Good Appearance as an Indicator of Civility (2)
Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher said, “appearances are a glimpse of the unseen.” In our previous article, we did establish that civility, which is the practice of etiquette, is about making people feel comfortable around you by respecting them, taking responsibility for their well-being and showing restraint even when you can have it all. Yes, you can wear whatever you like but you should care enough for your coworkers and customers to make them feel at ease and delighted when they look at and engage with you.
In this article, we are taking a peep into ten common errors of professional appearance. We aim to help you see where the gap may be for you, and motivate you to fix it.
- Flouting the Dress Code: Organizations have dress code policies for a reason, and it is to communicate their brand consistently. It also helps to establish a minimum acceptable level of personal presentation for the workforce. Looking the part could seem to constrain but it is considerate posture when you abide by it. However, no matter how mundane the dress code at work is, you can always stand out with a crisp look and good use of accessories.
- Wearing the Wrong Fit: If you wear expensive apparel that doesn’t fit, the price tag is just a waste. Elegance begins with a good fit. Your professional outfit should accentuate and flatter your figure and build and not showcase it. “Carrot” thin trousers for men, high riding jacket, neck buttons that won’t close anymore will make men look like a kid that is unprepared for the opportunities of the day. Skirts that won’t help you walk with confident strides, shirts needing an extra button at the burst, and jackets that cannot be buttoned… all of these make a lady look tacky. The same goes for clothes that look like a sack on you. Know your size as your body changes and audit your wardrobe to fit it.
- Wearing White or Vibrant Coloured Socks on Business Clothes: (I do expect a debate on this). I hope we can all agree that a pair of white socks have no place on a business ensemble? But fad and fashion have made vibrantly patterned socks very popular, and men deliberately sew trousers with rising hem to showcase the socks. Fad fades but style stays! Filling your wardrobe with socks you won’t feel confident to wear or buy a new one next year (because the craze is gone) wastes your money. A more compelling argument is that while this fad is okay for Sundays, weddings, and shows where flair is acceptable, it is an unwanted distraction at work. I want to take one look at you, feel your presence and then concentrate on your face, the center of communication; I don’t want to be glued to your socks below.
- Absent or wrongly-worn Jacket: As a professional, please keep a jacket close by at all times, regardless of the dress code (except for native). Jackets magnify your bubble and you will need this at certain times, especially when meeting a new client, making a presentation, representing your firm, and at interviews and sales pitches. Whenever your presence presents more than just yourself, wear a jacket!
- Uncoordinated Leather Wear: A shattered appearance will distract from the strength and power of your idea. Men, black belt and brown shoes is a “no-no”! The same applies if the colours were reversed. We should not flog this, should we?
- Excessive Makeup and Colourful Nails: Moderation is key when it comes to business appearance. Moderate makeup will ensure that a person focuses on your face while talking without feeling embarrassed. Likewise, it is soothing to see well-shaped nails with cool and consistent-colour nail polish when having a handshake with a lady.
- High-riding Slits and ‘Jumpy’ Trouser Hem: This is an extension of the fit argument. Men, your calf should only be visible when you sit, not while you are walking. Let your trousers make at least a touch of your shoe rim or make a small break into the shoe; it looks professional. Ladies, skirt slit on the side is sensual, so is high riding slit at the back. My question to you is: what do you want to be acknowledged for at work, your ‘looks’ or your competence?
- Bogus Jewelry: Workdays are different from weekend parties. Simple and moderate does it, Mondays to Fridays. When earrings become jingle bells, it becomes hard for people who interact with you to focus. Your jewellery should be glimpses of your elegance and not the center of attraction, or better put, a distraction. Stud earrings or small drops are just fine; simple pendants and one ring per finger (counting weeding set as one) are most ideal for work.
- Poor Grooming: Christian Dior said- Grooming is the secret of real elegance… The best clothes, the most wonderful jewels, the most glamorous beauty don’t count without good grooming. Grooming involves taking care of the little details: missing button, worn down shoe heels, unpolished shoes, overgrown beards (if you clean shave), untrimmed beard (if you are a ‘beard gang’), chipped nail polish, dirty and worn out collar and so on. Please pay attention; someone is looking out for that little thing that will give you away as a phoney.
- Mouth Odour and Body Odour: I deliberately did not add this to grooming because it is a separate devilish pair that alienates even the best of people. No matter how polished your diction is, no one will wait to listen to you when your breath stinks, consistently. I know there are times when your breath will stink due to no fault of yours, like when you take the milk and have your mouth closed for a long time. But other than these few occasions, you need to ask your spouse or a close friend for honest feedback on how your mouth smells regularly. If you do not ask, it is unlikely you get willing feedback. You may need to see a dentist.
Somebody’s odour issues are deeper than what a mere body spray in the morning can handle. You may need to see a dermatologist or commit to a rigorous body care routine that involves constant shaving of the armpit, use of medicated soap, use of antiperspirant, and intermittent armpit swipe during the day, using wet wipes and finishing with a shot of body spray.
I urge you to please commit to looking your best as a sign of respect for yourself and your coworkers. You will perform better at work. Dress to enhance your confidence; your confidence is as important as your ability; they are like two wings with which you fly.
If you desire to read more on professional appearance, you can pick up my book- Succeeding with Appearance in Business and Career” here: http://store.noirenhancement.net/