Appearances do matter. They can determine career advancement or stagnation. We do not have enough time, especially now in our fast-paced, information overloaded society, to get to know the true measure of a man or woman and his or her inner, shining wonderful self. We make quick judgments and often do so by relying on external, superficial criteria and cues like clothes, hairstyles, eye glasses, shoes, tattoos and make up.
As the 18th Century writer, Mark Twain, aptly said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” When you are an executive or professional, you are constantly being evaluated for competence, worth, and – yes – importance. Promotions, raises or recruitment to a new position will not happen, if you do not appear to be executive material or to have leadership qualities.
Ill fitting clothes, scuffed shoes, and outlandish clothing styles will not cut it in the corner office. When your wife says that your tie does not go with that shirt, listen to her. When your husband says that your dress is too tight, listen to him. When your daughter tells you that your Brooks Brothers jacket sleeve is frayed, listen to her. Sound familiar? I certainly have heard these kinds of comments. Although critical, they are doing you a big favor and urging you to look your best. They can and will give you candid, negative, but mostly constructive feedback that your professional peers and personal friends will not. It is better to hear the harsh sounding appraisal from your loved ones than not to clinch the interview, deliver a home-run speech, or make the stellar presentation because of some sartorial defect or detraction. Packaging yourself does count.
You can increase your marketability and star power by paying attention to your appearance. As another prominent 18th Century celebrity, Henry Ward Beecher, noted, “Clothes and manners do not make the man; but when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.”
In reconciling Twain and Beecher, whether you are aspiring to be a successful executive or if you have already become one, appearances can make or break you. I better go get that hair cut my wife suggested and get my shoes polished on the way back.