Job interview/ business

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"Check what the bosses wear"

Interview with Susanne Helbach-Grosser about business fashion codes, career steps and my passion for shoes.


May 5, 2015

Susanne Helbach-Grosser has been an etiquette trainer for 21 years. In 1999, she founded the first school for professional training of etiquette trainers in Germany. For years, she was a co-author of a blog in the well recommended, conservative daily newspaper „Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“. Her school works for well known companies, especially from the financial sector. My grandmother presented me her book „success with tact and style“ at the occasion of my A-levels. I used to benefit from it ever since. As we talked the first time, she is shocked that my book is so old and kindly sent me a review copy of the latest edition (we write about it in a while). 

Susanne Helbach-Grosser. Photo: Takt & Stil
Susanne Helbach-Grosser. Photo: Takt & Stil

Susanne, how do you recognize a well and correct dressed business man?

Clean clothes and good quality are very important.


The Swiss bank UBS caused some publicity by having detailed written dress code. What do you think of these dress codes?


It is rare that there are written dress codes in companies. There are so many non written codes in business. If there is no official statement, just ask when you start your job in a new company.


In canteen you often see ties which men have stuck in the button facing. What do you think?


Terrible! I dislike even more the „tie over the shoulder“…


…then you also see the brand logos…


... yes, just mind your eating manners and have a spare tie in the wardrobe.

What should a man consider in case of a career step?

I advise that business people look at the dresses of the higher levels and adjust on time. This might be cufflinks, other materials or more sophisticated garments, it depends. Be careful with adjusting too early and not overjump a level, this might cause conflicts. 


What else it important? My great-grandmother used to write down her dresses of important occasions.


Exactly, very smart. Write down the circumstances of an important appointment, the metal states of the stakeholders and the characteristics. This helps a lot later. 


How can a man change his appearance?


I had a coaching participant, who was assigned to Far East. I advised him to wear glasses, this worked well for him. He looked older. A cared-for beard and a three-piece suit might assist as well to look older, if this seems to be important for business. 


What else can a business man consider?


People recognize details. How looks the notebook to write down ideas? Is the calendar properly? Even an umbrella might raise attention. 


I read in your book, you advise to be careful with special shoes such as loafers and monks. Why do you, however, dislike my beloved monks?


(Laughs friendly) Not everybody is so passionate about shoes like you, Christian. Wear them with pride! Shoes should fit the type and the occasion. People look at the shoes of the person opposite. Even decent, old shoes with patina which are cared for well can „pass“. (German) (Network of etiquette trainer international, in which Susanne Helbach-Grosser presides as national chairman)

Insignia of power: Fashion status in office

A decent writing implement boosts productivity. Photo: Men's Individual Fashion.
A decent writing implement boosts productivity. Photo: Men's Individual Fashion.

The writing implement

Apart from the computer, the writing implement is the main working tool of men in office. Here the man reveals himself. It does not have to be as extreme as Jean Todt, who collects super expensive cartridge pens. But a decent cartridge pen or ballpoint impresses and improves productivity a lot. Does anybody write nonesense with a great fountain pen?

Photo: Men's Individual Fashion
Photo: Men's Individual Fashion


The briefcase

Often underestimated, but also very relevant is the briefcase. In it a man carries his office papers and his belongings. Whoever asked himself, why a handbag is "the centre of power" for ladies, can learn a lot from them in this matter. The handbag wraps the important daily belongings. 


Would you carry important papers and little things of a structured life in a rather third class something? What do you imagine others might conclude? Whether as a classic briefcase, an elegant shoulder bag or a suitcase: For every hierarchy level and branch there is something suitable. 

Copyright: Men’s Individual Fashion. The photo shows my own watch.
Copyright: Men’s Individual Fashion. The photo shows my own watch.


The watch


The watch is the permanent companion. For sure you can put someone who wears a suit in a pigeon hole by looking at his watch (as well as by looking at this shoes). In many cases you might be right. In office many men define themselves by their watches, especially in leading positions. 

Photo: Men's Individual Fashion
Photo: Men's Individual Fashion




With cufflinks an officeman can present himself discreetly but in special manner. Cufflinks you can get in every shape, colour and price level. If chosen well, it might look noble and can support an outfit. 

Photo: Men's Individual Fashion
Photo: Men's Individual Fashion


The tie


The tie is most likely the fashionable garment men care most about in office. At least the management has decent knowledge of ties and invests a lot to proudly wear high quality ties.  With a broad selection of manufacturers, stripes, patterns, tiepins and contrasting the business shirt there are countless opportunities to integrate the tie with a good office outfit. 

Photo: Men's Individual Fashion
Photo: Men's Individual Fashion

Professional career for the business man: Take advantace of the Stone Age's cave on your path upwards


Life is not always fair. We human beings judge others within seconds and categorize them. This refers to the Stone Age in which it was essential to survive and distinguish friend from enemy withhin seconds. Academic experiments show that it takes eight good experiences to counterbalance a bad first impression.

Photo: Men's Individual Fashion
Photo: Men's Individual Fashion

The really tricky thing about a bad first impression is, however, that the deterred person might not give you further chances. There is no other opportunity to make a new good impression, because the business man faces lower expectations.


Applications and deals might fail at this stage. If additionally professional performance is low, career dreams are meanwhile blocked. And all because of the human psychology of the mammoth's cave. 


Communicate the right things right away


In job interviews, sales conversations, presentations and office day to day work trivialities mean a lot. I would even claim that superficial issues and appearance contribute substantial parts to the opinion of others. This is irrational and neither objective nor political correct. An ambitious business man, however, can adjust his approach.



The other way round, an excellent first impression lasts long as well. A business man with ambition and the wish to make full use of his professional potential should make a good impression from within. It starts with his appearance. Everybody can change and improve it. And in case of specialist knowledge and performance is right, a steep career is inavoidable. The greatest issue is that all this is within the circle of influence of a man in case he would like to promote. 


Learn soon more about fashion of job interviews/office: 

-Special features of business fashion

-Confidential best-of fashion improvement list

Photo: Men's Individual Fashion
Photo: Men's Individual Fashion


The shoe defines the man

Due to the outstanding role of fine shoe selection and conscientious care for man`s wardrobe Men's Individual Fashion publishes an extraordinary solitaire category dealing with man's shoes.