You've hear the expression, "Clothes make the man (or
woman)." That may be a slight exaggeration, since there are other
determining factors, but in a large degree, it is true. What you wear in
this world can make you or break you in many situations. Your clothes can be
your best friend or your worst enemy.
What you wear can tell people a lot
about you before you open your mouth to speak. In fact, many
psychologists agree that close to 90 percent of what people remember
about an encounter is related to nonverbal communication, a large
portion of that being your overall appearance and demeanor.
When people first meet, they
immediately begin making judgments about each other based on
appearances alone. In most cases, people make a decision about a
stranger in less time than it takes to blink an eye. Many times, if
you squander that one moment, you will have to work very hard for the
next one. This is especially true in the job interview setting.
Your dress conveys nonverbal clues
about your personality, education, background, financial status and
credibility. These clues can break down barriers and launch careers,
or create barriers and hamper careers.
In his book, You Are What You
Wear, William Thourlby states: "When you step into a room,
decisions will be made solely upon your appearance; so to be
successful, and to be sure decisions are favorable, keep in mind that
you are what you wear, and dress accordingly." Thourlby goes on
to say that, "Of course, clothes will not compensate for weak
credentials, poor work records or bad habits, but a person who is
dressed appropriately and is well groomed can open doors, where one
who is inappropriately dressed and poorly groomed, will never be
Consider the impact that one's mode
of dress has in our society. How does the person dress who manages
your money matters? How do you imagine a policeman, a doctor, a nurse
or a minister to look? In our society, certain "looks" have
specific meanings. This theory may not seem fair, but it is a reality.
For example, a person with a dingy, sloppy appearance, messy hair and
rumpled clothes, no matter the reason, conveys the message, "I
don't care." A woman who wears a tight dress with a low-cut
neckline and high slits up each side may want to convey the message,
"I'm attractive and sexy." However, her message may be
decoded as, "I’m available. Your place or mine?"
On the other hand, a person who is
well-groomed, dressed appropriately and in good taste can attend a
business function or meeting and, in most cases, be readily accepted.
Why? One of the key reasons is that the person's mode of dress conveys
credibility, competence, and self-confidence.
Textures and lines of clothing also
transmit silent messages. Soft textures in attire tend to invite human
contact and closeness, while crisp textures may indicated that a
person wants to be regarded as efficient. Lines of clothing, whether
they are strict or flowing, can provide some indication of how rigid
one's personality is.
At times, clothes are the only
visible clues to our personalities. Even when other indicators are
more apparent; clothing continues to make a statement. Our mode of
dress may also reveal anger, aggressiveness, uncertainty or
Your knowledge of nonverbal clothing clues will be
useful not only in gaining some initial understanding of people, but
also in interacting with them on a daily basis. Even small changes in
the way an associate looks from day to day can signal other changes
that may be important to you. Certainly, your skill at interpreting
the visual code of dress can enhance your ability to relate to others.
As you learn to interpret even more subtle messages from others,
remember that you are transmitting equally revealing messages
yourself. For better or worse, realize that your outward appearance
and demeanor influence how others will react to you. By emphasizing
the positive aspects of yourself through your dress and grooming, you
can inspire confidence in your abilities and judgment, as well as lift
your self-esteem. In essence, your clothing can be a self-fulfilling