with matching pink and orange Jerry Garcia tie, that looked like the legendary Grateful Dead guitarist designed while on a bad trip. Thursday happens to be our regular Rotary meeting day and I had a seat right up front. The speaker was image consultant Sandy Dumont, who basically makes her living advising people on what to wear.

She was showing before and after slides of how she transformed various Plain Janes and Johns into dazzling, successful-looking, powerful people.

Invariably, she took various schmuck losers out of their plaids, beiges and bright colors and put them in conservative white and blue shirts with navy jackets.

&uot;Which one of these financial advisors would you trust with your money?&uot; she asked, showing the same guy dressed like one of Tony Soprano’s lieutenant’s in one frame and Billy Graham in the next.

I sat there in my orange shirt and pink tie during the entire presentation in mortal terror. I could see Dumont eyeing me from time to time, or at least shielding her eyes from the glare, and knew she was going to tear into me at any moment like some aggressive comedian making fun of the fat guy sitting in front of the stage at a comedy club.

Mercifully, she left me alone, for which I was grateful.

It really was an educational and entertaining program. Appearances are important and can make all the difference in the world when it comes to landing that great job, closing a sale or making an impression on the special man or woman you want to impress.

But they can also be deceiving.

For instance, when you see some poor shmuck in an orange or purple shirt, it’s not necessarily because he doesn’t know how to dress for success or is otherwise a complete loser. It may well be that he just cares more about his wife’s happiness than he does what other people think of him. So go easy on him.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at