Mirror, Mirror: Appearance Affects Influence

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CHICAGO —  Several years ago, I gave several presentations on protocol, manners and dressing for success. Naturally, how we appear to others has a dramatic effect on how we influence them.
In my youth, I had the opportunity to work in several clothing stores in and around the Palm Beach, Fla., area, and had the opportunity to view every aspect of fashion and clothing. My clients were in the rich-and-famous category, or they wanted to be. That, coupled with 27 years in the United States Marine Corps, drove me in variable directions for looking sharp. Here are a few pointers that I feel are important:

  • Do you have hair growing from places that require trimming, like the nose, ears, eyebrows, back of the neck, etc.? Guys, if you haven’t learned to shave correctly, learn. There are books written about the process.
  • If you’re wearing socks and cross your legs, be sure others don’t see any skin.
  • For you guys out there, if you don’t yet know how to tie a tie, ask someone and get some help. Make sure the tie is hidden under your collar. And guys, matching ties and pocket squares just don’t go together. That went out with Dance Fever.
  • If you’re wearing slacks, a dress or skirt, or especially jeans, make sure you look in the mirror to see how you look from all sides. If you don’t look presentable, or have articles of clothing going in directions that they shouldn’t, don’t wear them.
  • For men or women: There is a thing called shoe polish. Use it. Nothing is more unpleasing than seeing someone in a nice outfit and scrolling down to their shoes to see they look like you know what. I would estimate that at the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) reception in New Orleans this year, 70% of attendees needed a shine or at least a buff.
  • If you have belt loops, that’s where the belt goes. Don’t miss them; it makes you look like you couldn’t care less about being in public or like you just don’t pay attention.
  • If you are a large person, dress to compliment your figure, not to cover it up with clothing on which the wind could carry you away.
  • If you are small or petite, read up on how you should be attired. If you’re small, don’t try for extra-small.
  • Unless you’re crawling in the mud, your articles of clothing really don’t need drycleaning at every turn — maybe just pressing. Drycleaning can reduce the life of an item by 50% or more.
  • If your clothes are shiny or starting to bubble up, get rid of them. I saw a lot of shiny attire at Clean this year.
  • If you’re under 5 feet, 8 inches tall, don’t have your slacks or trousers cuffed. It will only make you look shorter.
  • Guys and gals: Anything that is exposed, take care of it. Nails, feet, legs, arms, hands, face, neck and hair — actually, take care of yourself in total.
  • While it’s not as big of a problem as it was years ago, ladies, don’t cake on the makeup. The vampire look seems to be popular today.
  • Most importantly, dress your age, and if you are showing your tummy or waist, make sure it’s something appropriate to show.
  • Oh yeah, my dear friends, button-down dress shirts, worn with a tie, are things of the past.
  • Bathing by itself doesn’t make you smell good. Be cognizant of how others get water in their eyes.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, dental hygiene is still with us. Practice it always.
  • Dress like you mean it, not like you dread it. Again, look in the mirror, all the way around.
  • Remember, you can look great and not spend tons of money.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall... Those reflections have a purpose and meaning. Managers out there, if your people need help and you think you can help them, please assist and provide guidance.


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