the suits

Whatever next. First, we have accountants (well, the male ones at any rate) admitting that they would not mind a date with Liz Hurley as well as a craving for little sports cars. Now, at least two of them have demonstrated that grey is not the only colour in their wardrobes by winning awards for their dress sense.

It certainly seems far removed from those rumours of leading accountancy firms sending new recruits dress guides that included such tips as "Try to avoid wearing checks and stripes together" and "Ensure that white socks are worn only for sports".

Tony Dowling, 26, and Laraine Morgan, 31, were judged Britain's best- dressed accountants in a contest organised by the financial recruitment specialists Robert Half in association with Mary Spillane of the image consultants CMB. And just to give them even more of an advantage over their colleagues, their prizes were several hundred pounds' worth of designer clothes.

Ms Spillane said the competition was tougher than one might have thought. "The accountants I met are keen to compete in the image stakes," she said. "They've finally woken up to the fact that how they dress and present themselves affects their career prospects and earning power."

Mr Dowling, a senior accountant at Dow Jones Telerate in London, accepted that he was bound to get his leg pulled about his success in the nationwide competition, but he added: "It's important the profession does more to promote itself by thinking more closely about how we're perceived by those around us."

Ms Morgan, a financial controller with Reed Travel Group, said: "Contrary to popular belief, appearance is an important aspect of the job. If you expect to bc treated as a professional, then you must dress like one."

The final word comes from Jeff Grout, managing director of Robert Half and something of a dapper chap himself: "We're all judged on how we look, and in today's competitive environment it's never been more important. You might be a star executive, but to a complete stranger you'll only come across as one if you look the part - and even in the most conservative professions there's scope for a little flair."

Not that things have changed all that much. Those who still have not caught on can obtain a list of 10 tips on dressing for success from Robert Half.


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