It doesn’t take long for someone to form an opinion of you. In fact, research shows that it takes about a tenth of a second. People look at your appearance, body language and how you are dressed and instantly make an evaluation.
In business, a good first impression can go a long way. A bad one can break deals. So, whether you’ve just started your small business or are looking to expand, it's important to know how your personal brand is influenced by your clothing.
Clothes set the tone
Your physical appearance is usually the first point of reference for people. When you walk into a new business meeting or go off-site to meet a new customer, your expression and attire set the tone before you even greet anyone.
Consider your clothes a statement of your personality and an indication of what your business represents. It gives people an idea of who you are. Ask yourself if what you’re wearing is a good reflection of you and your business.
Setting a good example right away can inform the tone for the rest of the relationship with your customers or potential partners.
Dress for your industry
Becoming more aware of your industry is a good way to start thinking about your style, advises Connel Chiang, a fashion and lifestyle creative. If you’re in finance, dress like you’re in finance. If you’re a beautician, understand what your customers expect from you.
“The one major issue with business attire is inconsistency,” he says.
“People are pitching themselves either to be too business-y or not business-y enough.”
Knowing what’s expected sets standards. A more definite style also helps you make more considered choices when you’re out shopping. When you’re clear about exactly how you want to be perceived and what your business stands for, you buy the things that are consistent with that image – saving you money in the long run.
From the ground up
There’s no denying the adage clothes maketh the man, but people often notice your feet first. For both men and women, shoes are one of the best wardrobe investments to make, head tailor of Oscar Hunt Julian Lichtenstein advises.
“The quality of the shoe and the way that it’s actually made means that if you take good enough care of it - you polish it so it holds the leather - these shoes will last you anywhere from a decade to a lifetime,” he says.
The resounding advice: always be considerate of the shoes you’re wearing. Make sure that they are in the right condition to be worn for the occasion, be it a high-powered business deal or a relaxed lunch with existing colleagues or clients.
“Shoes that are in good condition are an indication of a complete look,” says Connel.
Style isn’t expensive, fashion is
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to spend a fortune to express yourself. While fashion – designer brands and catwalk couture – can cost thousands, style is about expressing yourself and your business.
Your style is about dressing appropriately not fashionably, so you don’t have to be out of your comfort zone to make a good first impression.
When you feel great in what you wear, you’ll project positivity and engage with more confidence, ultimately helping you make the right impression, especially with new customers.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, famously stated that “Personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to making sure when you leave a room that people are talking about you in the way you want to be talked about. But remember, there’s a lot more to good business than just your attire.
“If we bring an internal change to the same outfit, it can be a pretty powerful expression,” says Connel.
First impressions depend on more than just your blazer or your dress. Openness and confidence, mixed with a considered appearance, is unlikely to turn people off.
Tips from Julian Lichtenstein, Oscar Hunt
- Speak to someone. Many stylists (such as Oscar Hunt) offer free consultations that allow you to get a bit of help on defining your style
- If you don’t have the need for a lot of suits, keep it versatile with charcoal and navy colours
- “Business casual” doesn’t mean old t-shirts and sneakers in most offices. You’re still a reflection on your business, so dial it down but still dress to impress
Tips from Connel Chiang, fashion and lifestyle creative
- Be prepared for changing circumstances by carrying small things on hand for big effect. Perfume, earrings or spray shampoo can all make a difference
- Marry your external appearance with your personality. You’ll be more comfortable and confident
- Spend money on accessories. You’ll want to tweak your style over time, but good accessories can be used in many ways