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Men's Fall Fashion Issue

Job security

Screenwriter. Real estate developer. College president. Manufacturer. What they and others wear--and when--is part of how they stay on top.

September 12, 2004|Peter McQuaid

"There are times when appropriate attire for me is a golf shirt with the Royal Truck Body logo over slacks from Saks and loafers," De Zonia says. He adds that he's "still extravagant--I'll wear Hermes shirts or [Italian clothier] Etro and a nice tie to the office," with a Prada or Brioni suit. And he still likes exquisite shoes, no matter what he's wearing, often from John Lobb, Dolce & Gabbana or Tod's. He also likes Helmut Lang and Prada's incredibly popular, eccentric designs, but he always aims to strike a balance between his fashion and business instincts.

"Let a little of your taste show through, otherwise you're masquerading. I like to be enough of a chameleon to sneak inside and then yank 'em a little bit."

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David Pollick, publicity and marketing consultant

"This is the image business, and I need to look hip or, at the very least, like I know what is hip."

In the course of his career, Pollick helped make household names of unknown Hollywood properties such as Ben Affleck, Calista Flockhart, Adrien Brody and Hayden Christiansen. He also has directed publicity campaigns for a variety of films, including "Snatch" and "Nurse Betty." In the process, Pollick must convince moviegoers that they know and admire people they have never met, and that there are certain movies they absolutely must see. He also helps actors package themselves appropriately, and helps both actors and film distributors get the kind of media coverage and reviews that will help sell tickets.

"In my business, you need to look like you're conversant with what's hip," he says. "Part of that is convincing your clients who are hip and cool, or want to be, that you are--and if need be, you can show them how. I wear jeans almost daily, Helmut Lang or Levi's with Pumas. Whether I'm marketing a film or an actor, many of the people I meet with are in their 20s, and me in a Brooks Bros. suit is not going to cut it." If Pollick must dress up, he tends to wear Tom Ford's slick, photo-ready designs for Gucci or Helmut Lang, which look good on his lean frame. It's also slick without being overkill. "I'm 42, and I'm not going to even try to wear [rock-star designer] Roberto Cavalli, yet at the same time, I'm not going to show up in Armani, which really defined Hollywood fashion for a period. I offer a certain hipness factor, and that is communicated by the clothes I'm wearing as well as what comes out of my mouth."

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Ted Mitchell, president of Occidental College in Eagle Rock

"Dressing for my job is about making the other person feel comfortable. Suits one day, casual the next. It depends on who I'm meeting with."

As a college president, Mitchell actually has three jobs. One is to persuade well-to-do organizations and people that Occidental is a happening, important institution of higher learning, and a great place to park their extra dollars. The second is to work with faculty members to ensure that Occidental is, in fact, a happening, important institution of higher learning. The third is to deal with the needs of the students who expect, in return for their tuition, a happening higher-learning experience.

Depending on the day or hour, Mitchell may have his eye trained on the bottom line, the quality of the product or the cachet that surrounds it. The formality of Mitchell's wardrobe increases in direct proportion to his proximity to money and power. "For me, each day has a central focus, and that's where I aim my wardrobe," he says. "If there's a donor meeting, I'm in a blue, gray or olive suit from Brooks Bros. and Florsheim lace-ups in black or brown, a tie, and a white or light-blue button-down shirt from Lands' End."

If Mitchell, 48, doesn't have any outside meetings, he reverts to simple, classic Brooks Bros. chinos and open-collared shirts. "It's a pretty structured range, though I do like to have fun with ties--I will buy them anywhere, be it Brooks Bros. or an airport tie store. I also have a huge collection of reading glasses--and the more outlandish, the better: purple, multicolored flecks, you name it, though I keep a few dignified pairs in metal for meetings. They all come from Sav-On, so I figure I can indulge myself."

When Mitchell dresses, he makes a point to blend in so that his clothes never become a topic of conversation. "You interact with a lot of different people, and you can't pretend to be part of their club, but you can make them comfortable," he says.

"This point was impressed upon me several years ago when I was still working at UCLA and had to come across town to meet with some Occidental alums. I was wearing a black turtleneck, which is fine on the Westside but not really what you want to wear to a meeting in Pasadena. As was pointed out to me."

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