There’s just no substitute for making a good first impression.
The general rule is that if you follow the fundamentals of presenting yourself, the chances of people instantly taking a liking to you, taking an interest in getting to know you, or trusting you with their business, are greater than if their initial impression was of someone who took very little care in their presentation. Be it in person, over the phone, by fax, e-mail or video conference, it’s crucial to come across in a positive light – particularly the first time around. Dressing for success is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that you make good, lasting impressions. When you look good, you feel good and often that leads to more confidence and a trusting, likeable demeanour.
The flip side is a negative impression, but sometimes, it’s not that we don’t want to impress. Most people in the working world have busy lives and often, it’s just not possible to stay abreast of changing trends and style, unless it’s something you take a particular personal interest in. Similarly, in these post-recessionary times, belts (old ones) have been tightened and wallets emptied – meaning that our outdated wardrobes have had to be stretched.
Good, smart clothing, after all, is expensive and that seems like a fair enough excuse. But, is it worth blowing a first business meeting with someone because they couldn’t take you seriously? Fear not – all is not lost. There is a way to impress, without having to blow your budget. Or, at least, that’s what style consultants, Mayur Ravjee and Rashid Davids from Khaliques in Village Walk, Johannesburg, maintain. They joined up with Business Traveller Africa to offer some tips to the businessman, on how to dress impressively for winter.
According to Ravjee and Davids, when it comes to improving your corporate closet, it’s better to choose classic, timeless and quality pieces rather than following the changing trends. Not only will you find that you are able to pull off more ‘looks’ with fewer items of clothing by mixing and matching, you will not have to replace your clothes as often.
If a man wears a suit five times a week, he should have at least eight different suits. That’s according to our experts, although eight different suits is quite a financial outlay, if you’re starting from scratch. But, hang on, there is method to their madness. The end result is wearing a suit once every two weeks. A quality suit worn once every two weeks, need only be dry-cleaned once every four months and replaced once every two years. Something to think about….
Davids and Ravjee also believe that you don’t need to wear designer labels or the most expensive suits. For them, the key to dressing well is wearing clean clothing that fits you well. Menswear is still very conservative when it comes to choosing appropriate colours. Charcoal and grey are the usual and most accepted colours for business, followed by black and navy blue. Also fashionable are the pinstripe versions of these colours. But it remains a serious fashion faux pas to wear any checked, light, or pastel-coloured suits.
Apparently, double-breasted and three-button suits are no longer ‘trendy’, whilst one and two-button suits are very much ‘in’, this season. Shirts and ties are there to ‘break’ the suit. Striped ties in mauve, purple, green and red are fashionable colours right now and, interestingly, plain black and blue ties are not. A good tip for keeping warm this winter is to invest in cardigans, pullovers, scarves and snoods (scarves in the shape of a tube). Cardigans and pullovers can get a little more colourful, but in the corporate arena the standard black, charcoal and navy blue are still more popular.
Also, even though southern African winters are not the coldest, investing in a good quality coat is another recommendation. According to Davids and Ravjee, trendy woollen coats are ‘in’, whereas the long leather jacket is another fashion ‘no-no’ at the moment. With regards shoes, the word is that square-toed shoes are out, in favour of a more stylish round or pointed-toe pair. Again, simplicity of colour, so stick to shades of brown and black. Ditto for belts and forget about white belts and shoes. No-one will take you seriously – let alone trust you with their business.
For a smart-casual look, a pair of chinos and a sports jacket or blazer is always a safe play. The most common chino colour is stone, but they also work well in navy blue and black. A word of warning though from our experts – if you do wear dark colours, make sure that the fabric is a mixed blend of polyester and cotton, because pure cotton fades quickly. The sports blazer is popular in black or navy blue and works well over a shirt, golf shirt or jersey. A semi-formal pair of shoes or casual slip-ons would complete this outfit.
So, that’s the corporate businessman. What about the businesswoman? Here, we brought in image consultant and owner of Soul Style, Chanelle Jackson, for her views on how women can maximise their winter wardrobe. For Jackson, dressing appropriately in the workplace takes precedence over any fashion trend. Skirt length should be just above or below the knee. Pants should lie one centimetre above the ground. Underwear lines are not acceptable and bra straps should not be visible under see-through tops (wear a camisole) or sticking out at the shoulders. A fresh coat of lipstick and fresh-smelling deodorant also helps to create a good impression. Just don’t overdo it.
Apparently, the colours for this season are also pretty conservative with camel, neutrals, purple, pink, plum, deep red and army green just about as exciting as it gets. What is really interesting is that it’s become more acceptable to split mix-and-match suits, which also means different looks for fewer items of clothing. Shirts and tops can be accessorised with interesting trims on lapels, cuffs and delicate buttons. Lace and stripes are also very popular at the moment. The classic jacket, ‘boyfriend blazer’ or military look, are also ‘hot’ fashion items.
From a dress point of view, the timeless shift dresses are also in demand – the trend now is that they have softer lines and shoulders. As with the businessman, a quality jacket and collection of jerseys are recommended, particularly those that are of a good quality wool, cashmere or angora. Again, keep these colours and styles simple and classic. Another word of advice from Jackson – if you are still building your wardrobe, ensure that it consists of these anchor items: a black A-line skirt, well-fitted suit pants and a suit jacket that is longer than your hip bone.
Then, add two neutral colours in shirts, skirts, pants and blouses in tan, brown, white, red, navy blue or brown, because these colours look good interchangeably. Choose a few dressy blouses with stripes or patterns that will match your anchor or neutral pieces. Remember to wear the same colour from the waist downwards – so your pantyhose and shoes need to match you skirt or pants. The only exception is if your pants or skirt is not a neutral or anchor colour.
Making a good impression is not all about dressing well. Confidence, eloquence, making eye contact and good manners are all effective tools. But, knowing how to put a slick outfit together certainly helps get you off to a good start and could ultimately prove the difference between landing that big account or having to play second fiddle to a more well-dressed competitor.
Jackson’s Business Trip Packing Tips
- Lay out your clothes, shoes and accessories to make it easier to choose what to take.
- Make sure each jacket, pair of pants and top goes with at least three other items.
- Always pack jackets first in corner of suitcase, folding them inside out, half length ways.
- Follow the same procedure for tops by packing these in the other half of the bag.
- Leave jeans and trousers for last. Then fold in half and lay across length of the bag.
- Pack shoes, toe to heel, in a plastic bag and pack them in the four corners.
- Wrap belts around the inside of the bag and never roll them.
- Always carry toiletries in a separate case to prevent leakage onto your clothes.
Chanelle Jackson, Clothing & Style Consultant
Tel: +27 83 607 7517
Address: Shop U3, Village Walk, Rivonia Rd, Sandton, Johannesburg
Tel: +27 11 783 2468
Address: Shop G3.1, Cedar Square, Fourways, Johannesburg
Tel: +27 11 465 1613
Address: Shop N47 and N52, Oriental Plaza, Fordsburg, Johannesburg
Tel: +27 11 836 4418; +27 11 838 7473