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Communication Through Dress

man in suite
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It is said that communication is paramount in the success of any endeavor that involves the interaction of people. I would be hard pressed to disagree with this statement. Communication, or the lack thereof, can result in peace, war, love, hate, marriage, divorce, prosperity, poverty, and a billion other things that would be too numerous for this article. How you communicate contributes almost fully to how you are perceived in life, and as the cliché goes, perception many times is reality. The great thing about communication is that it is not solely confined to the realm of words, so fret not; you do not have to have the oratory skills of a Barack Obama nor the conversational savvy of a Ronald Reagan to communicate effectively. In fact the most important form of communication has nothing to do with what spouts out of your mouth, but with what is draped over your body; Communication through dress.

Someone’s opinion of you is shaped long before you ever say a word to them. You can enter a room and immediately be anointed as confident, commanding and debonair, or you can just as succinctly be dismissed as timid, apathetic, and headless.

Communication Through Dress

What you wear says a great deal more about you than most people realize. If I want to communicate confidence, then that means I want to dress with a sense of purpose as to have a presence. Let’s take James Bond as a perfect example of dressing confidently. Whenever he is in a room, he is in the room. People notice him not because of what he says, or of his intentions to foil a villain’s outlandish plot while simultaneously running off with his former female companion, but because he has created a presence through the way he has dressed. In the myriad of actors who have portrayed him, you will find a common thread in that to create the character, they all wear clothes that accentuate their body. James Bond’s suits, sweaters, henleys and other smart casual wear, neither distracts nor detracts from his natural form. In other words, he wears clothes that fit him, and he does so in ever setting, whether boardroom, beach, or bedroom. You would not see him in any pants that could be confused for spandex or body pant, nor would you find him wearing any shirt that could alternately be used for a parachute.  A 5’10, 165 lbs man should not have his closet full of attire indicative of a 6’5 270lbs man. Dressing confidently means neither hiding nor revealing too much of yourself, much like the secrets of courting a lady. Wearing clothes that fit your body correctly is the key to why Mr. Bond can have every eye in the room on him, and all he need do is utter three words; “Bond, James… You may not be able to repeat those words verbatim, and hopefully you never would as you should be proud of your own name, however you can certainly replicate his “body” language with ease.

Machine Washable Men's Suits
Photo by Hardini Lestari on Unsplash

Alternatively, dressing to communicate an overall lack of confidence and apathy can make just as profound a statement to someone. There is nothing at all wrong with wearing extremely loose fitting clothing, as sometimes for purposes of relaxation you do not want to be restrained by anything, it is also not inherently wrong to go along with trends, such as the current one of wearing pants that leave very little to the imagination in terms of how they conform to your body. However when you regularly wear clothes that are extremely baggy, boxy or loose, you are conveying that you either have something to hide or that you or ashamed of something. Why else then would you try to cover yourself up in something that essentially disguises you? This is ultimately saying that you are not comfortable putting who you really are forward. It shows a lack of confidence in yourself that pervades the attitudes of those you come into contact with.  On the other extreme of dressing in clothes that are too tight for your frame, you are saying that I don’t care how much you see of me, almost to the point of voyeurism. It’s attributable to being the child with low self-esteem who does whatever he can for attention with the constant refrain of, “look at me, look at me”. Much like that behavior, it usually breeds resentment and has a polarizing effect. The professional athlete or celebrity, who parades around in such clothing and then ask why they are not taken seriously or given respect outside of their chosen field, need only look in the mirror.

How you dress directly communicates the way in which you are proposing that the world should regard you. It is truly one of the only universal forms of communication as it steps across cultures, languages, and other boundaries, which is why it should be taken extremely seriously. Think how many opportunities that you may possibly never get, both professionally and personally, simply because of the way in which you happened to be dressed on a particular day. What you were speaks volumes to the impression that you are making. In the case of either dressing with an air of confidence or a lack thereof, to quote Epictetus, “first learn the meaning of what you say and then say it.” I would add, say it as often as you can.

Marcus Green is the author of A Year Without April, and lives in Seattle,WA.  His motto is that “90% of life is simply showing up…dressed well.”