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You Are a Walking Billboard

And you should care about what you wear.

As you know by now, I am a certified image consultant and also a certified life coach, and while I do admit that there are no federal regulations around these professions, I have studied, trained and earned my certifications through schools and with associations that have both a global reach and are leaders in the drive to develop regulations by which all professionals must abide. They are respected as the leaders in their fields and base my instruction and business on their lead.

These professions serve my passions as well as my natural abilities, and I am continuously learning and studying new trends and nuances and ideas to better serve myself and my clients.

I spend quite a bit of time on social media and reading articles and publications to keep myself current, trying to stay ahead of the change curve.

And in the past few weeks, I have come across a lot of chatter about the importance of how you dress, particularly at work or in professional settings. The opinions range from “I always wear a suit” to “I dress to match my audience and setting” to “It shouldn’t matter how I dress or what I wear” to “I don’t care what people expect, I’m going to be me.”

I’ve read comments from many who think that being too concerned with your outward appearance is outdated, sexist, shallow, solely a result of a patriarchal society, superficial, and it that it takes away from your message.

On these points, I cannot disagree more.

Let me break it down for you.

I have addressed this in the past, and I’ll probably talk about it again in the future, because it elicits such a passion in me. I live in authenticity and individualism, and I understand that people want to be respected based on their message and the value they bring to the table over how they look. My coaching clients struggle with this and dive deep into how they can make improvements in their executive presence, presentations, demeanor, leadership skills, and succeeding in a new role. The research they have done, the education and experience they have acquired are worth much more than their clothes. But here’s the catch.

You are a walking billboard for your message.

Humans are visual beings. Research points to our automatic, uncontrollable and unquestionable ability to form an opinion about someone in no more than 7, and sometimes fewer than, 3 seconds.

Our personal level of self-awareness and training to stop being judgmental has no bearing or effect on this.

So you walk into a room, and 1-2-3… people have an opinion of you.

But, if you’re still of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what you wear, let’s keep going.

To make it easier to understand, let’s equate your image to your personal brand. And it’s not a stretch because that’s exactly what it is.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “you are your brand.”

Think of brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Google, Pixar, Amazon, Starbucks, Target…

They have massive marketing and branding budgets every year. Why? To ensure that their message is not only received, but stated in a way they desire. They are conveying their message to you to create a lasting first impression on you; to imprint on you a lasting impression; and to express, visually, who and what they are.

The process is no different with you. I’m not saying it’s fair. Of course there are those whose reputations precede them, they need no introduction, and their work speaks for itself. But at that point, others know what to expect from them visually. Let’s be real - if Gary V ever showed up to an event in a suit we’d wonder if sent his twin or if something was wrong. But we’re not all Gary V.

Here’s a quick exercise. Take out your business card. Think about your thought process while you were designing it. You spent time carefully selected the right color, the font, the logo placement, whether or not you put anything on the back; you considered the type of paper, and if you wa