If we have heard it once, we have heard it a thousand times, first impressions count. When you go for an interview, men were suits and women where heels and a dress or a skirt or a power suit. When someone comes over for dinner, you clean your house and usually close the door to your bedroom. When you give someone a ride in your car, you clean out the junk which has accumulated and you might even get a car wash. I have a wedding to go to this weekend, I bought a new suit, I will get my hair and my beard trimmed and the women in the bridal party are all going for a manicure.
Are we really that shallow that we judge someone by the way they look? Yes and no!
The first time I visited this BNI chapter, the then President, a painter, was wearing his work clothes, including paint stains. Did I notice? Yes! Did it stop me from joining? No! He actually did a good job of managing the meeting, but I do still remember what he wore that day. I work for the King and Queen of fashion in Canada. Do I think about what I will be wearing on days I will meet them? Probably. Have they treated me differently, because I don’t come up to their standards of fashion? I don’t think so, but I am sure they have noticed.
Wikipedia describes it this way:
A first impression is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person. Impression accuracy varies depending on the observer and the target being observed. First impressions are based on a wide range of characteristics: age, race, culture, language, gender, physical appearance, accent, posture, voice, number of people present, and time allowed to process. The first impressions individuals give to others could greatly influence how they are treated and viewed in many contexts of everyday life.
So what are we to do? Everyone’s sense of what is appropriate, what is considered professional is different. Every culture has different standards and customs. And of course not everyone has the kind of budget to be spending money to ensure you come up to someone else’s standards.
I know this is supposed to be an “education” moment, but I don’t really have an answer for you. I am probably the wrong person to ask when it comes to fashion. After all, I grew up in 60s, the anti-fashion decade. The more casual you dressed, the cooler you were, or should I say groovy.
I can tell you though what I do. My first and foremost condition is, that I want to be comfortable. If I am comfortable, confident and relaxed, I believe that people will instinctively feel comfortable with me, no matter what I am wearing. I will also listen to the ones I care about. If they don’t approve of my look, when we go out in public, it creates a more complex dynamic and they might be affected in ways I did not intend.
So these are the questions you should ask yourself in the morning when you get dressed:
- What will make me feel good?
- What is appropriate and practical?
- What is clean?
- Who will I be meeting today?
- And does anyone really care?
- And finally, it is time to go shopping.