The importance of first impressions and appearance

Publication date: 04 February 2019
Article type: Blogs and Articles

Patty Soltis describes how appearance can help make a good first impression.

First impressionsAwareness is always the first step in solving a problem, make the connection between profitability and the impact of a first impression to improve results

First impressions last

There is a correlation between a first impression and profitability.

We have all had that encounter with someone who had a limp handshake, appeared to be perspiring excessively or had a wardrobe malfunction. Each one of these situations has left a lasting impression.

Too many executives are indifferent or unaware of the effect that a first impression has on their net income and employee performance, most think that this is useless. In addition, most professionals open their closet in the mornings, view their wardrobe, and hastily select to wear something that will suffice. Unfortunately both of these are wrong. 

A first impression is made in the blink of an eye and according to studies such as Harvard University’s First Impressions, The Science of Meeting People in 2012, professionals are judged on trust and competence. It takes multiple more visual encounters to change this. Far too often, leaders and executives leave this up as a risk. According to another study titled The Science of First Impressions by New York University in 2013, people assign a ‘value’ to someone based on a first impression.

Each member of the team is the representation of the company to the client, yet they forget the impact of the first impression and the effect that this has on its bottom line.

How to make a good first impression through appearance.

Here are my suggestions for an executive looking to make a good first impression through his or her appearance:

  • Assess your current image and current wardrobe, do the same for your team. What message is being communicated by you and by your team? This is the most important step because business attire has become too casual, the winning teams dress for the role. 
  • Educate yourself and your team about how to dress for different situations. Knowing this gives all of you the confidence to succeed, you know that you look the part. Shopping also is more focused and the closet begins to work for you. 
  • Understand the pieces of clothing that need to be investment pieces and that there is a Cost Per Wear (CPW) – the total cost of an item divided by the number of days you will wear it. A watch remains a status symbol and an item that is worn daily. Invest wisely in a watch. Do the same with two suits and shoes, for both men and women. Save money on trendy items. 
  • Understand that like all other types of coaching, this is an ongoing process. With practice, skills will be improved but need to constantly be honed. Find a resource that provides complementary advice via social media, websites and other media outlets to stay current. 
  • How to dress in different situations

Here are some ways to dress for different situations:

Everyday professional

Build a base colour in your wardrobe and work from that. Most often, it is black for women and navy for men but could be grey, beige or shades of camel. With this as the base, add in colour, prints and trends. 

High impact meeting

Go back to the colour base to clearly shout that you mean business. For both men and women, check the fit of the jacket, especially the shoulders. The length of the body of the jacket and the sleeves have come up slightly in recent years, so check the fit of that as well. These are simple alterations to stay updated.

Day to dinner

 For women, add a swipe of red lipstick, a piece of statement jewelry and a small handbag or clutch. For men, the addition of a colourful pocket square is an asset. Make sure that business cards are handy, so you don’t have to dig through pockets or handbags. 

Business casual

The most overused and misunderstood term is business casual. Simply, business casual is a step down from everyday professional. Trousers still need to be tailored, or denim in darker shades can be worn with a third piece such as a jacket to dress the look if needed. For women, the skirt or dress length can go from 1” above the knee to the ankle.  

Weekend wear

Have a little fun here but remember that you may have that chance encounter with a client, colleague or community member. Ditch the yoga pants and gym shorts for a pair of leggings, jeans or shorts. Pair this with sneakers, sandals or boots; no flip flops.  

A winning look paired with a brand that reflects your company image and goals are the key to success.  Graphics, advertising, promotional and marketing materials were all developed by experts to mirror the brand to the external world, and one’s image is essential to this.  


Patty Soltis is the CEO and Founder of STYLEdge Fashion