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A Case for Appearance

March 9, 2014

Author’s sidenote: The article posted below is a sort of speech I prepared for the leadership camp I mentioned in our-challenge-is-to-be-content-and-happy/ wherein I was a group leader. Unfortunately, it didn’t get much of a hearing at the event – it was raining, my speech was scheduled during free time etc. In fact, this was a case where despite all the personal touches, the lack of structure imposed from above was far more important in the lack of attendance at my speech (to further address that linked article) .

That said, this article is probably more relevant to you than it was to my students, actually. For instance, some of the readers here might read realmenrealstyle , but I know my students didn’t. Care about appearance. Be respectable.

Now, read on.

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Friends, to lead we must be able to galvanise people into collective action. That is, doing tasks bigger than just one person requires us to command others. To lead we must command. To command we must be respected. To be respected we must be respectable.

Its possible to address appearance in two aspects – attire and posture – which breakdown into three points. We’ll go with attire today.

One, how we dress, how we present ourselves, adds to the atmosphere of our words and actions. You dress like a leader, you are more likely to act like a leader. A study done at Northumberland University (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/clothes-and-self-perception.html?_r=1&) showed that people who thought they were wearing a doctors’ coat did better on attention exercises than those wearing the exact same coat, who thought it was a painters’ coat. Its why the military emphasises razor sharp dress sense. The clothing doesn’t matter, but the attention to detail that carries over into other tasks does.

Two, dress like a gentleman or leader, be treated like a gentleman or leader. So, the first point addressed how you improve. Now we’re talking about others improving because of you. I remember my commerce class a few years back where Mr. Collins related an anecdote about how he always gets called ‘sir’ when he’s in a suit. Dressing well gets you respect. Don’t believe me? A study from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom asked participants to make a snap judgment about a person after being shown an image for just three seconds. In some images the person wore a tailored suit and in others an un-adjusted off-the-rack suit, but otherwise the images were identical — the cut and colour of the suits was the same, and faces were blurred to prevent subtle differences in facial expression from having an impact.

Asked to evaluate the photos, respondents consistently ranked the man in the tailored suit as more confident, more successful, higher earning, and more flexible than the one in the off-the-rack ill fitted suit. The better fit and higher-quality material were enough to shift people’s perceptions in a measureable way.

People make shortcuts in judging others. You want to work to those shortcuts. You ever heard somebody say “Woah, he looks tough. I’m not messing with him” ?

More controversially, dressing sharp conveys an image of power and authority and enhances your sex appeal… but we’re not going there. Think about a really well dressed person where the clothing fits nicely. Chances are, that clothing accentuates the natural form of a person’s body. You know a suit jacket? It builds man’s shoulders, holds in the stomach, and slims the waistline to form the loved triangle shape for a man. Clothing is making you look more like the ideal male figure, which radiates authority.

You’ll look like a winner and be treated like one. Dressing the part increases your attractiveness – the research proves it. And you want to know something else? The research shows that attractive people earn more. )http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/management/good-looks-bring-a-handsome-return–32000-a-year-20130106-2cb65.html) And a key thing it shows is that you get penalised more for looking ‘below average’ than ‘above average’. Why? Because we notice the things that are off about a person’s appearance – the messy hair, the scruffy shoes, the mark on the face like the dot on the piece of paper… – as opposed to the things that are good. We notice imperfections, because our memory can only focus on a few things at a time. And guess what – people naturally focus on what you’re doing wrong. Also, another study found that attractive workers were more productive. (http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/management/beautiful-people-more-productive-study-20111110-1n8nj.html) You dress well, you’ll do better. And if you want a more casual atmosphere? You dress down a little. Convey what you want to convey.

Finally, dressing well is also a matter of respecting others. Show them respect and dignity by treating them with formality.

So, what does this mean?

Everybody should have their shoes in decent condition, occasionally polished. Everybody should pay attention to their hair. Gentleman, it means you tuck in the shirt you ironed, you wear a belt, wear long pants, and in winter, wear a coat. Show some flair with a boutonniere or pocket square if you wish. Ladies, dress respectfully and in a dignified manner. Do this not just in school, but in social life.

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