Author: Kirsty Sampson
You can’t underestimate the power of what we wear to impact strongly on the image we present i.e. the image of who we are as a person. How we dress is part of how we present ourselves and like it or not other people’s perceptions of you will be partially based on your style. Someone that you know very little will use the way you dress as an indicator of how you think and feel to a larger degree than someone you know well. This is why we’re programmed to make more of an effort with our appearance when meeting new people either in a social or professional capacity.
However the way that we dress generally is largely reflective of our attitudes and tastes, continuing to send a message about ourselves even to people you see every day. The way you dress almost certainly dictates how people react to you, on the street, in a shop, on dates or at the office. It has been proven that people are hired or promoted on the basis of their appearance alone, both consciously and unconsciously by the employer.
So, if you’re seeking to change how you’re perceived changing your clothing can be one of the easiest and also most effective actions you can take. Look at yourself objectively, imagining you are looking at a stranger if you have to, and ask yourself what impressions you could draw from your clothing, how you wear it and your personal grooming. A casual shirt for work might actually be seen as scruffy and disrespectful or a large gold watch seen as too showy for the office.
Matching the office dress code is the first place to start as under and over dressing can be equally detrimental. While it might sound as though this means blending in with the crowd that is not the point of matching the dress code. Instead by following the general code you ensure that your appearance is in line with the way that the business wishes to present itself to clients, shareholders and its peers. Wearing a suit when everyone else is in t-shirt and jeans means you’ll look as though you don’t want to be there and are aspiring to a more corporate environment.
Remember though that dress codes are largely open to interpretation, in other words this is your opportunity to stand out as a well put together (and by extension smart and hard working) person. The most common office dress code tends to be ‘smart casual’ however this hybrid seems to be differently weighted from office to office. Wearing the bottom of a suit without the jacket or tie strikes the balance well. Ensure your clothes are freshly laundered and ironed and your hair neat. Signs that you’ve taken care over your appearance will result in more positive impressions.
Consider expressing your personality at the same time though. Personal style is akin to branding; you want to let people know what you’re about and develop a recognisable look e.g. wearing vintage pieces that show off your interests outside of work. I would advise saving any slogans or overt branding for outside office hours though as these are seldom well received in a professional environment.
What we wear in our spare time can differ depending on the setting we’re in or the company you’re with. What you wear on a shopping trip will rarely be the same as what you wear on a date. As I’ve mentioned above though everything you wear says something about you. Keeping your ‘casual’ clothes smart means the impression you give off generally is of a confident, in control and more successful person.
Having fun with your clothes is important too, for yourself and for how people receive you. Funny t-shirts for men show a cheeky side that is attractive to men and women. Humour makes you more relatable in many relationships from friendships to employer-employee relationships.
One golden rule
My golden rule is never to follow trends too closely. If you do you’ll find your wardrobe dates very quickly so you have to stay on top of the latest trends and therefore spend more money. Spending on trends is quite a gamble too as not all trends will suit you, in fact a great many may be totally inappropriate. You also run the risk of being perceived as having no style of your own, a sign that you’re easily led and lack original thinking. Find cuts and styles that suit you really well and buy within this range. You’ll find it easier to shop too because you can instantly identify the clothes that will work for you. Furthermore classic cuts will always be available; you won’t have them hunt down.