Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Catch you on the flip-flop side

Dressing down to dress up is in, and an essential item of clothing in the most up-to-date wardrobe is a pair of flip-flops

By Sharon Waxman  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

Ricky Sancion, the manager at Flight 001, keeps selling out of his stock of Havaianas.

"They talk about flip-flops like it's part of our uniform here in Los Angeles," he said. "It's all everybody wears. There's a girl who works here who wears flip-flops for everything. She never wears shoes. Even if it's raining, she wears flip-flops."

The days when Lew Wasserman, the talent agent turned studio mogul, set the standard for his minions in a dark suit, crisp shirt and black tie, have long gone. When DreamWorks was founded in the mid-1990s, the principals made a point of eschewing not only titles, but also suits and ties. Instead, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg both adopted an outfit of T-shirts under cashmere sweaters, which they've maintained since selling the studio to Paramount.

Nowadays you can find producers and executives on the various studio lots who look more like they just rolled out of bed, not just rolled out a marketing plan.

"I do wear jeans every day," said Laura Kim, a senior executive at Warner Independent Pictures, on the Warner Brothers lot. "The ones I'm wearing today aren't ripped. But I'm wearing a long-john shirt."

She was also, she acknowledged, wearing flip-flops.

Sandy Stern, an independent producer who works in West Hollywood, prefers to leave his flip-flops at home -- he maintains that they're a driving hazard.

But he does have a formula for simplifying his life: "I bring my dog to work, and I shave on Wednesday. That gets me through the week."

The dog, a 23kg shepherd mix, is not only for personal comfort, but for judging his visitors.

"Right away you learn a lot about person if you walk in a room with a dog there," he said. "It's either an immediate icebreaker or it immediately sets off a flag -- and I don't want to be in business with that person."

Creative people in Hollywood -- screenwriters, actors and directors -- have always dressed more casually than agents and executives. And to some degree, the higher on the food chain you are in the entertainment hierarchy, the more casual you are able, or likely, to dress, even in an executive suite. Brad Weston, with the powerful job of co-president for production at Paramount Pictures, is a potent example of this.

On a recent visit to the lot by a reporter, the executive -- head shaved, face stubbled -- was wearing a rumpled T-shirt, jeans and beat-up black leather boots. Around his neck was a choker with a single bead, and in one ear was an earring.

Weston said he had always dressed more or less in this manner, even before he joined Paramount last year. But he draws the line at flip-flops.

"I have flip-flops in multiple colors, but I don't wear them to Paramount," he said.

Some people look askance at his office attire, but "people have been saying things my whole career," he said. "I don't dress like a slob."

Janet Hill, a spokeswoman for Paramount, observed: "Brad's our Zen guy. He can pull it off."

With nearly naked feet making their way into serious business meetings, the slide toward casual may be irreversible. Even at the talent agencies, a besieged bastion of suits and ties, the casual ethos is making inroads. At the Superman premiere, David Wirtschafter, the president of the William Morris Agency, was wearing sneakers with Velcro fastenings, jeans and a long-sleeved black T-shirt.

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