Dress for Bias

Steve Sailer, VDARE, December 30, 2012

Back in 1980, I read John T. Molloy’s advice book Dress for Success. It was aimed at the large number of men who don’t particularly care about looking good, but who don’t want to look bad. It was nearly unique in that Molloy had done simple social science research before offering his fashion advice to men in the business world. What kind of unspoken prejudices do the public hold about men’s clothing?

For example, he asked the cops at a New York commuter train station if they’d ever arrested a pickpocket wearing a tie. No.

He then tried bumming train fare home to Connecticut by claiming to have lost his wallet. When dressed in a suit and a tie, he was remarkably successful, with some commuters even giving him extra money to buy a newspaper to read on his way home. When wearing a suit but no tie, he did okay. When dressed casually, he did poorly.

He reported that his research showed that the hierarchy of suits in terms of perceived trustworthiness and favorability was blue > gray > brown > green. To the public, a man wearing a blue suit was seen slightly more favorably than a man wearing a gray suit. A maroon tie was best. In contrast, men dressed in (and my memory is murky here) green suits and/or bowties were assumed to be embezzlers, college professors, or alcoholics. Perhaps a green suit and a bowtie was assumed to be worn only by academics embezzling the departmental petty cash for cheap gin?

All in all, it was very helpful stuff for a young man.

‘Dress for Success’ Book Leads to Discrimination Suit

By Christopher Cornell

Friday, July 1, 2005

A former salesman for the Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network has been awarded $614,000 by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in a discrimination case that began after his supervisor handed out copies of a book, New Dress for Success, by John T. Molloy.

In May 2001, supervisors at the radio network, which is affiliated with WYSP FM in Philadelphia, distributed the book to all its salespeople, including Shawn Brooks, 34, then the only African-American salesperson on staff.

The book is a collection of advice on how to dress for business success, and in a chapter directed at minorities, it advises blacks selling to whites not to wear “Afro” hairstyles or African-style clothing. It also advises Hispanic salespeople  o “avoid any hair tonic that tends to give a greasy or shiny look to the hair; this also triggers a negative reaction.”

Brooks was offended by the contents of the book, and when he deemed the response to his complaints insufficient, he resigned and filed discrimination charges with the commission.

Brooks found sympathetic ears at the commission. After reviewing the book, commission Chairman Stephen A. Glassman called it “the most egregious case of published documentation on stereotyping and bias toward race, gender and religion in the workplace the commissioners have seen in a long time.”

Viacom Inc. and Infinity Broadcasting, the network’s parent companies, have appealed the ruling to a state appellate court.

Here are some offending quotes:

(i) “If you are black selling to white Middle America, dress like a white. . . . This clothing conveys that you are a member of the establishment and that you are pushing no radical or other feared ideas.”

(ii) “Blacks selling to whites should not wear Afro hairstyles or any clothing that is African in association.  If you are selling to corporate America, it’s very important that you dress, not as well as the white salesman, but better than them.  You have to wear suits, shirts and ties that are expensive and more conservative than your white co-workers.”

(iii) “If you are white selling to blacks, you will fare much better if you dress in non-establishment patterns.  Black America is essentially divided into two camps, establishment and anti-establishment, and the divisions are not dictated by income alone. . . . Almost all members of Northern ghettos who are in the lower socioeconomic groups are understandably antiestablishment. . . . The black establishment includes all blacks who have made it along with almost all Southern, rural blacks, no matter what their position.  Southern blacks do not consider themselves disenfranchised . . . .”

(iv) “When selling to middle class blacks, you cannot dress like a ghetto black . . . .”

(v) “It is an undeniable fact that the typical upper-middle-class American looks white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.  He is of medium build, fair complexion with almost no pronounced physical characteristics.  He is the model of success; that is, if you run a test, most people of all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds will identify with him as such.”

(vi) “The two groups who have the most problems with their appearances are black men and Hispanic men.  It is unfortunate but true that our society has conditioned us to look upon members of both groups as belonging to the lower classes, and no matter how high a minority individual rises in status or achievement, he is going to have some difficulty being identified by his success rather than his background.  But clothing can help.”

Here’s more on this case from Michael Smerconish, including an interview with Molloy about it, and some ironies.

I don’t know what the eventual outcome of this discrimination case was. Typically these extremely egregious cases get sanded down in the appeals process. If I were Brooks’ lawyer, I’d advise him to be happy with a settlement offer of, say, $100k.

P.S. Doing some more research, I find this 2009 Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirming the trial court’s summary judgment against the plaintiff. In other words, assuming the case didn’t go on to the Supreme Court, the black guy lost completely. It only took eight years and a 16-page decision of the second highest level court in the land.

My impression is that these kind of initial decisions giving absurd amounts of money to blacks for exigent degrees of discrimination constitute a kind of urban folklore among  black people, encouraging them to be on the lookout for a lawsuit that could make their fortune.

The fact that many of the most ridiculous charges of discrimination eventually get dismissed or get settled for pennies on the dollar is not widely known. It’s not considered news. Blacks find it depressing. The occasional white populist like Smerconish finds it boring. Elite media doesn’t find it fits the Narrative. And there is almost no will in America to shame individual blacks for these kind of violations of civil society.

Second, consider the “chilling effect” of this eight year long lawsuit. Justice William Brennan of the Warren Court popularized the phrase “chilling effect” as something we must be vigilant against in making sure that laws don’t suppress free speech. The chilling effect of anti-discrimination efforts on free speech is pretty obvious if you stop and think about it, but almost nobody ever does.

As I’ve pointed out many times, much of what we think of as speech in the U.S. is paid for by businesses, and businesses are loath to associate their names with anybody who could be cited in a discrimination lawsuit. For example, Malcolm Gladwell is a role model to a generation of journalists (e.g., Jonah Lehrer) because of his ability to profit lavishly from both the prestige press  and from corporate speaking engagements. Corporations know that they won’t get in legal trouble hiring Malcolm Gladwell to speak to their salesmen, but they could hiring somebody “controversial.”

Therefore, I was hoping to see in the 3rd Circuit decision a ringing chastisement of the plaintiff for his suit’s chilling effect on free speech. Instead, we get:

Although Brooks was understandably offended by the contents of the book he was instructed by Zurzolo to read and follow, the record is clear that Zurzlo did not know about the book’s offensive passages and that employees were quickly informed that the book did not reflect the views of the company or their supervisors.  Given this, the distribution of New Dress for Success does not represent sufficiently severe harassment to support a Title VII hostile work environment claim.

If I were a manager at a deep-pocketed corporation, from this I’d draw the lesson that black and Hispanic employees are “understandably offended” by Molloy’s findings, so, to be safe, our corporation better not have anything to do with Molloy. Granted, the court decided that handing out the book alone is not enough for a $614,000 payout, but it doesn’t help.

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  • mendells-selection

    That book needs to be updated. They need to advise blacks not to wear grills, not to have designs or initials carved into their hairstyle, and not to wear their pants down around their knees.

    • The Worlds Scapegoat

      or neck tattoos

      • Tim

        “The fact you`re wearing a tattoo speaks louder than anything it says,,,”-Mom 1973

    • So CAL Snowman

      Yeah but there’s one caveat that needs to be addressed, Blacks do not read books, so including the updated information would be a waste of time. For the chapters on what blacks should wear, they should just leave the pages blank or omit them to save money.

    • bluffcreek1967

      And the book needs to tell them to stop saying, “Nomesayin?” twenty times during any conversation, and to stop wearing their baseball caps sideways too!

    • Sherman_McCoy

      And raping white women (customers, co-workers, etc.) is a definite no-no.

  • It makes sense. If you are selling to whites, you need to dress like them. Whites are not going buy anything from a guy who looks like a criminal.

    • Fredrik_H

      Yes, but we mustn’t be allowed to speak the truth. The truth is generally unpleasant and downright racist some of the time. Therefore the truth must be replaced.

    • So CAL Snowman

      except if that criminal has the letters NBA or NFL by their names!

      • These guys may have money. But are short on class.

      • MAJ

        Somewhere around 75% of NFL players ultimately declare bankruptcy. With all that money you’d think they would help their bruthas. But no – they buy expensive crap – and the irony is that they take all their money and turn around and pump it right back into the White economy. Then they complain they “don’t got nuffin.”
        Of course, the last White businesses they buy from get burned from the bankruptcy because the money has run out and there’s nothing left to pay for the Rolex and the department store credit cards and the house with the basketball court.
        Even on their slide back to the ghetto they manage to tick off a few more White people.

    • bluffcreek1967

      Yes, you’re right about this Crystal. The problem is that you’re using common sense and wisdom which is sadly lacking among our so-called ‘minorities.’

  • WmarkW

    The primary reason to support conservatism — people are NOT stupid, and will make good decisions eventually, if allowed sufficient amount of feedback on failure. A salesman who has to fit in, will learn how to fit in. The West’s knowledge based culture of democracy, capitalism, the scientific method, and separation of church and state, create the necessary feedback mechanism to test successful ideas. Only ideologues believe that cultural overseers can make disparate peoples think differently and mean it.

  • falsedawn

    faugeghttaboud how a black dresses, rule of thumb is never, ever do business with them, and if you must for some reason, never, ever take a check, money order, credit card, etc., etc., etc. ALWAYS only take cash from blacks, before you give them a product or service.

    • IstvanIN

      As for the cash, make sure the ink doesn’t smudge.

      • The Worlds Scapegoat

        Asian food businesses hate blacks. The blacks are always passing phoney cash. They try everything they can to keep blacks out of their business.

        • gemjunior

          Well they tend to be annoying and feel they should get free stuff. When I was young and worked in the supermarket they were always pulling some baloney, and also taking home napkins and straws from a Burger King I worked in. But the worst was in my early 20s I bartended part time and every single black guy that would come in as a regular was always begging for free drinks. I gave buybacks like any one but these ones wanted free drinks and they are very blatant about it. “I’ll have a bud light” I put it down on a coaster and there’s no money. I look at them and they’re smiling at me. I say the price, and they start with the flirting and the leaning on the bar. It’s always the same. I just called out to the security guy who read the paper by the door. He was a big burly guy with blond hair and a mustache and tattoos. He was also a disgruntled and resentful Vietnam vet who liked to put the hurt on bothersome customers, especially black ones trying for entitlements or favors. If they came in again they didn’t mess around. One horrible black black man had a blond girlfriend always with him and he spoke to her like she was trash. Horrible.

          • Tim

            My personal favorite was them ordering a drink and then telling me, “Now don`t you try to cheat me on the Cognac!!” And I`d stop the pour and say, “Are you calling me a thief before I even finish pouring your drink?!?’

          • SintiriNikos

            She was trash

        • But at the same time, they open their business in the ghetto. What do you expect?

        • OlderWoman

          Asian friends of a friend of mine won’t shop at Goodwill or Salvation Army. They won’t run the risk of purchasing clothing that might have been worn by blacks.

          • bigone4u

            Not to worry. In my experience blacks do not give, but only take. Donated items come from whites and Hispanics.

        • Non Humans

          I’m sure that they get a good deal of the “Special Floor Seasonings” at no extra charge. I’ve got a friend whose family runs a Thai food restaraunt. I mentioned this around her brother and got snickering grin in reply.

          • gemjunior

            Not trying to be thick but I’d be interested in the meaning of the “special floor seasonings”?

          • Non Humans

            When food, particularly meat, is “Accidentally” dropped on the floor (sometimes stepped on, or worse kicked into a corner) in foodservice. Usually in response to poor behavior by patrons.

        • bluffcreek1967

          I’ve noticed this as well. Asian store owners are very suspicious of blacks when they enter their businesses (gee, I wonder why?). As a well dressed white man, they always greet me kindly and respectfully whenever I enter. Yes, I know it’s because they see the potential of making money. But I think it’s also because many of the older Asians still admire whites and what they have accomplished worldwide. One is also likely to gain respect from others if one is well-dressed, well-groomed and conducts himself/herself with a sense of self-respect – something blacks fail miserably at.

    • I would take a credit card as long as the charge went through.

  • The__Bobster

    No good can ever come from trying to help Bantus.

    • Unperson

      Quite so. Mr. Molloy was, after all, only attempting to offer constructive, intelligent advice to potential black readers of his book. Constructive advice rooted in common sense. And now, for his troubles, the author gets retroactively crucified in the courts; and smeared for the thoughtcrime of Racism. For paragraphs he wrote decades ago.

      Molloy really would have been better off not including ANYTHING about blacks (or hispanics) in his book. But then, I suppose, he’d be smeared for “ignoring minorities” and “invisibilizing The Other” or something.

      The esteemed AmRen commenter sbuffalonative likes to say, “With blacks, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” This Dress for Success disaster is a good example of that.

      BTW, I’m glad the award has been reduced, but it doesn’t alter the fact that a case this silly should never have been taken seriously by our legal system in the first place.

      • MAJ

        Exactly. The book actually tries to HELP blacks with ways to improve their standing but that somehow is forgotten. Then again, you don’t have to be genius to realize that if a black salesman dresses like a low rent hip-hop mogul he’s not going to sell as many widgets as a smartly dressed White.
        I fail to understand black logic – but I’m afraid there isn’t any. What kind of moronic thought process – and lack of self-esteem – leads one to take a self-help book from their employer and in response sues the employer because he din’t like what was in the self-help book even though it really was helpful?
        This is the action of an 8 year old.
        And again, who enabled this to proceed? They face much of the blame.

  • Barrack Osama

    “were assumed to be embezzlers, college professors, or alcoholics”

    Oh dear god, not college professors.

    • SLCain

      Indeed. I might be inclined to help out an embezzler or an alcoholic. But a college professor? No way.

  • So CAL Snowman

    I guess Willy Loman never read this book. . .

    • Sherman_McCoy

      Didn’t he die?

  • For his next discrimination case, SHAWN BROOKS, Appellant, will probably sue the car dealership that bought air time from his white successor at Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network. Ooop! Statute of limitations is up.

  • Bo_Sears

    You guys don’t understand the changes in America. We were divided into two groups around 1900 under the guise of pluralism. Then in mid-1960s we were forcefully initiated into something called multiculturalism. In the mid-1990s, politicized multiracialism made its appearance. By 2020 we’ll be in full blown institutionalized multinationalism whether we want it or not.

    But the key thing to understand about it is that people from one demographic affinity group lack the capacity to name, label, define, or describe members of other groups. Had Mr. Molloy written a book of advice about the diverse white Americans selling to diverse white Americans, he wouldn’t have run into this particular buzz saw. But this is the way it is, and we are free to attackback at members of other groups who adopt a supremacist position toward us allowing them to call us WASPs, goyim, gringo, honky, cracker. We lay these ideas out in ResistingDefamation.org

  • StillModerated

    A lot of change since 1980. Nowadays foolish Whites think it’s OK to show up to a job interview with visible tattoos, holey jeans, and the latest Air Jordans. But what do I care? Les Moonves, Viacom, Infinity Broadcasting, WYSP, and particularly that snake Howard Stern are to blame for the cultural landslide that is the disastrous new AmeriKwa.

    And if this Brooks boy is offended, then I’m really glad he’s offended. He can go and have a good cry.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      The really puzzling aspect to the phenomenon you mentioned is that a lot of people pay more for the privilege of dressing like slobs than good clothes cost. Neckties, for instance don’t really wear out, so the fashionistas keep swinging them between wide and narrow, just to keep sales going. They’re also grossly overpriced when new, but I have that game beat; I buy medium-width ties at the Arc thrift store. A fellow who’s willing to dig through lots of ties can find some really nice ones. With a medium width, one is almost never complete in fashion, but also never completely out of it. My dress shoes are a pair of Nunn-Bush black Oxford wingtips I bought 20 years ago for $55. Show me a pair of $185 Chinese-made “afawete” shoes that will hold up like that! Dress shirts and slacks come from Costco – I’m an easy size to fit. My blue blazer is 29 years old, my suit is 20, and I don’t know how old my tweed jacket is because I bought that at the Arc as well. Ten dollars, back in 2006.

      The fact that the sort of people who wear flip-flops to job interviews seem completely oblivious to the fact that it is a deal-killer where getting hired is concerned is something I’ll never understand, so I won’t even try to address the whys and wherefores.

      • SintiriNikos

        My favourite pair of shoes are my Nunn-Bush wing tips. So comfortable, they have like a little gel-like pad on top of the insole at the heel. Factory outley issue, I probably paid $50 for it tops. Good deals to be had. I got some Nubuck Bostonians for about $50 too. It’s amazing how affordable living and dressing and eating well can be. Even books. When I hear liberals blame poverty and lack of books on the condition of blacks and other under-achieving minorities, I think, how about used books on Amazon for a penny plus shipping. Good condition hard cover books can be had for 6-7 bucks for God’s sake. And have these people not heard of a public library or what?!

        • Michael_C_Scott

          Amazon has many wonderful things. I bought the platinum edition of Neverwinter Nights from them for $11 in 2006 and my wife and friends and I play the hell out of it today. My favorite footwear is not the N-B wingtips, but a pair of hobnailed German jackboots that are older than my mother: horsehide on the outside and calfskin on the inside. I pulled them on to get the mail this evening, and the heel irons struck sparks off the ice-free patches of concrete.

          • SintiriNikos

            Wow those jackboots sound great. They don’t make things like they used to, do they? I never heard of Neverwinter Nights, my next Google search. Thanks to Amazon, mostly the used book vendors, I am building myself quite the library. I am currently wrapping up reading of Earth Abides, one of those books that make me shake my head and wonder ‘what the hell junk have I spent my life reading until now?!’ Why did books like this elude me for so long? Anyway, I am doing some catching up, and in some ways I am happy I am enjoying these books now that I am somewhat mature.

          • Michael_C_Scott

            For free add-ons, the Community Expansion Pack and additional free adventures, Google the “Neverwinter Vault”. Some of the free adventures (such as the three-part series “Aribeth’s Redemption” are every bit as good as the original series.

            No; some things are just not made the way they used to be. We had a Stone Age, a Bronze Age, a Dark Age, an Industrial Age, but instead of calling this the Information Age, I call it the Shoddy Age.

    • nexus

      howard stern??
      try MTV.. they’ve done more sociological damage to American youth than a hundred sterns.

  • bigone4u

    Instead of the book, the companies that hire minority salesmen should just have a dress code applying to everyone. You know, everyone must wear a blue suit, white shirt, red tie, black wingtips. The suit plus accessories must be of high quality.
    The black who filed the lawsuit in this case sure had a chip on his shoulder. I would hate to be his supervisor or coworker.

    • The problem is that dress codes have been challenged, denounced as racist, and largely eliminated because they’re considered “white standards” and not “inclusive”.

      Businesses don’t even challenge people’s appearance anymore. Go to any chain drug store and you can see any number of ‘colorfully’ outfitted staff .

      If you set a dress code, you can be sure it’s going to be challenged in court and the business is going to lose.

  • bluffcreek1967

    Once again, it’s amazing how blacks get offended at everything – even when the advice given to them is valid and will actually help them to be successful!?

    • nexus

      if jesse jackson had wote EXACTLY the same thing, it would’ve been hailed as “game-changing” for bantus.

      • nexus


        • SintiriNikos


  • SmithandSmith

    Let me guess, those “sympathetic ears” on that commission were black right? Blacks only sue because they win. Seriously, if blacks knew there would be no payday, they’d never be “offended”.

    On another note, it’s really really sad that American’s Rights are being constantly violated and no one can stop it. You’re not supposed to be able to sue someone just because your feelings are hurt. This is not America.

  • GeneticsareDestiny

    The poor guy was just trying to give black salesmen some advice to help them make more money. Isn’t that what blacks are always pressuring whites to do, help them get money?

    But of course, dealing with blacks as a group will never turn out well, no matter how positive a person’s intentions.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      Blacks are not always pressuring whites to help them get money. They pressure us to GIVE them money, which is a completely different thing. The last thing they want to do is have to earn it themselves.

  • Tim

    I read the book when it came out and it changed my life… The one part I remember was about briefcases. They are a MUST for Black men. As an “expert” put it…”Without it I`m just another @#$%^. With it I`m a “Black Gentleman…”

  • Sloppo

    “After reviewing the book, commission Chairman Stephen A. Glassman called it “the most egregious case of published documentation on stereotyping and bias toward race, gender and religion in the workplace the commissioners have seen in a long time.”

    Hmmm…. Mr. Glassman doesn’t seem to get out much. Perhaps he should pay a visit to the country which was established as an ethno-state for his own people.

  • Michael_C_Scott

    If I were a manager in a deep-pocketed corporation, from this I’d draw the lesson that salaries, promotions and even continued employment need to be based entirely on performance, and that any employee who hurts his own sales volume by refusing to look and act professionally needs neither my help nor my pity.

  • PesachPatriot

    You know i’m pretty sure when my demographic came to the US about a hundred years ago or so in big numbers and someone wrote a book designed to help us get along and succeed in early 20th century america and it said things like “Shave your beard either completely off or to a reasonable modern length and style to avoid looking like you just stepped out of a dirt floor shack in the carpathian mountains, do not wear shtreimels(the big fur fox hats that are still worn in parts of brooklyn by orthodox men on sabbaths and holidays)but regular american hats are ok, learn to speak english without an accent and be willing to work on a saturday or a holiday” we would not be this upset about it…most of us figured out those basic instructions for navigating american society even without that book somehow. Why is it that everyone else in america white, native amerindian, asian, most hispanics etc can figure out how to use a belt without specifically being instructed to do so.?


    As a supervisor, I had a subordinate who wore the most outlandish outfit: Starting from his head and moving down: a beret, a butch haircut, a beard, a red bow tie, a white dress shirt, old jeans, and old tennis shoes. We had no dress code, which was odd since we were a service outfit. I pondered why personal appearances were important since the claim then was that they were only superficial [Einstein came to mind]. It finally dawned on me: a poor personal appearance says, “I don’t care what you think of me; therefore, I do not care about you.” Not a first impression you want to convey to a customer.