When your workmates start passing you a comb and offering to take you shopping, most people would get the hint and smarten up their act.
Not Ash Chambers. Comfort was the most important factor in his dress code. And wasn’t black trousers, black T-shirt and shoes smart enough? It all matched, so he couldn’t see the need to change a thing.
But the 40-year-old from Foxhill was in for a surprise; after years of trying to gently coax him, colleagues at Mercury Taxis decided to force him to change his scruffy ways - by nominating him for a Smarten Up The Boss makeover in Business Monthly.
Ash was nominated by Claire Thompson, Mercury’s marketing assistant: “Ash is one of our managers, He covers the evening hours at our head office in Crookes,” wrote Claire. “His main role is to support staff in the call centre but he helps customers calling into the office and can be called upon to fix a driver’s car radio or jumping in a cab to cover a booking.
“He does have to come to the office dressed accordingly. But he is a self-confessed man of minimal effort who looks no different whether he’s at work or on a night out. In fact, there have been times when members of staff have been heard offering Ash a comb to run through his hair half way through a shift!
I’d love to see Ash dressed to impress and ready to brighten up the office. He’s such a lovely guy. After a pointer in the right direction to Fashion Sense Avenue, he could be on Dress to Impress Road.”
We put two experts in the driving seat - personal shopper Laura Stephenson at House of Fraser in Meadowhall, and Lindsey Liversidge, style director at the Regis International hair salon at High Street, Meadowhall.
Lindsey decided Ash’s unkempt style looked plain and messy but discovered he had issues - namely a double crown, a nape whirl and poker-straight hair. I had to work with them all and keep the fringe he was reluctant to part with, but used clippers and texturising techniques to create a style that reflects the fashionable retro look, finishing with Sebastian texturising clay. It’s a style he will be able to manage himself.”
At House of Fraser, Laura handed him a £100 voucher to spend and gently lured the conservative dresser out of his comfort zone. “He clearly liked to blend in with the crowd and had an aversion to anything but black,” she said. “I thought a smart suit or bright colours would be too dramatic but thought the English country gent look that is so strong this autumn would suit him. It’s sophisticated but still casual and is made up of pieces that can be worn separately. I worked an outfit around a Howick tweed jacket and he looked much more confident - really dapper in a Downton Abbey way!”
Ash admitted: “I felt nervous when a personal shopper was mentioned. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. The nearest I’ve ever got to one is when the girls at work offer to take me shopping to smarten me up - which I always decline. But what a revelation. It’s a great way to shop. An expert does all the hard work for you.”
“We spoke on the phone so Laura could work out my personality and attitude to fashion and when I got to her studio, there was a rail of clothes waiting. None of the items were things I would have picked. It was alien territory. A tweed jacket? No. Spotted shirt? Definitely not. There was even a bow tie. I’ve only ever worn one with a dinner suit.
“But Laura showed me how to put things together and once I’d tried things on I changed my mind. I would definitely wear the outfit.
“The experience has changed my perception about personal shoppers. If you’re like me and don’t pay attention to trends or really bother about how you look, they are brilliant.”
Fashionista Gok Wan’s dramatic approach to styling isn’t right for everyone.
“People expect personal shoppers to be as forceful as TV presenter Gok and think that a styling session will leave them looking completely different,” says House of Fraser stylist Laura Stephenson.
“Most find that a scary proposition. I work hard to make them feel comfortable enough to trust my judgement as I take them out of their comfort zone to try new things.”
Most customers are men and women reaching middle age, who want to find the styles that will keep them looking youthful, and new mothers coming to terms with changes to their figure, says Laura.
“We are trained to assess a client’s colouring, shape, good and not so good points and often see them in a much more positive way then they see themselves. After a detailed consultation, I hit the shop floor on their behalf, then a trying-on session follows. Appointments can last up to three hours and are free, with no minimum spend.”