You might have spent half a decade getting your college degree, have the highest IQ in your company or a master’s in French Literature, but if you’re not dressing smart, you’re sillier than you think.
So you’ve just been introduced to someone for the first time. You shake their hand and say something vaguely intelligent, hinting at your wit and wisdom. But before you’ve finished your sentence, studies reveal that that person has already read countless subliminal messages about your personal appearance (from your shoes to your hair) and made up their mind about how intelligent you are. And it all happens in seven seconds!
If you think your personal style isn’t giving you the best chance at getting the promotion, the income or the respect you deserve, it’s time to smarten up.
Wear a collar
A stiff, neat collar makes you look smart and fresh throughout the day. Perhaps it’s because collared shirts are the standard for most schools and university uniforms and are therefore associated with academia. Maybe it’s the fact that they are the mainstay for a man’s working wardrobe and borrow from a time of oppression and the resulting bias people often have when estimating the intelligence of men. Add a feminine touch by keeping your menswear-inspired shirt tailored (baggy and boxy will only make you look sloppy) and pair it with a flattering knee length skirt and a narrow silk neck tie for a look that’s polished and professional with a dash of panache.
Red might be the color of power and passion and yellow might be associated with youthfulness, but if you’re trying to look smart and respectable, wear a mainly neutral color palette that doesn’t distract from your competence or polarize people. To add a little fun, experiment by mixing shades within the same family so you have tonal depth without any jarring colors (or judgments).
Cowl Neck White and Cream Top (thelimited.com, $45), Jones New York Cropped Beige Pant (lordandtaylor.com, $89), Blush Suede Heels (stevemadden.com, $90),
Striped Linen and Lurex Scarf (worldmarket.com, $10)
Be a trail blazer
It’s no accident every military uniform includes a well-structured blazer in its sartorial armor. The square shoulders imply strength and authority, while the clean, crisp tailoring signifies discipline and commands respect. The best part about a blazer is that they instantly smarten up more casual outfits. To look clever without looking like you’re about to declare war, wear it with a soft, silky modern tee, a slim-fit pant and a statement piece of jewelry.
A woman who doesn’t know how to look after her shoes doesn’t know how to look after her life, or at least that’s what most people think. There’s a reason why I said “a person’s sole is a window into their soul” in my book, How To Tell A Man By His Shoes. Stepping out in shoes with well-maintained heels and polish shows the world that you pay attention to detail and that you are on top of your game, all attributes needed to one day be the boss.
Read the classics
Rather than succumb to every new trend that fashion editors throw at you (high-heeled sneakers anyone?), choose to invest in classic pieces that never go out of style and always look smart and sophisticated. To get an idea of what they are, watch old films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Years of social conditioning and Hollywood marketing have made us associate these iconic pieces with the elegant leading ladies who once wore them.