Gentlemen: Maybe leave your dragon earring at home this time.
My last post was all about the ladies looking as smart on the outside as they are on the inside. Gentlemen, it is now your turn to take a hard look at your fashion game.
It is a new year and time to gear up for networking season. Budgets are fresh, clients are open to meeting new people and hearing innovative ideas. But there is nothing worse than slaying your chances at making a great first impression at networking events before you've had the chance to extend a hand in greeting. The NYU study that says we make 11 major decisions about each other in the first seven seconds of meeting is proven time and again in corporate networking environments. As entrepreneurs, it is important that your visuals match the brilliance flowing effortlessly from your lips -- or else your words may fall on non-receptive ears.
Here are five fashion faux pas, and how you can avoid them.
The diamond-encrusted watch, gold chain laying over your tie, pinky ring, earring in your ear and sporting anything with "nugget" as a descriptor sets the "compensating much?" alarms blaring. Wearing your entire savings brightly on your body is sure to give pause to contacts you meet who are searching for a contractor with the ability to function in a variety of environments.
Stylish alternative? Wearing your simple, clean wedding band and conservatively tasteful timepiece. Hide the gold chain under your shirt if it is your good luck charm and leave the rest of your bling at home.
Being a Slave to Trends
Hanging out with the boys on the weekend? Fully entrenched in the fashion, creative or design industry? Please feel free to revel in pastel suits or the new narrow, flooding pants with bright (or no) socks. For business owners going a-courtin' in the corporate world, the latest runway look could alienate decision-makers with more conservative leanings or make you the brunt of unwanted attention (and a bit a snickering) from those who are not in the know -- or just don't have progressive fashion bones.
Stylish alternative? Stick with standard colors and fits. For a touch of flavor, play a bit with lapel widths, pocket squares and cuff links, or a textured tie or shirt. Pick the "centerpiece" of your look (is it the tie, shirt, shoes or suit?) and let the rest of your clothes "support" it.
Shirts too big, suit flopping around, billowing pleats, bunching pant legs -- a bad-fitting professional wardrobe can telegraph dumpiness, inability to pay attention to detail, or it can make you look financially strapped (even if it is a designer wear).
Stylish alternative? Taking the time to tailor works magic on networking garb -- even if it is an entry-level brand -- and it helps hide any flaws with your frame.
Scruffy chic does not play at networking events -- I don't care what you saw on the red carpet at the Grammys. There is no stylish alternative for this. The way you care for yourself non-verbally communicates how you will care for your clients. Trim beards, ear and nose hair, goatees and wild eyebrows (no need to wax or thread like a woman -- just snip the hairs that jut out). If you are receding, cut your hair low, and make certain your neckline is clean. If you have hair, your cut should be precise and professional. Shoes should be shined and run over heels fixed. Nails should be clean and even (no nail bitten nubs) -- and the skin on your face, arms and hands should moisturized and clear (no shame in a man getting a facial or using moisturizer).
You do not need to herald your arrival via smell -- drowning yourself in the latest scent can actually repel those who are wearing contacts, subject to migraines, or just don't like what you are wearing. The opposite side of this is being "man stale" -- beware of scarves, hats or the collar of coats that may be a little sweaty from frequent wear. All impressions should be great impressions, and if you greet a warm prospect with a hug or light cheek smooches -- you want to delight not repulse.
Stylish alternative? Be sure to wash or dry clean outerwear and fall/winter accessories and pamper your skin with a nice light aftershave, lotion or body wash that features base scents like peppermint, cedar wood, or green citrus.
Jetta Bates-Vasilatos is founder of Twist Communications and a life stylist with 10+ years of award-winning consumer engagement/strategic planning experience for luxury and global brands like BMW and Coca-Cola. She also serves as an on-air correspondent and writer with a focus on luxury and experiential tourism, lifestyle, sustainability, and personal finance (how to be chic yet savvy). Jetta has appeared on stations such as WCIU-TV, KBS-TV(Korea), ABC-7, CLTV and KBC-TV (Kenya), writes for national print publications such as Essence, Recommend, Ebony and HomeStyle Design and is the host of the Jettasetting segment on WVON radio.