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How clothing affects your professional success

4th November 2015 Print

While dressing smartly does not define your talent or your abilities, it definitely helps refine your networking attempts. There is a reason why the old adage “you only get one chance to make a first impression” has become such a widely used idiom.

Of course, in the bigger picture, what you wear should not determine your value as a human being. However, in everyday life, people do unfortunately tend judge each other by the way they look, and that includes the way they dress.

Research shows that your appearance strongly influences other people's perception of your financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence, and suitability for employment or promotion. And therefore – here is where it gets crucial – what you wear not only communicates who you are in the minds of others, but also influences your level of career advancement.

Whether you deem it fair or not, your clothing communicates — and it can have a serious effect on your ability to achieve success. So, let’s round up a few tips to ensure clothing has a positive effect on your career prospects.

Don't show too much skin

That means: no short skirts, strapless tops, or shoes that barely cover your feet. Avoid wearing shorts. In some workplaces it may be perfectly acceptable for women and men to wear shorts, but that’s very much the exception.

Shoes and accessories

Don't wear jewellery that is too flashy or obnoxious — and always wear comfortable shoes that are appropriate for work. Also, if you wear makeup, don't overdo it. The only really acceptable accessory for men in a business environment is a watch. If you opt for wearing one, make sure it’s of a quality that you would like to associate with yourself, something like one of these quality options should do the trick and give you an idea of what to aim for.

Go clean and sleek

Never wear dirty, wrinkled clothes. This seems like a no-brainer but plenty of people think they can get away with wearing that dirty shirt just one more time before bringing it to the dry cleaners. No, you can't. Same goes with wrinkled clothing. If you don’t have an iron at hand, put your shirt into the far end of the shower while it’s on. The steam will get rid of most wrinkles. If you have to deal with some seriously tough wrinkling you can use ice cubes and a blow dryer.

Wear clothes that fit you well

Tailoring is a simple way to make clothes way more flattering. It'll give you a polished look, and those around you will perceive you differently. It communicates an air of professionalism, because if you prove yourself to have a sharp eye for detail, you may well be as good an observer in plenty of other fields. So, stay away from clothing that is too tight or too baggy—like everything else in your professional life: keep it just right.