Cadbury the Butler Q&A

Professional Staff – Look the Part

Dear Cadbury,
I have a concern that may apply to others among your readers. I have accepted a position that requires frequent travel (perhaps as much as 3 weeks a month). We will generally be flying – partly by a commercial carrier but most often by private plane/jet. Frankly my luggage is in frightful shape and must be replaced a.s.a.p.

Do you have any advice on the purchase of luggage? Prices vary widely. I am not certain that the most costly is necessarily the best value. Are there certain brands that you recommend? What pieces do you consider to be “must haves” for initial purchase and what would be your second tier purchases? Color preferences? I tend toward black, does it matter?

Do you have thoughts regarding fabrics that travel well? Do you have website links for packing? I find that shoes are taking up more space than I want them too. How many pairs of shoes do you travel with?

Perhaps I should mention, that I am a female. Hauling around tons of suitcases seems embarrassing and a dead give away that I am not a seasoned business traveler. Can you offer guidance?
Thank you. Robin Rhyne

Hello Lynn,
One of the best brands of luggage on the market is made by — they make an incredible assortment of luggage and garment bags of all sizes. Also, Tumi luggage is utilitarian/conservative in styling/colors (I think their nicest shade is a ‘light black’), so it’s not likely to outshine your employers’, nor draw attention from baggage thieves which fancier designer luggage often does. Tumi luggage is expensive, but it will hold up in the long run. Sometimes you can find discounted Tumi luggage in the Sierra Trading Post catalog (they do not have this particular brand of luggage on their web site).

An important consideration on smaller private airplanes and jets is the “weight and balance” of the aircraft. What this means is that you would be wise to pack light and small bags because often the plane can only handle a certain weight of extra weight, especially when it has to take off in hot/humid/high altitude conditions, where the air is thinner and the engines have to work harder. For example, when the Concorde used to leave the Bahrain Airport, it could not handle a full passenger load because of the low air density. Overloaded private planes are a significant source of aviation accidents. I’m not saying this to be sensational, but rather to make you aware of an important safety issue. You will never hear a responsible pilot give in to carrying extra weight, no matter what his employer says.

I think for traveling, a folding garment bag and one of those rolling bags that flight attendants use is a good place to start (and a small carry-on bag).

As for clothes and shoes, I’ve always shunned polyester and other synthetic fabrics. They just don’t look nice or hold up. Wools, angoras, silks, cottons, linens, and blends thereof look sharp. To cut down on the amount of clothes you bring, maybe just figure on using local or hotel cleaning establishments – drop off your clothes to be cleaned in the morning, and pick them up in the afternoon, cleaned and pressed. Your employer should pay for you to look your best when you are working.

Wrinkling is an issue with every fabric, especially linen, but the general rule is that rolling clothes instead of folding them works well. As for shoes, I like the idea of wearing shoes on alternate days. Be sure to bring shoe trees, some shoe shine products, a travel steam iron, etc.

Dear Cadbury,
My employer wishes me to wear a uniform that matches their dining room when serving dinner. The problem is that they want me to wear a baby blue tuxedo, shirt, tie and shoes. I find this really humiliating and I am not sure what to do?

Dear GL,
I referred your question to our sartorial expert, Mr. John Robertson (John G. Robertson, Inc., Protocol and Etiquette Consultant, and his reply is as follows: (Cadbury)

I have heard of this problem once before. The butler agreed (rather good-naturedly, I think) to wear a pink tuxedo to match a party theme and the hostess’s dining room. She decided she liked it and wanted him to wear it all the time. The butler politely but firmly declined.

Although it is the employer’s right to determine the butler’s uniform, there are standards. No employer could expect any staff member to perform their duties with pride and in a professional manner when they are made to feel ludicrous in their uniform. A baby blue tuxedo is not a uniform, it is a costume. If you were placed in your job by an agency, I suggest you discuss this with them. In any case, in my opinion, it would be inappropriate and unprofessional for a butler to wear a baby blue tuxedo as his uniform.

John G. Robertson