Appearance is a powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, we literally cannot stop ourselves from forming first impressions based on a person’s looks.
“Our DNA is programmed to be able to form first impressions of others in a matter of half a second,” says Colombe Nadeau-O’Shea, a 25-year-old business coach and image consultant at Corporate Class inc. “It actually only takes a hundred milliseconds to form a first impression of somebody else, and the way we form first impressions is based on non-verbal communication.”
Ultimately, when you meet someone for the first time — be it at a bar or a business event — it’s your clothes that are doing all the talking.
“Dress is often the first thing we notice about a person because it covers 95 percent of their bodies,” Nadeau-O’Shea says. “The way you package yourself, the clothes you wear, it has to say something about you.”
To help you make the best first impression, I polled several fashion-savvy ladies across North America, including fashion bloggers and stylists, to discover what style mistakes they notice when meeting a man for the first time. Here are five style cues you want to pay more attention to.
1. Shoe Game
Several women I interviewed had strong feelings about men’s footwear — highlighting just how often women notice shoes.
“Men think nobody is going to notice, but we notice,” says 35-year-old Nathalie Martin, editor of the WoahStyle.com style blog, on dirty footwear.
Sandals are also a definite don’t.
“Definitely no sandals at all, ever,” says Michele Halwaji, a 22-year-old New Jersey pastry chef and owner of the Fists Full of Cake bakery. “I just think it’s, like, sloppy.”
Nadeau-O’Shea echoes a similar sentiment when it comes to another form of undesirable footwear – Crocs. “Crocs are a big no-no! Fine, maybe if you’re at the cottage, but definitely not in the city.”
Instead, women prefer to see men in clean, closed shoes that give off a more put-together vibe. Halwaji likes when men wear Vans slip-on shoes, which can even be appropriate for the beach.
2. Distasteful Tees
Women agree, graphic T-shirts are fun and can be great conversation starters. But when graphic T-shirts turn distasteful, women walk away.
“I love a good graphic tee,” says Savannah Scott, a 23-year-old stylist from Montreal – and one half of the Trollsen Twins blogging duo. “But I’m not a fan of those T-shirts with, like, naked women on them.”
Anything with the slogan “female body inspector” is also not a good look, she says. “I dislike misogynist T-shirts! That is like a huge “no” in every situation. It’s alienating to both men and women when you wear that.”
Instead, opt for a fun, graphic tee that is definitely not sexist. Halwaji also mentions she loves a good band t-shirt.
3. Trend Victim
Whoever said, “fake it till you make it” was not referring to style. Style unfortunately is something you simply cannot fake — and women notice when you are.
“You hear a lot about trends and obviously you want to adopt them and stay current, but there is such a thing as falling into this [trend-following] trap, and most of the people who do that are considered fashion victims,” Nadeau-O’Shea says.
Scott also agrees. “Authenticity in the way you dress is something you just notice. You can tell when someone is dressing to please the crowd and when someone is dressing to please themselves.”
To avoid looking like you’re trying too hard, Nadeau-O’Shea suggests you adopt trends in subtle ways.
4. It’s All About Fit
According to the women I polled, fit really makes all the difference. Whether it’s your suit jacket or jeans, fitted and tailored is the way to go.
“Most of us just buy our clothes at these big, box stores and assume that they fit us properly, but that’s not the case,” Nadeau-O’Shea says. “There is nothing worse than a suit that is too big on a gentleman. It overpowers them and makes them look sloppy.”
Martin agrees, an ill-fitting suit is painfully noticeable: “When suits fit poorly, you can tell. You can always tell by the shoulders.”
Poorly fitted jeans are also out of style. Martin and 27-year-old Lasalle College fashion marketing student Jacky Bercovitch both disapprove of baggy or flare jeans. They prefer a slimmer, straight-cut style instead.
5. Mind Your Grooming
If there is one thing that needs to be on point before you leave the house, it’s your grooming game. Luckily, it should also be the easiest thing to take care of.
“Nails, greasy hair, dandruff – women certainly notice all these sorts of things,” Nadeau-O’Shea says.
Don’t underestimate the power of good cologne either – or, as Bercovitch suggests, overestimate it: One spritz should draw women closer, not knock them unconscious. Either way, we’ll notice.