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The art of manliness: The Importance of Being a Sharp Dressed Man

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All of these statements ignore the fact that people have and will continue to judge you by your appearance. The harsh reality is that we make decisions about people within the first 3 seconds of meeting them; we then spend the next 90 seconds trying to confirm our first impressions.

This means that before you even open your mouth you’ve been sized up and profiled. Knowing this, a person should always dress neatly, professionally, and appropriately.

The fact is you never know who you are going to meet; at anytime you may run into a potential client, a future employer or a key personality to your business growth. And like it or not, they are going to form their initial impression of you based on how you look.

But this saying by Mark Twain “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society” is one worth considering.

HOW YOUR PERSONAL APPEARANCE AFFECTS YOU

The transformation effect

One of the powers of clothing is that it can transform an individual’s state of mind. Dress like a professional businessman and you’re more likely to act like a professional businessman. Taking a test soon? Students report that they perform better when they dress-up for an exam.

Feeling sick in the morning? Women have used the power of dressing-up to shrug off sickness for years. The transformative effect is powerful and instantly effective; what’s most amazing is that so few people use it.

Dressing professionally improves self discipline

From the Roman Legion to the United States Marine Corps, the world’s finest militaries have known that sharp dressed soldiers are more disciplined than ragtag militias. Military dress inspections have persisted not because shiny boots win wars, but because the exercise teaches a military force to pay attention to the details. And it’s in the details that battles are won.

In the same way, a person who dresses professionally learns the value of selfdiscipline. They learn that planning and allotting enough time are paramount for consistent results.

They prepare for the day by thinking through it, anticipating their needs, and taking the proper steps to ensure they can meet the challenge. A disciplined dresser can arrange his outfit to meet his needs from 8AM to midnight, from office to presentation to drinks after work.

Appreciation and respect

Properly clothing yourself takes time; shirts need to be ironed, shoes shined, and jackets brushed. Perhaps the greatest lesson this teaches is to respect the effort put forth by our fellow human beings.

When you meet another well dressed man you give him an extra measure of respect because of his outfit; you notice the perfect dimple in his tie and appreciate it because it took you 15 minutes and 5 attempts to perfect your own. Mutual respect between gentlemen is garnered when they recognize the efforts each has put forth.

HOW YOUR APPEARANCE AFFECTS OTHERS

The power of visuals

Numerous communication studies have demonstrated the power of visuals in human interaction. Some studies have shown that visual cues are 3X to 5X as powerful as audio cues. With clothing covering 90% of your body, it can’t be stressed enough as to how important a role it plays in how you are perceived by others. Want faster & better service in a restaurant? Look like you have money and wear a navy blazer.

Want to increase your chances for an A on a college presentation? Wear a sports jacket and pair of slacks. Want instant credibility in a business environment? Wear a suit when making the pitch or meeting with management.

First impressions

Made within a few seconds, first impressions are powerful and should not be taken lightly. We often observe a person before we speak with them, and being human we look to make sense of what our eyes are showing us.

Using our personal experiences, we categorize individuals; we pick-up on a key feature that has meaning to us and then associate that person with it. If what you are wearing is doing all the talking for you, make sure it is sending the message you want.

The power of colors and patterns

Colors and patterns are very powerful; certain ones grab our attention, some accentuate our natural tones, and others affect our emotions. When choosing colors and patterns a man should first understand which ones work for him and which ones do not.

Next, he needs to determine what message he wants to send. A man decked out in a pin-striped navy blue suit, blue shirt with white contrasting collar and cuffs, and a red tie screams power and authority. A man wearing a solid brown suit with an earth tone shirt and light colored tie signals trust and openness. Both men were wearing suits, but two very different messages were being conveyed.

Influence and authority

The men’s suit, whose heritage stems from military garb, was designed to highlight a man’s strengths.When cut properly and made with a fabric that compliments the wearer, it signals authority and commands attention.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg – a policeman’s uniform, an airline pilot’s clothing, a doctor’s white jacket – all of these garments assure us that the person we are dealing with is an authority in their field.

Positive assumptions

Well dressed people are given a leg up in many respects– they are often perceived as being smarter, funnier, and more enjoyable to be around. Taking this a step further, dressing professionally can help you appear more important to the success of your company and may even help you hold onto your job.

Assuming all other factors being even, who does management let go– the technician who dresses well and can be put in front of a client or the guy who doesn’t own a suit? In this current economic downturn, every small detail matters.

IS IT MANLY TO CARE ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE?

Yes! Considering all the highlighted points, it becomes imperative to care about your appearance in order to earn the respect required to penetrate the business cycles.

A few examples of manly men who cared and continue to care about their appearance:

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill – He loved the “puff ” pocket square and knew how to wear a polka dot bow tie.

Ronald Reagan – Always dressed smartly in clean cut power suits that accentuated his shoulders; he also loved cuff links. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in our fast paced society a book’s cover can be just as important as its content.

Ronald Reagan

Of course appearances are not everything; you have to perform well to succeed. But in a competitive world it pays to understand the importance of your clothing and grooming. Investing the proper resources into your personal presentation will multiply your ability to succeed.

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Vogue & Style

Attention to your fashion details

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If you’ve ever watched the rehearsal process of a play, then you know just how powerful clothes are. Even in the very early stages of a project, professional actors will come to practice in certain clothing pieces that make them feel more like their character. Perhaps, in an old pair of shoes, a long and heavy skirt, or a bandana that helps them get just the right swagger, grace, or edge.

A few weeks later, when they’re closer to opening, they’ll have an actual dress rehearsal with their real costumes. It’s pretty amazing to see how the right clothes bring the performances up to a whole new level and transform the actor into the character!

As business professionals, we can actually learn a lot from this.

Like it or not, your clothes and presentation communicate volumes about you as a person. The question is not whether you care about fashion, it’s more about what you’re communicating intentionally or unconsciously through your fashion choices. Just as the actor in the right costume moves and speaks differently, so does the everyday person.

Your clothes tell a story about you. If you want to show that your work is clean, sharp, and to the point, you need to dress in clean lines, sharp creases, and (yes) points on your shoes and tie. Even the way you wear your glasses speaks volumes about you and your work!

 

What Do the Details Show?

Research shows that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality, politics, status, age and income just from looking at a photo of their shoes.

Did you ever notice that when President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of working class Americans, he would speak with no jacket and his sleeves rolled up? That silently and instantly communicated to the audience that he too was a hard worker.

You might remember when a 44 page dress code published by Swiss bank UBS went viral. The obsessive stipulations detailed everything from the sensible (“If you wear a watch, it suggests reliability and that punctuality is of great concern to you”) to the downright invasive (employees were instructed on how to shower and apply lotion, how to wear their underwear, and told not to eat garlic during the week).

They may have been control freaks, but UBS got one thing right: every detail about your presentation communicates something.

When you’re dressing or grooming, consider what it says about you and whether it’s in line with the message you want to communicate. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about context. A tie can make you look reliable and rooted in tradition. This might be important at an investment firm, where clients want to know that you’re serious about stewarding their capital. But it can also come off as stuffy and resistant to change, which may be inappropriate for a tech startup.

 

Your Clothing Impacts Your Thinking

Of course, dressing smart is also important for your confidence and sense of self-empowerment. But your style does more than just send messages, to your mind or to others. New research shows it actually impacts how you think. Professional dress, one study found, increases abstract thinking and gives people a broader perspective. So that tie might actually be switching on your creativity button.

“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the study says.

Professional attire creates social distance. When we are more socially distant, we tend to think in more distant, abstract terms. In socially distant settings we address people by their title, for instance, rather than the more intimate first name.

“Even after controlling for socioeconomic status, students wearing more formal clothing showed stronger inclinations towards abstract processing.”

 

Thin-Slicing

Usually we process visual details instantaneously through a process called thin-slicing. That’s when the brain makes millisecond judgements based on new stimulus. It often happens without us even knowing. We might just get a feeling that we don’t trust someone, or that someone else is steady and reliable. We might not even know why.

That gut feeling, commonly called intuition or a first impression, is really part of the very fast-paced mental process of thin-slicing. It’s how we continually judge books by their covers, all day, every day.

So choose your personal presentation with care. Presentation includes not only your clothes, but your accessories, hairstyle, fragrance, posture, body language, tone of voice, and the level of energy with which you move and speak. Think of the person that you need to be in any particular situation. Then dress, groom, and accessorize in a way that helps you mentally step into that personality.

Are you marching in there to get things done? Put on something red, roll up your sleeves and speak in a commanding voice. Are you making social connections at a gala event? Go for suave, but not workplace formal. Dress to feel attractive. Speak in a smooth tone, and let one shoulder relax.

If you’re loafing around on a long weekend with half a box of pizza, you can probably get away with breaking out the frumpy comfortables.

Taking intentional command of how you dress and present is a good step in empowering yourself, accomplishing your goals, and living a more lucid life at the helm of your decisions. So pay attention! Remember, all the world’s a stage.

 

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