Do Clothes REALLY Make the Man?

"Stuffed
I recently had occasion to sit in a room full of naked people. Physiques aside, some were impressive, some were not. So tell me, do clothes REALLY make the man (or woman)?

The story about my foray into the world of the nudist is made up but whether or not clothes "make" a person is really dependent upon whom you ask. If you ask me, the answer is NO!

The saying "Clothes Make the Man" dates back some 400 years and it refers to the fact that when people see a well-dressed person, they assume that person is a professional, capable,
and (especially in the old days) rich. Therefore, you had to dress like
how you wanted to be perceived, what you wanted to eventually achieve. Fast forward 400 years- lots of folks still think the same way. But does it really make a difference?

I happen to be one of those who do not put faith in the old saying. I suppose I might be in the minority but I am a member of an elite club with the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in my camp.

Perception
is not reality; perception is an intermediate stop on the way to
discovering reality. Perception is fabricated from our own impressions,
our own belief systems. Is it powerful and influential? Absolutely! Is
it all that it seems? Less often than you think. How many times have you
cast an initial judgment only to surprise yourself later and learn how
you missed out on a great opportunity, person or idea?

So how do we less than impeccable dressers "dress for success"?

Believe

First and foremost believe in yourself. Those who believe in themselves exude confidence, charisma and character, without the need to sell. A flashy suit might look good on you, but anyone with a pulse will know if it is just a front to cover up for your lack of self-worth. The thing about this- perception meets reality. If you truly believe in yourself, people will see the real you, clothes or not.

Be Yourself

Putting on an act, whether it be dressing up for someone else's perceived benefit or what have you, tends to put us off guard, out of our element. Perhaps the ends justify the means but there is no getting over that under-current of discomfort. The best option is to be you. How do you need to dress to feel comfortable? It's not a question of what others wear or what they expect- what feels right to you? Better to go prepared to be who you are rather than what others expect you to be. The charade can only go on for so long.

Perception Matters

There is no getting around it. Perception DOES matter. So focus your attention on letting folks learn about and digest the things they really need to know about you. Present your ideas; engage in conversation; do not pass on the opportunity to say what you need to say and to let people see what they must about you. Dazzle them with YOU, not the clothes you choose to wear. Unless your appearance is for sale you have more perception matters to concern yourself with.

Whether you are an Oscar de la Renta, Brooks Brothers or a casual sort, the most important thing to remember before you step out into the world is that it's not about the clothes you wear, it's what lies beneath them.

Perhaps I am willing to give you the shirt off my back but that's not what most folks are looking for.

4 responses on “Do Clothes REALLY Make the Man?

  1. Thanks for the post Ed. It reminds me of the story about the philosopher who goes to a formal dinner party in jeans. When asked if he felt out of place because of his clothes, he looked around and said he hadn't noticed. I think the closer we can get to that mentality whether it's clothes or the work we put out there, the better off we are.

  2. Jen, I could not agree more. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Robin Bugbee says:

    You are wrong about Steve Jobs. He certainly did care about how he was perceived and his appearance was very much calculated to achieve his desired affect. From his early business attire of bow ties and the formality that look implies down to the aggressive casualness of his eventual black turtle neck and jeans uniform, his clothes and the impact they made were clearly foremost in his mind.

  4. Thanks for writing Robin. It is not my intent to cast judgment; in fact I hope to impart a message and inspire thought. All the same I respect your view. Of course I meant no ill will towards Steve Jobs.
    In the present era, many associate the impeccably dressed with being the most successful. It took folks in the business world a long time to overlook the perceived heresy of the leader of one of the most important businesses of our time to wear jeans on the public stage. I did not know Mr. Jobs, though I wish I had. I have heard it said that he invented the concept of "business casual." In my mind that is as much matter of self-confidence as it is a matter of taste in clothing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *