Staffers' fashion makes statement about the firm

Suits and ties? Polo shirts and khakis? Just what are PR pros wearing these days?

Suits and ties? Polo shirts and khakis? Just what are PR pros wearing these days?

Across the country, appropriate PR-firm fashion tends to be "business casual," though meetings with clients nearly always necessitate dressier duds, agency pros say.

For the most part, agency reps say casual but neat-and-tidy dress codes help foster a collegial work atmosphere, and may even promote creativity. Gerald Kimber White, MD at RF|Binder Partners' Boston-area branch, says his firm's workwear reflects office decor.

"Part of our culture is to be a very artsy environment and ... that plays its way out in our dress codes," White says. "I used to work at [a] firm with a more corporate feel, whereas here there's a creative use of colors in terms of carpets and walls, and so on - not in a late '90s techie way, but more artful, a real eye to the play between colors."

Stephanie Howley, VP of HR North America at GCI Group, says her New York office has a similar business-casual vibe. But how individual staffers dress depends on the types of clients they have.

"In our corporate practice, I notice that sometimes people are dressed a bit more formally," she says. "Our consumer team has some fashion and beauty accounts, so those guys tend to have the really hip shoes and cool pocketbooks and things of that nature, and then healthcare is kind of middle of the road; it's a mixed bag."

Firms in some US cities lean toward dressier standards. Amanda Rottier, who handles media relations for Washington, DC-based Dittus Communications, says her office is quite formal, with men usually in suits and ties, and women in skirts, suits, or dressy slacks to keep in line with DC's conservative fashion standards.

Even in other countries, PR firms follow similar rules of attire. Ronald Mincheff, MD at Edelman Brazil, says his Sao Paulo office has basically the same dress standards as in the US. He notes, though, that women do dress a little less formally; for them, sleeveless shirts and sandals are common.

Hirofumi Goto, an SAE at Fleishman-Hillard Tokyo, says suits are the rule in Japan for client meetings, though designers and other "creative folks" can get away with more relaxed dress. But Goto says his colleagues tend to eschew suits when in the office all day. And not only is business casual preferred, it's government approved, as part of a nationwide campaign called "Cool Biz" that encourages less formal attire in the summer - no tie, short sleeves - so that offices can keep air conditioning turned down and limit energy consumption and carbon emissions.

While PR fashion may tilt casual at the office, Tara Lilien, Manning Selvage & Lee's New York-based director of HR, cautions everyone interviewing for jobs to dress
their best. Surprisingly, she says, most fresh-faced college graduates arrive at interviews in new suits, but the more experienced PR pros tend to dress down.

"The senior people think, 'They know me, I know the business, I can wear jeans just like them,'" Lilien says. "[But] I always say: 'Wear your suit, even if it's the dead of summer on a Friday. Put your best foot forward.'"

Key points:

In PR offices, business casual is typical, but more formal is the rule when meeting with clients

Proper attire is ultimately based on one's practice area and local standards

Never dress down when going to a job interview, even on a sweltering Friday

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