…and You Walk Like an Athlete

A while ago, Ellen explained how the men in black shoes and the right suits, control the world’s economy and who knows what else. It reminded me of the story of how I got that job in the Gold Building. I was pretty sure I had already shared this part of the story. I searched, but I couldn’t find it, so I think that lets me off the hook if I am repeating myself. Besides, I’m getting older. Follow this blog long enough and I’ll be repeating the same three posts every other week. My editor probably won’t remember either, she’ll just insert and remove the commas, “that’s” and other subjective grammatical corrections.

Yes, I know, “grammar isn’t subjective Dan and it isn’t optional” yeah yeah yeah.

Anyway, my story begins on a very bad day in Seattle, Washington. I, along with a few hundred coworkers, was laid off from Weyerhaeuser Company. This was blamed partly on the economy, home mortgage rates of 19-21% had stifled the housing market, and partly on Mt. St. Helens, whose eruption had damaged extensive swaths of Weyerhaeuser owned/leased forest land. All I remember is:

Blah, blah, blah, you’re not going to work here anymore.

We had been thinking of moving back east, so I started looking for employment opportunities in and around New York City. I arranged a couple of interviews. I made reservations (I did tell my travel story before) and I took my suits to the cleaners.

You should know that Seattle in general and Weyerhaeuser in particular were somewhat relaxed, with respect to fashion in 1981. I owned three suits: one light gray, one brown herringbone and one powder blue. All of them were 3-piece jobs, because I like vests. You need to see a skinny 6’2” (188 cm) kid in a powder blue 3-pc suit to know what “professional” looks like.

I was riding my motorcycle a lot at the time, so I didn’t try picking up my cleaning until well after the promised date. In fact, I waited until Friday afternoon of the week in which I was leaving on the Saturday red-eye for my week of interviews.

As I approached the parking lot, I saw a trailer in front of a pile of charred rubble where the dry cleaner had been. An insurance adjuster inside the trailer explained that the cleaner had been totally destroyed but that if I had my ticket he could help me. I handed him my ticket and he offered me $750 on the spot. If my shirts and suits were worth more, I’d have to file a claim.

I took the money.

It was too late to start shopping, but I was at Brooks Brother’s when they opened on Saturday morning. I explained my predicament. I needed two suits and a few shirts, and I needed them altered that day; a feat equivalent to obtaining a heart transplant before lunch. Still, the salesman seemed very interested in the $750 part of my story. He picked out a dark solid gray and a blue pinstripe suit. He added two white and two blue shirts, and two ties, at which point we had exceeded my insurance windfall.

Since my dress shoes at the time were brown, really, go read Ellen’s post, I walked across the street and bought the most expensive and most uncomfortable black shoes I’ve ever owned, while they altered my suits.

Too prevent an even longer story, I wore the blue pinstripe suit to my interview with Peat Marwick. The interview went well. I got the job.

A few months later, I had been asked to prepare a proposal to redesign the systems for a nearby school district. I drafted what I thought was a great proposal, which spoke of using recently developed systems design techniques, in which I had been trained 3 months before burning my suits.

The partner rejected my idea as being “too close to the leading edge for a school system.”

We argued:

Why not show them that we can bring cutting edge ideas to the engagement?

It will scare them. We have to use terms they understand.”

I can help them to understand this. Trust me, this is what I do!


If you didn’t plan on letting me use the skillset I have to offer, why on earth did you hire me in the first place?

He threw a copy of the New Partner brochure on the table. The cover was the headless chest of a man wearing a blue pinstripe suit, blue shirt and a red tie.

I hired you because you looked like a consultant!

You hired me for my looks?

Yes. However, if I had paid attention to the way you walk, I wouldn’t have hired you.”

What’s wrong with the way I walk?

You walk like an athlete.”

We submitted a same-old-same-old proposal. We did not get the engagement. I eventually bought comfortable shoes. To this day, I buy shoes that feel good, I’m not sure if I still walk like an athlete, or even how athletes walk. I never replaced the power blue suit.

Today’s photos are from a visit to Mt Rainier National Park in 1998. Faith and I walked like athletes during that visit.


  1. I have had a beard almost continuously since 1968. I have shaved it off twice but never for longer than a week. before growing it back. Once, I even went through US immigration clean shaven but with a passport wearing a beard! During the first one of my weeks I had lunch with the general manager of a french bank in London. I had been offered the job of chief FX dealer there and he wanted to meet me. When I started the job, I had grown the beard back and he was horrified. “If I had known that you had a beard, I would never of hired you.” was the comment. Martin, who had offered me the job, explained. I didn’t shave the beard off and the GM got used to it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t even imagine you without a beard. Banks have always seemed to be at the tight end of appearance restrictions.

      I had shaven my beard off for a long time, but my wife likes it, so it keeps coming back. I shaved it pretty close before my first passport photo, because I wanted to shave it off, but she didn’t. I left it alone when I renewed my passport. I figure I could always let it grow for a bit before traveling.


      • Back in 1968, one guy in the foreign department of the bank, where I worked, grew a beard and they threatened him with dismissal. Some months later, me being sick of razor rash on my face, grew a beard over Easter. The General Manager came into the dealing room and I “hid” my face as best I could. His comment “Pennington, what are you hiding?) (all last names in those days). When I showed him, he turned black as thunder and walked out. It was only later (wait for the trumpets!) that I realised that, at 23 years old I was the youngest currency dealer that they had ever had but was also very good at my job, so I got away with it. I have kept it ever since. Mind you,with my long mop of white hair and a white beard I get called Father Christmas or Papa Smurf!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Mount Ranier area is beautiful…one of the areas of the country I have yet to explore.

    That’s hysterically funny that you were hired because you looked like someone in a brochure. Did they even look at your resume?

    Powder blue suit, huh? I bet that was special. No, really, I bet it was. Kind of like the guy in this video…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha – I was NOT wearing a ruffled shirt with that suit. It was a common look out there at that time. Also, I’m not sure men wore/wear brown suits anywhere else in the country, but they were very popular in Seattle. I’m not sure the guy spent much time looking at my resume, or listening to my answers. He just wanted to know that I could muster an answer and play the part. I learned a lot working for him. And, I’ve owned a blue pinstripe suit ever since.

      The Pacific Northwest is a very beautiful part of the country. I’ve done a loop around Washington a few times. From rain forest, to snow-capped peaks, to desert in a few hundred miles.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That first response was supposed to be to bikerchick’s remark but obviously something didn’t work. What a crazy story and what a move, from one side of the country to the other in more ways than distance! When I was in high school, one of the guys I knew told me he could always tell it was me even from a distance because I walked like I was trying to get somewhere. Same idea, but no job riding on it. :-)


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been a guest teacher/lecturer at high school and college classes and I look around and simply shake my head. “This is the future?” I think. Also, posture. I’ve seen some kids slouch so far into their seat that you can barely see their head. – Thanks!


  4. Clothes really do matter. Walks can be telltale like that.
    For years and years, I’d watch my husband take the field in formation, along with another 300-400 people dressed just like him. I’d wait 200 yards from the motor pool. I’d wait at the airport. I’d wait at the garrison. I’d wait and wait and wait all the time, hoping to find the one that was mine. The first person I’d find would be my friend’s husband, because ears. I couldn’t find my own until I saw him walking.
    I may not judge people by their walks, but I know them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I get it. Having a husband that’s always been an athlete, and my children have always played sports they each have a unique gait. I can easily spy my son in a crowd. I just look for blond heads taller than most if not all others.

    Daughter is small so finding her in a crowd is a bit trickier, so my gaze is a lot lower. Fortunately she’s got a unique figure so she tends to stand out even in a crowd.

    The classic power suit look will ever be timeless. Comfortable shoes are what I buy too, and no heel higher than 2 inches…or else I’d fall and kill myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The funny think is that, other than bowling and archery, I never played any sport. At least you can find your family in a crowd :)

      Fortunately, heels are not an option or I would be in trouble. These days, it’s Dockers and a dress shirt, and comfortable shoes. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good golly – I’ve never hired a person because they looked the part I wanted them to play – but then, I’m out here in the San Francisco area thus I walk like an Egyptian.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve really got me wondering, Dan. How do athletes walk? Next Diamond Athletic Meeting I’m going to look very carefully. I’d love to know how I walk. By the way both my sons are in IT and pretty sharp. I haven’t seen them in suits for years. When I see how they dress for work, I wish I could’ve dressed like.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great story, Dan. I lost a job because the guy detected a limp. (Yup I have one) I told him I played too much tennis the day before (true) and was a little sore. He didn’t buy it. I was in the corporate best-dressed category so it was the limp that did me in. Lovely pictures. Such a treat to see faith as a little one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Looks and personal presentation matters almost more than ones resume when interviewing for most jobs. My mother told me that when I first entered the work world and I have never forgotten her words. I can’t imagine that “walking like an athlete” would be a bad thing, unless your sport was riding bulls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marian. We eventually came clean about all the adventures. We didn’t want to worry her while we were on the road. These were printed from film and I took photos of those photos with my phone, but that is the way the print looks. I don’t quite understand why.


    • Ha! I’d blame it on the 70s or the northwest, or something, but I liked that suit. Fortunately, my ex-wife has the only photos. Hopefully, she has burned them by now. The Cascades are beautiful.


  10. Yes, but like what kind of athlete?? Like a weight-lifter? With your arms stuck out the side and a waddle in your step? Or a walker? With that weird bottom wiggle thing? So many variations….

    Did you have really pointy shoes to go with that powder blue suit?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Life can be extremely absurd :-). I got my first job because I went to the wrong place but got people who lived there to get me to the right place and my interview :-). They did like my skillset though and didn’t bother about how I walked :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This reminds me of a friend saying, after a few months in her first working-with-men-who-wear-suits job, that it had taught her that not everyone who wears a suit is smart. With your story in mind, I’m going to stretch that further and say that some of them are outright idiots. He hired you for your suit? And he actually knew he was doing that?

    Words fail me. I’m going to have to start throwing things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Be careful. Whether he knew it or not, I was qualified. Consulting, at least in those firms, was form over function. We did good work, but we got jobs by looking the part, in person and on paper. Thanks for the inspiration for this one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It really is bizarre. My partner worked with a man who only seemed to hire washed-out-looking blondes. And she worked in another organization where all the men were former athlete types, as if the hiring committees were all trying to clone each other. I have no doubt you were qualified, but that seems to be low on the list of qualities they look for.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m pretty sure that my resume alone wouldn’t have landed me the job. Certainly not in that powder blue suit. Then again, it’s amazing I was able to wear that anywhere. There was always a sense of appearance at Peat Marwick. In my consulting orientation, we were instructed to “remember that you always represent the firm.” I was once chastised for wearing jeans to a hockey game, after they had given away unused tickets from the block that they held.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. You’re smarter than I am, Dan. I didn’t make the move to comfortable shoes until I was 62. I remember it well because I’ve been a happier person since. I still have a few uncomfortable high heels in my closet. I should get rid of them. I get a headache every time I see them. People used to say my first husband walked like an athlete. I never knew what they meant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. I had help. My wife suggested reasonably good looking but comfortable shoes early on. Several years later, I broke my foot. After that, comfort was the only way I could go. I don’t know what walking like an athlete means, but it’s good to know that at least one other person was likewise accused.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You were ‘involuntarily terminated.’ I’ve always loved that HR term. Like anyone in the world would involuntarily terminate themselves. Okay, now on to the clothes. Yes, those were the days when a person was hired for their business impression. I’m not sure how that has translated into today’s environment of nose rings, tattoos, and blue hair, and I don’t want to know. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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