Formal route is the only way to go for Chan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am

Many people would think prominent public figure and member of the executive council, Asia Financial Group president Bernard Chan may have a supersize wardrobe to meet his daily needs for occasions.

However, there are only two types of clothing in his wardrobe - sportswear and formal, serious clothing.

Heading an insurance institution with 200 staff providing financial services, Mr Chan felt that having staff wear formal clothing to work was one way to help build a corporate image.

While his company has no formal dress code, he felt there should be an unspoken rule for dressing appropriately throughout the company.

'For male staff, we have a corporate tie and we encourage them to wear that at least two days a week; some have become used to it and wear it every day,' he said.

His company also provides a corporate pin for men and women staff. 'A shirt, a tie and a pair of trousers are the basics for the male staff, and a blouse and long pants are the work attire preferred by most female employees who form the bulk of the staff.'

In Mr Chan's opinion, wearing a tie enhances the professional image of people in the financial services industry. Although employees in foreign banks and financial institutions were fast picking up the trend to dress more casually and work in long-sleeved shirts and trousers without a tie, he said local banks were more conservative towards their staff's work attire.

'I wear a corporate tie every day. Personally, I find wearing a shirt without a jacket is fine, but without a tie it looks a bit strange,' he said.

Aside from helping to project a professional image, Mr Chan's obsession with ties also springs from Hong Kong's air-conditioned environment where ties protect his neck from the chill.

Although Mr Chan finds a shirt and a tie acceptable for dressing down in the workplace, his daily work attire always includes a full suit, and you will never find him wearing a polo shirt.

'People won't treat you seriously if you don't wear a suit. Whenever I am not wearing a suit in the office, people ask if it is my off day,' he said.

With no time to try out outfits in different styles and fancy colours these days, Mr Chan simply adheres to dark colours for his formal clothing, which his wife has occasionally described as boring.

'My shirts are mostly white and blue, my jackets are predominately dark blue and black, and my shoes are all black,' he said. 'Twenty years ago I would wear pinstriped suits, burgundy shoes and fancy-coloured shirts, but these days my professional dress is very conservative.

'However when I am not at work, I always wear sports clothing. I particularly like fabrics such as synthetic material and polyester that are breathable, water-resistant and stretchable, making me comfortable.'

Mr Chan pays more attention to the material and fitting these days when selecting items for his professional wardrobe.

'Everything in my wardrobe is custom made. My suits, trousers and shirts are custom made. I don't care about brands anymore. I am more concerned with how well they fit me. To me, feeling comfortable is more important than brands.'

In keeping with his dress philosophy where comfort is king, Mr Chan has put away his dozen fancy, branded watches which he used to wear to work to match his different suits. 'I just got tired of switching watches,' he said. 'Now that I serve in many public services, there is no need to show them to people.'

On the day he was interviewed he wore a simple sport watch equipped with a duel-time function, an essential item that makes his professional wardrobe unusual and accentuates his practical character.