According the SIA a CPO should wear “clothing suitable for the task and commensurate with the principal”
It can’t be stated enough how important the second part of that statement is. In general you are going to be walking alongside (and slightly behind) someone who is at the top,or certainly very near the top, level of society. The venues they frequent, the people they meet and the events they attend will usually be of the very highest quality and the person who has to accompany them (you) must reflect this in your dress and demeanour. Failure to do so could at best be embarrassing to you or the principal and potentially see you back on the job market and at worst could result in an increased level of risk by either drawing attention or being unable to stay close to your boss.
A couple of years ago I witnessed a female CPO who was looking after a member of a middle eastern royal family turned away from a nightclub that her principal and some friends had just been let into because she was dressed poorly. This caused such embarrassment to the principal that the CPO was fired the following morning and escorted from the residence. The worst part however was that the principal remained inside the club for several hours whilst the CPO was forced to wait outside the venue.
Other howling wardrobe errors I have witnessed include a bloke in a suit and tie protecting a toddler at Disneyland…not only was he drawing masses of third party attention, he also ended up a sticky, sweaty mess with his suit covered in bits of food, drink and ice cream deposited there by his young principal.
Another classic was a guy who turned up for work in a Hawaiian shirt and cowboy boots…to be fair he was American!
As well as making the principal happy, the way you dress will also help you to perform your job more easily. As I mentioned you will be operating in some very exclusive venues, hotels, restaurants etc. The people who work here are trained in and used to dealing with high net worth individuals, and will be far more likely to offer you more assistance during your advance work and during your stay if you dress and behave appropriately.
If you can walk into a 5 star hotel in a confident manner, head held high, firm handshake and well fitting suit you will open more doors and make a far more lasting impression than someone who sidles in looking like they are there to either rob the place or clean it. You will also set the tone for your principal’s visit and ensure that they receive the very best level of service.
So lets start with suits, get it right and you will instantly come across as the professional you are, get it wrong and you look like you just finished a shift at the carphone warehouse.
First of all get a suit that fits you properly. It doesn’t have to be bespoke or cost several thousand pound, this is after all your working attire, however unless you are lucky an off the peg suit is unlikely to be a perfect fit.
I personally buy my suits from a company called “A suit that fits”. For the price of a good off the peg I am measured by a tailor in London, I get to choose fabric, style and detail (I am left handed and always have a left hand ticket pocket). My information is then sent to Nepal where my suit is hand made. On its return I have another fitting in London with alterations being made there. What I am left with is a suit that fits me perfectly.
If this seems a little too much time and effort, then by all means go down the off the peg route, I would however recommend you take your suit to a tailor who will for about forty quid ensure that its fits you better by taking up hems, shortening sleeves and narrowing the waist.
With regards to colour I would always go for either dark grey or navy blue, both of these colours are versatile and will help you blend into a boardroom or nightclub if required. I own two black suits, one is for funerals and the other is for black tie events, otherwise I’m in navy or grey.
Buttons are the next big stumbling block and one that seems like a trivial detail, however as mentioned the people we work for care about this stuff and will notice it. Buttoning a suit incorrectly is in some circles considered a massive faux pas and could again embarrass you or your boss.
In the early part of the twentieth century there were no hard and fast rules for buttoning your suit, however legend has it that as King Edward VII become slightly more rotund he developed a habit of leaving his bottom button undone. Not wanting to offend the king, those around him copied the style until it became a fashion that exists today to the extent that modern suits are cut in such a way that they don’t hang properly if the bottom button is done up.
I would also avoid trying to be at the cutting edge of fashion when it comes to a work suit. You need something understated and professional that will allow you to blend into a boardroom, not some shiny, skinny-legged monstrosity that shows off your ankles and has a jacket that won’t cover your radio/weapon. Save that bad boy for the weekend!
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