Do Clothes Make the Man?

How many times have you heard that saying?  How many times have you thought that saying was a bunch of bunk?  This is what happens with an abundance of overuse and an underwhelming amount of explanation.

Clothes on their own do not make the man, or the woman.  There, I’ve said it.  Just wrapping the body in fabric without paying attention to a garment’s fit, textures, patterns, attitudes, functions, and colors is like ignoring the person wearing the garments, or like painting a room in the dark.  How ridiculous is that?

Too few people actually study the messages of their clothing, but this is crucial to creating a positive impression.  Lately, a lot of people are in employment transition.  I’ve been working with clients who’ve been laid off, who want to switch jobs, or who want to return to the work force.  For any of them – and for any of you – who may be in the same situation, it’s so important to strategize this so you have successful interviews with prospective employers.

One of the toughest experiences of some of my clients is that they haven’t updated the way they look in a long time, and it shows.  Common among new clients is their clothing looks outmoded and their hairstyle looks transplanted from a past decade.  Yikes!

Although it’s not exactly a newsflash to them that they haven’t ‘shopped and chopped’ in far too long and that an update is overdue, they don’t know what to do.  Have you ever felt stuck like that, too?  Trust me, you’re not alone.

So how do clothes make the man, so to speak?

Woman or man, clothes make you successful at interviews and for business introductions when you look indispensable.  Equally important in deciding how to create your winning look is to consider the position you’re interviewing for and the culture of the business.  You want to balance your personal style, your career ambition, and the business culture when developing your interview look.  The same is true when you’re pulling together a look for an introductory business meeting.  What research have you done about the people you’re meeting and the nature of their business?  Yes, it’s a bit to consider, but being thoughtful and actionable is what you hope others will notice about you without your having to verbally say that you have these great qualities.

Polish your shoes.  Manicure your nails.  Trim your eyebrows.  Women, don’t overdo your makeup, but wear concealer, mascara, neutral eye shadow, blush, and lips to keep your face radiant and balanced.  Men, be sure to trim any facial hair to an appropriate style and be honest in assessing whether any facial hair you have you have is appropriate or if it may either be distracting or if it may age you.

Clothes only make the man – or woman – when the clothes send the right message.  There are enough choices available to ‘tailor make’ your own appropriate and authentic personal style.

If you’d like to learn more about “Mastering the Art of First Impressions,” sign up for a full-day workshop being given by coach Nina Price and me on Saturday, November 21st.

Designing and managing your image is the secret science of your success.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps professional men and corporate workgroups create effective visual brands. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.

  • Dan Phillips

    Great article ! Just as this article states – having a nice attire does not make the man or woman. Of equal if not of more importance is the right fit, color, texture, etc…. "Clothes only make the man – or woman – when the clothes send the right message."