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Saturday, July 26, 2008

The First Impression Factor, Part 4

JetNetting with Heshie Segal

Part III of First Impressions had to be summed up in a sentence, it would be this: “For either gender, the power outfit is a high quality, simple, dark conservative suit.”

Let’s now turn our attention to what color can really do and mean for you and follow that with your choice of accessories.

I have taught color and design for years . . . long before I became a speaker and writer. The impact of color is so emotional, so powerful, so influential it can often override the principles of an excellent design. We knowingly or unknowingly use color to judge someone’s credibility, intelligence, friendliness, leadership ability, confidence, trustworthiness, approachability, attitude, energy, credibility, flexibility, status, intelligence and the list goes on. Bright colors can energize. Dark colors can be powerful. Natural colors are more soothing. On the other hand, they all, of course, can have the opposite effect . . . boring, over stimulating or morbid.

I have watched people squirm in a room with red walls, and fall asleep in a room with light blue walls. Fast food restaurants sometimes use a yellow décor to get people in and out quickly. How does your stomach feel when you think of green mashed potatoes or brown bologna? As an example of differences, I once submitted the same embroidery design to teach in Texas and New England. Because I had done my homework, I knew that pink and turquoise would fly in the Southwest and that burnt orange and dark green would go over well in New England. In both cases, the design was eagerly accepted. When I brought the other color scheme in as an example of how color changes are perceived, the reactions were negative.

We tend to dismiss something because of our color preferences. Color affects our world, hence is it any wonder that what you are wearing will affect those with whom you are connecting?

If you have the knowledge and the tools, you can successfully influence those in your environment. A comprehensive exploration of color would take volumes; this article only allows for a synopsis.

Generally speaking, the use of color refers to both genders.

Darker colors such black, dark blue, and charcoal gray command authority. They project power, strength, confidence and intelligence.

The lighter shades, gray and mid-navy blue still reflect authority, power and leadership, yet add a sense of warmth and approachability.

Light colors project friendliness, trustworthiness and approachability and lack a strong sense of power and authority.

Bright colors reflect energy, boldness, aggressiveness, create excitement and draw attention. They are not nearly as professional as the darker colors. In business, bright colors are best used as an accent in a tie, shirt or scarf.

Autumn colors convey trust and humility, not leadership or competency.

Pastels are mostly feminine colors and reflect compassionate caring and in the business world, weakness, vulnerability and non-professionalism.

Color should be worn strategically. While navy blue ranks the highest of the traditional colors worn in business, medium to dark neutral colors are acceptable. For men, the small accent of splash can be in a tie, for women, it can be an accessory or even a piece of jewelry.

Dark suits are generally worn by people who are ambitious and/or socially motivated and, as previously stated, darker colors command more respect.

Summary of colors and their influence in the decision making process:

Note: just as a stickler for my color aficionados, black and white are achromatic –

meaning lack of color; however, for the purposes of this articles I am including

them as “colors”.

Black reflects authority, power, independence, seriousness, and mystery for some, and

depression and evil for others. It is a more formal color and in business is less favored

than navy or gray. It is a favored color for people who want to appear slimmer, stylish

and sophisticated.

White is worn between Memorial Day and Labor Day. While white is a man’s power

color for a shirt, a white suit should be saved for evening wear. White shoes are causal

and not to be used for dress. Women may wear a white suit in the summer. Do not

wear a white belt or carry a white purse for business. White reflects innocence and


Blue is a universally favorite color. Darker blues project dignity and power and create an

impression of loyalty and trustworthiness. Navy pinstripes is used for the real power

suit. While women can use blue for accessories, men should not. Women can carry a

black briefcase, not navy. Mid-blue is more friendly. Light blue is considered casual and


Red commands attention and personifies energy and power. While red is generally too

strong as a business suit, women, especially on stage, often wear it as a power suit.

Men will wear a red power tie. Because it stimulates the heartbeat, it can be irritating

when overused. If your intent is to draw attention to yourself, wear red.

Yellow is an attention getter, so like red, wear it as an accent. Light yellow is easily worn

in a man’s shirt or tie. Pair yellow with a power color such as navy, black or gray.

Orange can be worn by men as an accent in a tie. Women can wear orange in blouses

and dresses and do best when paired with power colors. Wearing light peach makes a

woman look younger.

Green can be worn as an accent color in a tie. Light green is not acceptable for men in

business; darker shades are usually fine. Light green can looks cheap. Bright green is

more for casual wear and is not worn by serious professionals.

Brown is often associated with older men. Unless it is truly in vogue, simply use it as a

neutral accent.

Pink is an excellent choice for women’s accessories. While a man can wear solid or pin

stripe pink shirt, it should be reserved for a less formal business event.

Violet or purple can be worn by men in a tie. Women in business can use it for suits,

dresses, blouses, scarves and jewelry.

In First Impressions Part V, we will deal with accessories.

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The Emergence of The Relationship Economy
The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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