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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

The rising trend of African wear in the corporate office

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African wear is gradually gaining roots in the corporate offices since the introduction of the National Friday wear program in Ghana. Most companies prefer styling up in their customized African print while others wear general African prints styled to their design. The result of this culture has been the exponential increment of both small and large scale enterprises like boosting the sale of African prints on the market, fashion designers making money and increasing the production of such textiles; not forgetting the unique identity it gives to companies who have customized their African prints.

In spite of the fact that only a day of the week has been allocated for this purpose, the trend of African wear for corporate offices is rising. Some people opine that, African prints are very comfortable to be in and very easy to accessorize and as such, one can always improvise to fit business occasions like meetings, presentations, summits and other business purposes. How then should a corporate worker spruce up in an African print for corporate environment?

Choosing the right Fabric:

  • Texture: One needs to be mindful of the kind of fabric one chooses for the corporate environment. Choose one that sits well on the skin and does not cause any form of irritations to the skin. Avoid very heavy fabrics which do not allow circulation of air to and from the skin, thus producing a lot of heat and sweat. If one also decides to choose a lighter fabric, be sure it is properly lined. And watch out for threads hanging out from any part of your dress or shirt; so it doesn’t look funny walking around.
  • Colour: The temptation of picking something colourful is exceptionally high when one wants to look stylish. Avoid looking like a flower pot by shunning prints with so many colours and broad patterns. It becomes a distraction, especially when interacting with clients. For a suave look, just aim for something beautiful but not so bright. For businesses with customized prints for work, if one could not wear theirs, they should get something similar to what is acceptable so they do not look like a visitor at their workplaces.

Style:

  • Men: Men do not have much to do with African prints except of course their shirts for work. Unless one works with a fashion, a creative or a media company, one needs to kindly avoid using bright African prints for jacket or suit. Stick with the well-fitted short or long sleeve shirt. Shirts should be crease-free and worn with neatly ironed black, grey, navy blue, brown or a dark shade of the most dominating colour of the print trousers, with neatly polished black or brown leather shoes, or a more casual loafer and a pair of socks that blends with the trousers. In a dark coloured suit, an African print vest is simply stunning.
    • Women: The challenges that come with picking a style appropriate for work increases when it has to do with African prints. If one finally decides to wear a blouse, avoid styles that cut low exposing the cleavage. The style should not be ‘wild’ and by all means, make sure the undies are well covered. The blouse should have enough space so that it is not too tight or restricting. One needs to look smart and comfortable at work.

What to wear with an African Print?

Depending on the style of the blouse, the usual pencil skirts, trousers or even flare skirts may fit well or not. For a blouse with no exaggerated additions or for a small top, wear a flared skirt or a trouser that is not too skimpy or smallish. For a broad or big blouse, a pencil skirt or a fitting trouser is advisable. But of course, it is subject to one’s stature which varies with every lady.

If one decides to go with a straight dress, shun from bright or loud colours. The style should be simple but classy. Nothing too loose or tight, just well-fitted. There should be absolutely no form of excessive skin exposure either around the chest or the thigh. To allow free and easy movements, there should be an open beside or behind the dress just enough for movement and not as much to expose too much skin.

If one decides to use African prints for the skirt, the same rules apply. A flared skirt will best fit a small top, whereas a print pencil skirt goes with a broad or big top. Do not use African prints for trousers to work unless to a creative, a fashion or a media company.  Wear African print skirt with a simple blouse; not too bright! Preferably the dark shade of the colour with no or small patterns. A nice blazer will switch the look up to another level of class and elegance.

Accessories:

The way one accessorizes can make the look spot-on or clumsy. The latter is not advisable.

Bags: Either as a handbag for ladies or a laptop bag for both genders, a dull colour will best fit when looking colourful or bright, the same way a colourful bag will do the trick when one is in a dull outfit. It’s all about complementing the total look. In case one wants to wear an African print bag even though he/ she is dressed in an African print skirt or top, one must make sure it is the same fabric as the dress or something similar that blends in with the dress. Let’s reduce the wearing of African print straight dress and accessorizing with fully covered African print bags. A black bag or a bag with the darker shade of one’s favourite colour will work perfectly.

Shoes: For a corporate environment, it is not advisable for men to wear a shoe fully covered in an African print. This draws too much attention to one’s feet. A strip of African print on a black or dark brown leather shoe can do the magic. For ladies, either the shoe is fully covered in an African print from the same fabric one is wearing or the bag one is holding or stick with the black or dark brown low heels.

The neck or the area around the neck: Accessorizing the neck for both men and women either with a necklace, a tie or a scarf also comes with its own dos and don’ts. Using an African print around the neck means the brighter the necklace, tie or scarf, the darker and plain (or smaller patterns) the shirt or top but the darker the accessories the brighter the tops or shirt. Let’s not forget African print earrings to be worn should be small but nice.

When we descend on the body, accessorizing the chest area with either an African print brooch or a piece of African print in the breast pocket of our suit, should strictly be on a plain or a smaller patterned shirt or blouse.

Now to accessorize the hands with either African print wrist watch, beads, bracelets or cufflinks, the smaller the better. It shouldn’t be too bright unless of course, the dressing demands otherwise.

Men who would want to use African prints for belts, the less colourful it is, the better. One does not need to draw attention to one’s waist area at work.

Dressing in an African Print for a presentation:

Whenever there is a presentation at work, the presenter aims at gaining some form of attention and cooperation from those listening to the presentation. Captivating the attention and holding the interest of listeners are essential. This is why one cannot compete with his/ her dress for attention during a business presentation. One needs to come off as confident and knowing what he/ she is about, not the other way round. This is why brightly coloured, large patterned and detailed design fabrics should definitely be avoided.

Day, season and weather cannot be overlooked when choosing an appropriate African print fabric or style. The day should inform one on the kind of fabric to choose. In a rainy season, a heavy African print sewn as a long sleeve shirt or blouse is advisable because of the cold weather. So, obviously a summer season will demand the opposite; a light fabric (not transparent) sewn as a short sleeve top. And when the weather is just right, dress right!

Another fact is that all these tips are susceptible to the stature or shape of the individual. Since we cannot go into styling up for all the body types, let’s simply say if one’s upper body is bigger than the lower part, wear a small looking top on a flared skirt or loose trousers rather than a pencil skirt or a tight trouser. Which is to say that if one has a small upper body and a broad down or hip, a broad top on a pencil skirt or a tight trouser will flatter the figure perfectly. It is all about comfort and confidence when styling up to a corporate world. Simply have the image of the company you represent at the back of your mind and dress accordingly.

Men should perform their tonsorial duties as they always do and ladies’ makeup and hairstyles for work should not be affected by the presence of the African print. Go simple, beautiful and neat just as always.

One will notice that most of the tips centres on colour, style and texture of the African print; this is to say that once these elements are not in the right proportion, the look slips into a church look not a corporate look. Walk the fine line with class, confidence and the concept of thin slicing at the back of your mind!

This rising trend of African wear in the corporate offices has gone a long way towards making Ghanaians embrace and accept their culture by creating some sort of positive conformity where they feel left out if they don’t wear made in Ghana fabric on a Friday. The question now remains, should African prints be relegated to just Fridays or should be worn in any day of the week like it is done in Nigeria?

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