Seabrook on ... how to look like a professional

The late David Colegrave built a very fine, high-quality flower seed business in his sadly too-short life.

Out on the road selling seeds, he could be seen picking his way in shiny shoes up muddy nursery lanes, immaculately dressed and carrying a sleek leather suitcase.

There are plenty of old sayings - "clothes make the man", "get ahead, get a hat" (Fisons reps in days gone by were told to wear a trilby, or so Mike Oliver tells me), "when a man takes off his tie, he loses his dignity" and so on.

These thoughts are prompted after an edict went out to employees of The Sun telling them to be correctly dressed when working in public for the paper. The editor's view is that every member of staff on "the greatest newspaper in the world" should be dressed as its ambassador. Turn up for work in an open-necked shirt, jeans and trainers and you get sent home. So much for dress-down Friday.

Often we hear complaints about the pay for professional gardeners and horticulturists. Perhaps if we dressed the part of professionals, we could gain greater respect. Baseball cap, T-shirt, lumber jacket and navies' boots may at times be the appropriate dress for the job, but there is a time and a place.

At a good school recently, there was a line-up of teachers applying for a post. The head was heard to say to his recruiter: "Not the one in the sweater." He may have been an excellent teacher, but failed on first sight.

The shoes worn by postgraduates going up for awards on presentation day catch my attention. They tell almost as much about the person as their academic award. Or is it just my army training?

I do know that wearing a collar, tie, tailored jacket and having a "quaint English accent" kept me employed on American TV for more than 20 years. It was necessary to be able to do the job well, but appearances count.

I wish all of you a very happy Christmas and successful new year.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.

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