There’s never a second chance to make a first impression. Sure, the expression is a cliché at this point, but it does carry some wisdom. And beyond how it applies to a specific debut encounter, it highlights the fact that presentation matters.
Yes, we all know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And we know deeper personality traits are what truly defines a person. But there is also no denying someone’s wardrobe and general appearance do formulate a significant part of how we view them.
Steve Jobs had his turtlenecks. Serena Williams has her bodysuit. Indiana Jones had his fedora. Sarah Connor had her tank top. James Bond had his tuxedo. Even among larger groups in modern life, Texans wear cowboy boots, tech bros wear hoodies, New England prep schoolers wear boat shoes and Wall Street bankers wear pinstripe suits.
None of these stereotypes are universal truisms, but they are ways we quickly identify people upon first glance. And so the people wearing these clothing items — whether they are trying to project that image or not — should be aware of how other people see them.
Really, there are many things that the clothes you wear say about you, and the following three are among the most noticeable right off the bat.
1. Desire to Be Trendy
One thing you will immediately project is how much you adopt current trends. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. After all, there is nothing new about a leather jacket, classic black heels, blue jeans or Chuck Taylors. You can be extremely fashionable wearing traditional garments, but it does say something about you if show up in the latest seasonal trends.
Bomber jackets, for example, have made a major comeback, and previous years have given us reissues of certain Air Max sneakers that were instantly seen on feet everywhere — at least for a season or two until they faded away. The same goes for certain styles of dresses, sweaters and swimwear. When you jump on these fads, you are telling the world that you stay up to date and are trying to look modern and trendy.
2. Fitting In or Standing Out
A specific look can also say a lot about your desire to fit in. More specifically, it shows off which groups with which you are trying to be aligned. Wearing lots of leather and a mohawk may make you look apart from the norm at a lawyer’s office, but that same style might paint you as typical among a certain sect at a punk show.
Beyond the exact group that your wardrobe identifies with, your desire to dress like a certain segment of society will suggest how much you want to be part of the mainstream. These norms change over time — wearing jeans to work is now the expectation in many places. But, overall, are you trying to blend in or looking to stand out? This tells people a lot about you.
3. Projecting Confidence
Beyond following trends and a willingness to blend in, what you wear can suggest a lot about how you see yourself. Do you wear oversized neutral colors that hide your shape and general presence in a room? Or, are you wearing sleek, form-fitting, loud colors that make people take notice? Someone in a bodysuit will come off as more confident and sexy than someone in a frumpy sweater and baggy jeans.
Certain affectations to stand out can also highlight confidence. Even if you aren’t going wild with it, simply wearing a bright orange scarf, colorful suspenders or a playful hat shows the world you want to be seen rather than fall into the background. Right or wrong, people who dress confidently are seen as confident.
Self-Expression in Every Outfit
Sometimes it’s obvious what you are telling the world while wearing a certain outfit. Other times, the message is more subtle. But you can be sure the clothes you wear will always say something about you.
They can tell people how trendy and up to date you are in terms of following the fashion world. They can demonstrate whether you want to blend in or stand out. And they can be a physical representation of your confidence level and how you see yourself.
Either way, none of these specific factors need to become new goals for you. They aren’t necessarily an objective to achieve. But you should know your clothes say something and become excited about this ability to express yourself. It’s your wardrobe — and your wardrobe alone. Do it your way.