Here's a style chart and reference guide so your body language, at least from a clothing perspective, really does project the right image for you.
A person's style includes many distinct elements. Decisions concerning style should be determined by environment, the need to meet certain expectations to gain your desired result. It is a commonly held belief that people will get ahead if they standout in terms of style, but research does not support this. In fact, we sometimes become suspicious of those who are too unusual or different from our expectations. Bearing this in mind, the following should be taken into account when trying to create the right impression....
CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES
Believe it or not, studies have found that most hiring decisions are largely based upon a job applicant's appearance, despite interviewers denying that someone's appearance is important. Entry-level salaries are higher for those who make a better physical impression, and those who dress better at work are more likely to get promoted. The importance of being appropriately dressed is obvious. Both men and women when going for interviews should dress in clothes slightly smarter than what they would normally wear to work.
TIPS FOR MEN MEN'S SUITS AND TROUSERS
In most business settings, the classic professional look for a man is a navy blue or medium-grey wool or wool blend suit, a white stiff-collared dress shirt, and a simple patterned or striped tie. This would serve a man well at any formal setting.
A more high-styled version of this would be a blue shirt, a brighter, more distinctive tie or matching pocket handkerchief. The conservative business suit has become the foundation for an expressive, creative and imaginative outfit that looks "professional." When a man wants to project a greater sense of approachability than that conveyed by a formal business suit, a blue blazer and either grey, camel or tan trousers is a good alternative.
It is less formal than the suit but is just as good in showing credibility. Choose one or the other depending on those qualities that are most important for you to convey in a particular situation. White or off-white suits are for social or leisure situations and not appropriate for the workplace.
Men should avoid "trendy" unless creativity and individuality is valued by your peer group over other qualities. Dress shirts should be cotton or cotton blend. These materials look more professional than silk or synthetic fabrics, and they breathe better. Collars should be plain, and either button-down, or thick and stiff. The most professional look consistently has been a mid-length pointed collar.
A man's shirt should not be shiny or patterned, particularly if the fabric is thin. Wear an undershirt to cover perspiration and transparency. Men's dress shirts should be long-sleeved. French cuffs are considered trendy and formal — if you do wear this type of shirt wear them with simple gold, silver or stone cufflinks. For a traditional look, a man's shirt should be lighter than his jacket. Darker colours, patterns, and stripes are more casual and trendy.
Trendy styles have the same negative associations and stereotypes as other parts of your wardrobe. More functional shoes enhance image as long as they are not too unstylish. On the other hand, less functional but over-stylish shoes can send a message that you are more concerned with appearance than performance. Always keep your shoes clean and polished for a professional look. If the soles or heels are worn or damaged, then replace or repair them.
Neckties are men's most prominent accessory. In professional settings, silk ties are preferable. The width tends to change with the times but generally should be in the medium range, neither too narrow or wide. The tie should accent, but not repeat the pattern or colour of your suit. Power colours in neck ties include; dark blue and maroon, whereas red can be very dominant and bold whereas green or yellow projects friendliness and adaptability.
A man's belt should be either black or brown and be without adornment. The belt should be three quarters of an inch wide, with a gold, silver, or brass buckle of equal width. With a suit, a man should wear thin dress socks. For more casual occasions, plain cotton socks that match shoes. Too much jewellery on a man is viewed as slick. Jewellery should be kept to a minimum, such as a simple keeper ring, a wedding band, and a wristwatch.
Poorly fitting clothes detract from the impression you make, clothing that is too short in the sleeve, leg, jacket or tie makes a particularly poor impression.
- Ties should come down to your belt buckle, but not below it and certainly not two inches above!
- Jacket sleeves should be approximately four inches above the end of your extended thumb when your arms are at your side.
- Your shirtsleeve should extend slightly below the jacket sleeve.
- Your shirt should be long enough that at least one, and preferably two, buttons fall below the belt line. This will keep the shirt from coming untucked.
- The front of a man's trousers should always touch the top of his shoes when he stands up. The trouser leg should extend over the back of the shoe to within one inch from the ground. Never wear clothing that is too tight. This is seen as either an awkward effort to be sexy or a sign that the person doesn't know better or can't afford to buy properly fitted clothes.
- Collars should be loose enough to put two fingers comfortably between the collar and your neck, but not so loose that they show any significant space between the collar and your neck when you stand.
COLOURS - THEIR EFFECT ON OTHERS
Colours have a very powerful way of affecting our impressions both of people. Colours can affect our impression of such traits as status, effectiveness, attitude, credibility, friendliness and intelligence. Most colours can be grouped into one of six general categories, each of which conveys a distinct set of messages.
- Black, dark blue and dark charcoal grey are strong authoritarian colours. Those in positions of leadership, or authority will project an image of no-nonsense confidence, strength and power. Black is also seen as serious, secretive, mysterious and depressing. For that reason, those who dress in black are not rated as warm and friendly. People at the top of an organization wear black effectively, but also service oriented occupations such as drivers and waiters are often seen in black. It is often said that black is stylish and sophisticated and makes you look thinner. That's true, but it's popularity doesn't overcome the stereotypes and emotional responses it evokes.
- Lighter shades of grey and navy blue are also associated with power, authority, leadership and even loyalty. Unlike dark grey and black, studies show that they are warmer and more approachable. For men, navy blue is definitely preferred; but for women, a medium shade of blue is ideal. Grey pinstripe has been associated with projecting wisdom. Green, particularly olive and can project flexibility and friendliness.
- Bright colours like red, turquoise, purple, bright blues, and greens and fuchsia are sexy, energetic, hard-charging, and aggressive. They are generally not considered as professional as darker colours, or lighter shades of colours.
- Lighter shades of blue, green, and yellow, as well as tan and beige, convey a sense of warmth, friendliness, approachability and trustworthiness. They do not communicate the same sense of authority, power, or leadership that dark blues or greys project. Subtle tones, however, can be very effective to combine friendliness and professionalism. Certain shades of tan can remind people of government employees and come across as dated or institutional.
- Autumn colours-like rust, brown, muted shades of yellow or gold, olive and burgundy are perceived as trustworthy, caring and humble, but lacks in the strength, competency and leadership categories. These are good choices for caring professionals such as psychologists or counsellors, or anyone whose first priority is to be approachable.
- Pastels are the most feminine of all colours. Not surprisingly, stereotypical feminine traits are associated with them, such as caring and nurturing on the positive side, and weakness and vulnerability on the negative. Not a good choice if you want to be viewed as serious, intelligent, competent, and professional.
Expensive clothing tends to be richer, deeper and more vibrant than less expensive clothes. They use higher quality dye and expensive fabrics tend to absorb the dye better. This has a significant impact to the impressions people get. Rich deep colours project class, quality, competence, success and professionalism. Less vibrant clothing is perceived as lower class, less competent and less professional.
There are many ways that colours can be used as an integral part of you making the right impression. For example, if you have a number of traits that can be interpreted as overpowering or threatening, such as large size or height, lighter colours will soften your impression; but won't cause you to lose your image of confidence and control because your other traits will continue to send that message.
BASIC RULE OF THUMB FOR DRESSING
- Wear dark colours to command authority or stress intelligence.
- If you want others to relax, feel comfortable, and think of you as likable and approachable, wear lighter colours or autumn hues.
- To create excitement or draw attention, wear bright colours.
- Wear rich, dark colours associated with quality clothing. You're better off wearing less pieces of higher quality clothes.
- Evaluate how your image will be enhanced or diminished by the colour of clothing that you wear. Unless your collective traits are overpowering, darker colours are better for a professional environment.
- Different circumstances will call for different emphasis. Many people view synthetic fabrics and those who wear them in a negative light. Natural fabrics like wool, cotton, silk and linen convey a more honest, warm and professional image.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
- Be as attractive as you can, unless you're absolutely gorgeous, if so, don't flaunt it.
- Don't set yourself apart, especially above your peers.
- Always dress appropriately for the occasion and environment.
- Opt for traditional styles, fabrics and colours unless creative flair is clearly essential.
- Buy the most expensive clothes you can afford, even if it means less of them.
- Don't overemphasize sex appeal.
- Give as much thought to casual wear as to professional wear.
- Don't try to be a trendsetter.
- Always be clean and neat.
- Dress as trendily and formally as the top 70 to 90% of those in your environment.