Your Personal Style: What Your Clothes Say About Your Personal Brand

If you think the phrase, “The clothes make the man” is wildly off-base, just try showing up to a formal dinner party in a Hawaiian shirt and sandals!

Realistically, the clothes that you wear and the way you present yourself say as much about you as the words that come out of your mouth and the body language that you use.  For this reason, it’s important to invest some time in determining whether or not the clothing you’ve chosen for yourself is consistent with the image you want to portray – or whether your fashion choices are subtly sabotaging your personal branding efforts!

To conduct this self-analysis, take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror – quickly, before you have a chance to change what you’re wearing to influence the results of this survey!  As you examine your clothing, ask yourself – based on clothing alone – what you think a stranger would say that you do for work?

While you might think that your “funky” jeans and t-shirt combination gives off the impression that you’re a carefree business person, what are the odds that a stranger walking down the street would associate you with your desired characteristics of dedication and commitment to business success?

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be entirely rigid in your choices.  For example, just because you want to be taken seriously as a business person doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking moment of your day in a suit, tie and button down shirt!

However, first impressions go a long way and you’ll have a much easier time of establishing your personal brand if the image you portray outwardly is at least somewhat in line with peoples’ expectations.  This eliminates the sense of cognitive dissonance we experience when, say, we see Facebook’s billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrive on Wall Street in his hoodie and sneakers.  Given his success, he can overcome these mixed messages – you might not be so lucky.

The following are a few ways you can incorporate your own style into different personal branding choices.  If you want to appear…

  • Professional – Maintain a business casual appearance at all times.  Make sure that the clothing you choose is up-to-date and stylish, which conveys the impression that you’re technologically savvy and prepared for anything the real world might throw at you.
  • Creative – Add colorful flourishes with your ties, scarves, jewelry and shoes.  While you may be able to dress more casually than your business counterparts, don’t go too far off the deep end.  There’s a big difference between nice jeans paired with a professional top and worn jeans set against a ratty old sweatshirt.  Be casual, but classy at the same time!
  • Traditional – Depending on your age or desired position, you may want to use your clothing choices to convey a more traditional brand (this can be especially useful if you’re gunning for a position that you’re considered to be too young for).  In this case, think maximum coverage – including dress shirts and pants for men, and long-sleeve blouses and long skirts for women.  Keep excess scents, makeup and jewelry to a minimum to convey a more traditional aesthetic.

Of course, no matter what styles you choose or what type of personal brand you wish to convey, there are a few “hard and fast” rules you’ll want to follow to keep your style choices in line with your personal vision for yourself:

  • Clothes must be fitted – Even if you’re wearing top-of-the-line clothing in the latest styles, the effect of your trendiness will be minimized if your clothing doesn’t fit appropriately.  For men, this means choosing sleeves and collars that are the right size for your body.  And for women, this often means having both the waists and hemlines of long pants fitted.  Very few pieces of clothing fit perfectly off the rack, which is why a good tailor can go a long way towards making you look as good as possible!
  • Clothes must be clean – Again, you could be wearing an Armani suit, but if the scent of worn clothing, nights out or – worse yet – body odor – precedes you, your personal branding will suffer.  For this reason, it’s vitally important that you take the time to wash all of your garments appropriately, following whatever instructions are described on their labels.
  • Clothes must be pressed – Unless the personal brand you’re trying to convey is “indigent,” have your clothing pressed.  Any dry cleaner in your area should be able to help you do this, but to minimize wrinkles on your own, get in the habit of folding and hanging laundry immediately after removing it from the dryer on wash days.

Are you conscious of how the clothing you wear reflects your personal brand?  If so, share how you attempt to make these connections with your fashion choices in the comments section below:

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