Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, February 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications #4

by Professor Richard Ratliff

A Butler’s Wardrobe, Part 2 of 2

Informal/business wear: For most business occasions, a butler would require a conservatively cut, dark, solid-color business suit; an all-white or light blue long-sleeve dress shirt; a dark, solid-color tie (usually black for most suit colors, and dark brown for brown-toned suits); solid-color socks to match the tie, and black or brown Oxfords; and a black or brown belt to match the shoes.

For business occasions, a female butler should wear a tailored dark business suit (with skirt or slacks), a modest white or pastel-color blouse, with conservative necklace and small earrings or studs (no dangling jewelry). Pockets or a small, plain, preferably leather, over-the-shoulder purse may be used to carry the tools necessary for her duties. She should wear black or brown pumps (no more than 2-inch heels) with plain hose.

Day clothes: Today’s male butler has traded in his tails and stripes for modern business attire for his everyday butling duties. The typical modern day clothes include a simple, but well-tailored navy blazer and gray wool slacks with black or brown belt; a white or pastel blue, long-sleeve business shirt; a solid black long tie; black socks and black or dark-brown Oxfords.

Lady butlers may choose either a gray skirt or gray wool slacks. They may wear a white or blue blouse with a conservative necklace and single petite earrings or studs. They should choose plain hose with modest pumps or oxfords. Since purses are awkward for butling, the female butler may wear a dark-color light-weight blazer or jacket, or a dark-color vest with ample pockets.

Leisure wear: For leisure wear, male butlers may typically wear khaki trousers with a belt, dark socks, and Oxfords, sneakers, deck shoes, or hiking boots (depending upon the season and activity). In summer they typically wear polo shirts and in winter long-sleeved flannel shirts and sweaters. Women butlers may substitute a khaki skirt for trousers, and footlets for socks, if preferred.

Sporting attire: The butler should have appropriate sporting attire for those occasions when his or her duties require it. Of course, each specific activity determines what is needed. Choose more conservative styles and colors.

Other attire: Butlers also will require an array of aprons; sleeve covers; several sets of white cotton gloves; and outer wear, consisting of warm leisure gloves, dressy leather gloves, work gloves, a couple of umbrellas, a light windbreaker jacket, a warm leisure winter coat (such as a pea coat or parka), a trench coat for cool and rainy conditions; a dark gray, woolen overcoat for dressy occasions, a warm “barn” coat with large pockets for chores, a wide-brimmed straw hat, a baseball cap, a warm winter hat with ear flaps, ear muffs, a couple of winter scarves, and a pair of rubber overshoes.

Grooming: Of course, impeccable grooming is required for all butlers. Good clothes cannot overcome the negative effects of poor grooming.

General Note: The above suggestions are most applicable to temperate weather zones with four seasons. Adjustments must be made in other climates. The governing principles are to be practical and conservative, and remain in the background.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.”