A lesson learned for folks who believe outward looks do not matter
As a rambunctious adolescent I often proclaimed that how I look on the outside should not matter, not in school and definitely not in business. Well, I found out the hardest way that that was wrong. Your dress code does matter like you wouldn’t believe making your first impression on people.
In our society of today just about anything goes as far as clothes (or the lack thereof), skin and body alterations and accessories etc are concerned. You could start believing that our outward appearance doesn’t matter much. Well it does. Let me share the personal account of an airline pilot. I am paraphrasing what he told me. We were waiting for the same airplane at an airport. Here is what he told me about what a difference his uniform made in his life:
- “When I wear my uniform I can talk to just about everyone, because they want to talk to me.”
- “Wearing my nice uniform lets me speak to beautiful women that would not give me a second look in my street clothes.”
- “People assume that because I wear a pilot’s uniform, I belong with the big airline because the plane carries the logo of it. Not so at all, but they assume that anyway.”
- “Wearing the uniform people are on their best behavior and usually extremely courteous.”
- “People think just because I wear this pilot uniform that I am more educated than them. Does that really mean that?”
- “A pilot’s uniform seems to suggest that I make so much more money than the average person. I make less than my brother in-law who is a truck driver. We are essentially on the road the same amount of time and to come to think of it I am just about doing the same job as him.”
- “Sir, you wear a suit. I would think – just like any other person – that you are quite well educated and that you have a well-paying career.”
Fascinating, huh? The bottom line of all the comments is that our outward appearance (dress code) does matter. No matter how right or wrong the position may be, other people will always judge us quietly. They are the judge and the jury and the executioner all wrapped up in one.
Is it impossible to regain lost ground and get people beyond our first impression? No it isn’t, but it takes many an interaction to do that and if your first contact is all you’ve got, well, then what are you going to do?
PS: Here is a Wall Street Journal article (click here for reading the article) about how appearance doesn’t matter. That is only true when you are part of a tribe and a certain dress code / appearance is expected of you even though it may be viewed as intolerable by another social group.