PAUL BOUTIN — Pop quiz: Which one of these two men gets angel funding? Podcast evangelist Robert Scoble (left) has Valley menswear on lock. But guys who ape the Scobleizer's pullover-and-slacks look make five fatal mistakes that keep them out of Valley boardrooms.
If you're happy to spend the rest of your life in Engineering, hit the Back button now. But to get ahead you need to dress up, which in the Valley means dressing down just the right way. Avoid these five career-limiting moves:
1. Dyed hair. Valley gals get to color. You don't. It'll show, and everyone will know. If you're going gray, skip the Grecian Formula and wear your salt-and-pepper with pride. "Wow, do you know what that is?" an old friend I ran into recently asked, pointing excitedly to the first touch of gray in my sideburns. "It's an extra hundred an hour in consulting fees!"
2. Wrong shirt. Which is to say, almost any shirt. Stick to polos and oxfords. Avoid colors not found in natural cubicle walls. Brights and blacks — both equally wrong. T-shirts aren't enough, cuff links are too much. When in doubt, stay within the first ten pages of the L.L. Bean catalog.
3. Faded pants. A worn seat is the classic old boy's blind spot. Same for frayed hems above your heels. Back East, this slightly-used look is the secret handshake of old money. Out here, it says you haven't recovered from the dot-com crash. Mix New England thrift with L.A. mall values: Buy the exact same shirts and pants from Banana Republic every six months.
4. Cool shoes. Those red ones? The not-bright-red but more of a zinfandel red pair of leather lace-ups you secretly love? Leave 'em home on board meeting days. You might as well show up in sandals, shorts and a skateboard. Check out Tesla Motors founder Martin Eberhard, right. He's got the greylocks, the oatmeal polo, the off-white slacks, and plain brown shoes to keep it down to earth. Eberhard gets Valley fashion: Your clothes should shut up and let the car do the talking.
5. Body odor. What is that smell? You shower twice a day, but you don't wash your clothes often enough. You don't notice, because your apartment and your car stink the exact same way. No mom, wife or girlfriend to clean up after you? No time to do your own laundry? Outsource it, Einstein. Google Maps pinpoints dozens of pro laundries near you. Most will wash and fold your clothes for a by-the-pound price that's cheaper than spending your own time. Many will pick up and deliver — and deliver your coworkers from you.