At a recent official ceremony, I was privileged to seat at a place that gave me an excellent view of the front rows where most of the big people and government officials were seated. I couldn’t stop myself from looking at how some were dressed. I was shocked to see a Minister wearing white socks on his black pants while another official was parading in his nicely black shoes combined with a brown belt on.
And there was this important lady whose nails polish was half peeled off. Well, you must have understood that these little mishaps made me wonder if government officials and big CEOs are given any minimum grooming lessons when they are appointed.
I used to see a Minister whose fashion was to wear all existing colors on himself at a time; a yellow suit on a green trouser with a pink shirt and a red tie. Frankly, the way some of these officials and top management dress is completely alarming. Sadly enough, professional dress code and grooming standards have fallen from popular culture and one needs not to look far to find examples of unprofessional dress and inappropriate grooming mistakes even among top officials.
While growing up, one of the lessons I learnt was that the way I dress up is the same way I will be addressed because first impressions count. I learnt that if I wanted people to take me serious, I needed to be knowledgeable about the importance of appropriate dress code.
Whenever you meet someone for the first time, a first impression takes around 35 - 40 seconds to form, and 93 per cent of it is based on totally non-verbal signals:
• 55 per cent is on how you look, your appearance, body language and posture
• 38 per cent is on your voice and intonation
• 7 per cent only is your words
As someone said, a book is often judged by its cover and appearance plays an important role in projecting a good image. No matter how professional you are in your field of expertise, nothing you say or do will overcome the negative signals emanating from your apparel and your dress code especially if you are in contact with people.
It is true that judging someone through his/her dress code is very subjective but there are minimum standards in terms of tastes, choices and colors we should all try to respect. Wearing for instance white socks today under black pants is completely outdated unless one is going for sports. Most people do not know for instance that the color of their socks should be dictated by the color of their pants and not of their shoes.
Because many have actually never been taught appropriate professional appearance etiquette, top officials and companies’ top management should be given minimum lessons of grooming as this goes in line with their public relations role. Whether in a business or official environment, we are supposed to dress to have a positive impact on people we meet.
Queen Elizabeth says that “Dress gives one the outward sign from which people in general can, and often do, judge upon the inward state of mind and feelings.” Like it or not, you are immediately judged by your appearance. Your cloths and how you carry yourself convey messages. If you are in a job where you are in constant contact with people, remember that your dress code is as important as the services/products you are offering.
You can be the best professional in the world but send a negative message because of how you are dressed. The more professional you look, the more credible, trustworthy and competent you will appear to others. Nothing should be overlooked or exaggerated, whether it is the way you match colours, the way you walk, your make-up, hair style, your odour, your shoes and even your jewellery.
If you look and behave like a well-groomed professional or official, you will win the respect and honor of people you meet. Watch out therefore for the image you give of yourself because beyond your personal image, it is probably the image of your organization or your country that is involved.
The Author is a Customer Service Consultant and the Publisher of the Service Mag