Anderson C. Toney has two words for the black-clad Armani-wearing armies of Hollywood:
Toney, a Park Avenue etiquette and image consultant, is no Dodger fan. But she’s no fan of black clothing either, for all its entertainment-biz omnipresence. Black, she says, is not the color Hollywood should wear if it wants to close deals.
“I would definitely like to see the standard-issue black Armani suit banned in business,” Toney says. “The only time you should wear it in business is when you’re going to a cocktail party. Otherwise, it’s too toxic.”
Toney trains athletes, models, authors, agents and execs in such delicate matters as handling live TV interviews, etiquette in corporate gatherings, and the best way to dress.
When she says “toxic,” she’s talking about black’s connotations of evil power, a trait that, outside the Land of Mordor in “The Lord of the Rings,” is not the most conducive to cutting a deal.
“I think it definitely works against you,” Toney says.
Blue, according to Toney, says trustworthy, reliable, safe to deal with. And, in an era of casual Fridays and corporate chieftains wearing a new kind of pinstripe, those elegant but formal suits may just get in the way of greater understanding, communication … and deals.
“I think in this town, it comes off as a bit slick,” agrees Bradley Bayou, a designer who also exec produces and hosts “Operation Style” on Lifetime and a pilot for a revived “Fashion Emergency” on E! Entertainment Television. “Here, when you walk in a room with a black suit, people say ‘Whoa, what are they up to?’ ”
Of course, Bayou quickly cautions, it depends on what you do.
“If you just did a hit that did $70 million last weekend, you can wear anything you want,” says Bayou, who advises some of the town’s biggest stars on how to dress for events such as the Emmys and Oscars.
Julie Waldorf, a fashion stylist for Fred Segal Beauty in Beverly Hills whose many clients include agents from CAA, William Morris and Endeavor, says black is always good because it’s easy to coordinate for even the most color-blind, style-clueless agent and because it’s form-flattering, slightly edgy and sophisticated.
“It’ll always be in,” says Waldorf, although she acknowledges agents do have a uniform.
“They’re always suited and booted,” Waldorf says. “They and investment bankers are the last ones left to make an effort (to dress up).”
However they’re cut, suits are likely to remain de rigueur at big agencies for a long time. Among other things, despite Toney’s concerns, agents say they’ve managed to do plenty of deals wearing those black Armani suits.
“Our record of dealmaking stands for itself, year over year,” says one agency rep. “It doesn’t look like a funeral over here.”
At another big shop, it’s “solidly corporate attire, suits and ties, five days a week,” says a rep. He’s more than a bit skeptical of anyone’s style pronouncements.
“Every year, the fashion consultants say brown’s the new black, or gray’s the new black, but I don’t know that anyone here pays attention to that,” he says. “It’s still the black suit. I don’t believe the agents are conforming to corporate culture. They’re conforming to Hollywood.”