‘Dressing for success’ is not a new phrase by any means. Built on the proposition that what you wear defines how well you do in life, your appearance could be the defining factor in you getting a job or getting a date. Whether you like it or not, how you dress contributes heavily to your success, whether it’s in the professional world or in your personal life.
You may already know this but there are a lot of people who don’t. What you choose to wear needs to have a conscious decision behind it because even if you’re not bothered about it, you are going to be judged by others before they even get to know you.
“70% of first impressions are based on image, 20% based on how you sound and 10% on what you actually say.”
First impressions are so important that you could walk into an interview and get the job before you even say anything. Alternatively you could lose out on an opportunity because you hadn’t considered how important your image is.
Of course you don’t want to live your life constantly worrying about how you look but unfortunately stereotypes, perceptions and the power of media has forced this upon the world. What’s necessary for you to do now is to figure out who you are, what you purpose is and then start defining your brand.
What is a brand?
In simple terms, your brand is…YOU. You are a brand and your brand is your promise. This is where you take your image to the next level by combining it with your entire identity.
Why do I need to understand my brand?
You may want to start a business, gain a promotion, find a new job, build an online presence or even just be taken more seriously; therefore you must understand your brand. If you work for a company, you represent them. Think of a professional football player (David Beckham usually comes to mind). They are a brand. What they do, say and wear affects everything from endorsements to sponsorships to even their family and friends. Whether you see Beckham in a suit for a premiere or in a t-shirt and jeans, he tends to look good. Is he blessed with his looks? Of course. Does he make a conscious decision with everything he wears? Absolutely, and it helps massively.
There have also been numerous stories about top athletes losing sponsorship deals because of a lack of understanding about their brand. They might say something on social media, which causes uproar or be caught doing something illegal on a video that was posted when they was a teenager. Just like a professional athlete, everything you do, everything you say and how you look will affect your brand.
Judgments of people are made constantly. Most of the time these are subconscious judgments, which seem to instantly pass us by but cause us to guess who someone really is. It’s like if you worked in a shop and two men come up to return an item without a receipt. One of the guys is a well-groomed man in a suit; the other a young adult wearing a hat and a hoodie. Both customers are probably innocent but our subconscious mind forces us to make judgments of people based on appearance.
This goes the same for the business world. If you want to progress then you need to learn how to dress.
“Why does it matter how much I spend on a suit,”
“People respond to how we’re dressed, so like it or not this is what you have to do.” – Harvey Specter (Suits, USA TV Show)
Every little counts
You might not think the colour of your tiepin or the type of knot you do your tie in matters, but it does. The little tweaks and additions can speak louder than the words you actually say.
Do you know what types of suit jackets fit your body-type better? Do you know what colours work for you and more importantly, what colours don’t?
Even when you go to meetings or catch-up with a friend, your pen, book, notepad, laptop cover, shoe laces and even the jewel on your bracelet make all the difference. All these little things can play a part in helping you create either a powerful, influential look or a subtle, composed and confident look.
How you dress affects how you feel
A lot of the time I get clients who cannot seem to hold a relationship or struggle to relax when they get home from work. Often the main reason for these feelings is what they decide to wear. A client of mine would get home from work after being away during the week, they would prepare dinner straight away and sit down for dinner with their family, all whilst still in their work clothes and they wondered why their children seemed intimidated by them.
You can use outfits to literally change who you are. I call this ‘putting a different hat on’. When you get home from work, make a conscious effort to get changed. Invest in getting three or four types of outfits for the different things that you do. You obviously have work/business attire but then you might have your sport/gym attire. But then you also need clothes for walks and family time as much as you need outfits for lounging around the house. It’s important that you make a conscious effort to do this or otherwise you will never get out of those moods. If people at home constantly see you in business attire that you usually wear to make sales and be influential, then they are going to feel the same way about you. You might not even know that you are having this affect on them but you most certainly are. I told my client that they might physically be at home but were they mentally? Once they realized this, they utilized their image to physically and mentally change their mindset depending on where they were and what they are doing.
Does this mean I need to buy a Tom Ford suit? No, well not necessarily. Michael Jordan once said;
“When I look good, I feel good. When I feel good, I play good. When I play good, we win”. – Michael Jordan (NBA Player)
Michael Jordan makes a lot of sense here. Most people will know that there is a huge difference between wearing something from a cheap outlet store compared to something from a top designer. The look is better, the feel is nicer and the fit is much, much better. But there is also a difference between the outlet store and a well-known clothing retailer. It’s about finding what clothes you like, what fit works for you and what you can afford. There’s no point spending £2000 on a suit if you can find one that costs £300 but makes you feel £2000. (Obviously if you can afford £2000 then go right ahead, you won’t regret it).
There’s no better investment to make than in you. As a brand and image consultant I enjoy helping people figure out who they are with the way they look because once you do this, life becomes a lot easier. Most people will understand that it’s important to look good but very few know how to do it.
You brand is your promise and you only get one chance at a first impression. Give yourself the attention it deserves and find success through the way you dress.
Ask yourself right now: “Who do you want to be?”
Success is different for all of us but if you want it, start making the necessary changes to reach it. Your appearance is a great start.