I was having a conversation the other day with a British colleague, William Hanson, who presents workshops and conducts seminars on business and social etiquette - not unlike my own. We enjoy comparing notes and swapping recent stories about questions on etiquette which cross our respective 'desks' (desk in quotes because many desks today are hand held!). William wanted my opinion on a question asked of him while presenting a workshop in Milan. A woman asked him whether it was proper etiquette for a man with a hairy upper chest to wear his shirt with the second button open or not. William explained that there is no etiquette rule for this situation and that it was a matter of personal preference. I agree with this answer and would have added an explanation of what the consequences are of that particular personal preference.
I have discussed the importance of a proper handshake and the complex of messages communicated by one. Similarly, how we present ourselves in respect to proper attire is equally important. The visual image you portray also communicates strong messages, some subliminal. This is the essence of a first impression. Looking one's best is easy to do. There are a few guidelines which make this possible. To begin with, select your clothes with careful thought and intention. If you are going for a job interview, dress as though you want a job a level above the one for which you are applying. Dress to impress. Wear tasteful clean clothes,leaning toward traditional items in terms of cut and colors, pressed appropriately, and with shined shoes. Be sure your hair is clean, combed and brushed and and looking well kept. Unless you are interviewing for a job as a musician in a rock metal band, dress conservatively, but with individuality. This can be easily achieved by choosing one piece of clothing as an accent, for example a colorful neck tie, scarf, shirt, blouse or piece of jewelry. But only choose one such accent. This basic rule actually applies for social occasions as well, both formal and informal.
Accessories are best kept simple. For men, resist the Mr. T look of wearing an excessive number of gold chains and garish rings. Save this look, along with the heavy colognes, for private times. For women, choose any jewelry with care. A plain gold or silver choker, single strand of pearls and a simple decorative pin make for a very professional look. Avoid flashy rings and 'heavy' jewelry during the day time. Add extra bling for evening wear at larger social gatherings.
For social outings, dressing with a little flair is fun. It's best not to overdo it though. Your host and hostess should not be intentionally upstaged. If they are likely to dress conservatively, I recommend following their lead. If they are of a more festive nature, then go with more flamboyant attire! Whatever you decide to wear, be sure it fits you well. Clothes that fit too snugly impart an image which is neither professional nor attractive. Dressing appropriately entails knowing your body type and looking in a full-length mirror is always an excellent idea. Consulting a partner or even a sales clerk might be another way to go in discovering your look.
No matter what the reason for going out, even if it's to the grocery store, have a quick peek in the mirror before heading out. How you present yourself to others speaks volumes about you feel about yourself. If you don't particularly care how you look or what impression you project, that message will come through loud and clear. A pet peeve of mine is the wearing of hats indoors. The message it delivers is one of laziness, low self esteem and disrespect for those around you. And wearing a hat or cap inside has also unfortunately become a bad habit that too much of society has accepted. That may well be the way you feel. We all face daily challenges which test our stamina, level of happiness, and regard we have for others.
By taking the time to look for best, you will feel good about yourself. Making such an effort has a very positive effect on ones self. It also makes a very positive impression on those around you and tells people you care enough about them to make the effort to look nice.