The first impression you make when you walk into a business meeting can very much come down to what you are wearing.
While there are many great men’s fashion choices, sadly, people are let down by the outfit they are wearing. Your appearance can and does affect business deals, especially if you don’t give an appropriately professional impression.
Here are some common fashion faux pas to avoid:
#1. The unprofessional profile picture
This first faux pas may happen before you ever get the chance to meet a business contact in-person. With the amount of research that people often do online about people before meeting them, having a good, professional profile picture is a must. This goes for any place online where your business contacts are likely to see you, for example, LinkedIn profiles or website “about” or “meet the team” pages.
A “professional photo” means that you are dressed appropriately for the type of business you are in and you keep it very simple. For example, standing in your suit with a beer in your hand might signify a partier rather than a professional (unless you work in the beer industry!). Common faux pas include using grainy selfies, wearing gym gear or posting a photo that has an unprofessional or distracting background. Taking the time to have proper, professional headshots created can pay off for making the right impression.
We know we have mere seconds to make an impression in-person, and the same goes for your profile picture. Additionally, when you add in the first impression being made by a picture, people rely on all sorts of non-verbal cues to understand what you may be like as a person. A Psychology Today article discusses the “hidden” messages you might send with your profile picture. Body language plays a big role, determining whether people find you to be trustworthy.
While the professional photo is preferable, the article also shares a caution:
“To the extent that the photo appears to be staged, the desired impression will be weakened. It the photo appears too polished, the reaction may be contemptuous. Under the dominion of the digital age, distanced from all authenticity, people value a photo that, conversely, looks natural and shows the reality of the person. Such pictures make the strongest impression. Thus even if you’ve chosen to be photographed professionally, it’s worth the extra effort of finding a photographer who will produce believability from you rather than excessive slickness.”
#2. Wearing unpressed clothing
Whether you’re meeting in-person, over a video conference or via an online profile, wearing unpressed clothing of any form is a major faux pas.
The impression that wearing unpressed clothing gives is that you either don’t care much for your appearance, can’t be bothered getting acquainted with an iron or you’re too disorganized to take care of your clothes. None of these are good options for someone interested in doing business with you!
If there is no room in your schedule for laundering and ironing clothing properly, look for services that will take care of it weekly for you.Get acquainted with an iron. Unpressed clothes are a fashion faux pas! Click To Tweet
#3. The feet faux pas
A first impression is made from head to toe, especially when you meet in-person. With that being said, it is relatively common for people to leave their feet as an afterthought.
A faux pas that has crept in frequently in the last few years is electing not to wear socks. In some circles, this may be considered the fashionable thing to do, but certainly not in the corporate world. It’s just not a professional look.
Besides fashion considerations, wearing socks in your closed-toed shoes is a health and hygiene factor. Socks help to keep your feet dry and prevent fungal infections, blisters, or unpleasant smells in your shoes.
Getting to the shoes – good quality dress shoes that are well-cared for is the standard you want. This means leather rather than cheaper alternatives and ensuring that shoes are clean and polished. It is a mistake to turn up in a polished suit while wearing scuffed shoes!
#4. Forgetting personal grooming
The most polished suit, shoes and accessories won’t make up for poor grooming! If your hair is messy or you look like you could use a razor, it’s not a good look to those you are trying to impress professionally.
While we’re at it with personal grooming, make sure the clothes you’re wearing are free of lint, crumbs or coffee stains from your breakfast. Carry a lint roller and even some portable stain removing wipes to keep your clothing looking meeting-ready.
When you’re dressing professionally, “more is better” is often how we think of it, meaning you’re better off being overdressed than underdressed. However, when it comes to grooming, some things are better with less. Cologne is one of those things. It’s a nonverbal cue that can really get up someone’s nose (quite literally!). In general, avoid strong fragrances that may offend, including things like liniments. Some people won’t like the smell, some may be distracted by the smell and others may even be allergic.
#5. Not doing your homework
“Acceptable professional dress” looks different from industry to industry and from city to city. While the Silicon Valley vibe might allow for more of a business casual look, the standard back East is definitely still to wear a tailored business suit.
Even then, avoid dressing based on generalizations about a business or location. Doing your homework first is important – what is the typical dress standard? Mirroring your client or the people you are meeting with is a strategy that usually works.
#6. Not dressing appropriately for the occasion
There are a few different faux pas we could put in this category. One that has been remarked upon by business leaders is apparent confusion between dressing for a networking event and dressing to impress a date.
If you’re in a bar or similar setting for networking, business dress is still the most appropriate. It’s a mistake to walk around with too many buttons undone or wearing your training shoes. It’s also a mistake to wear what you typically might wear to a nightclub. Keep it professional!
Another faux pas is a source of frequent confusion among people. When you’re told the dress code is “business casual,” it commonly leaves people scratching their heads or surreptitiously trying to check up on what everyone else is wearing.
Like we’ve said previously, if you’re unsure, more is always better. It’s much easier to downdress from arriving too business-professional than to dress up an outfit that is too casual. It’s a mistake to arrive wearing what you’d typically wear for a comfortable weekend.
As a recent Inc article put it, “the question is not whether you care about fashion, it’s more about what you’re communicating intentionally or unconsciously through your fashion choices.”
People can and do judge you based on how you are dressed, and in a professional setting, any faux pas can cost you business deals, partnership opportunities or even promotions. In fact, research shows that people will make assumptions about someone’s personality, politics, status, age and income just from looking at a photo of their shoes. Imagine what seeing the full package in person will do?!
“Dress for success” is more than just a cliché saying, those are words of truth. While we would all hope to discern people’s abilities beyond appearance, the reality is that’s not what happens in business circles when you’re making a first impression. You usually only have one shot, so make it count!