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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The First Impression Factor, Part V

JetNetting with Heshie Segal

The “look” you create in making a positive first impression is affected by the accessories you choose (or how you accessorize). For the conservative personality, this may be the time to create a unique statement. Note here, unique does not have to mean outlandish. It may simply mean carrying a personally designed briefcase; for a man, it may be consistently wearing a vest, or for a woman, always wearing a hat. Personally, when I am on stage, I wear relatively simple, conservative gold earrings. This changes when I am attending a social or business event, especially when the event extends to multiple days. I will invariably wear unusual earrings, often asymmetrical. It nearly always invokes a comment. On a regular basis, no matter where I am, I hang my glasses on a specially designed chain. People invariably stop me and comment - on the street, in a store, attending a seminar. It gives me a chance to say, “I wore them so I would meet you.”

For someone in a creative business, outlandish may be the norm. In this case, add something conservative to invite comments.


Accessories such as shoes, belts, purses, jewelry, ties, eyewear, scarves should be a reflection of who you are and the position you hold. For the purpose of style and color, I am bundling shirts and blouses with accessories.

The Blouse for Women

For the most professional look, wear a white, off-white or pale color silk blouse. If you want to project high power and competence, choose one with lapels. If your goal is to appear more friendly, feminine and less intimidating, skip the lapels. A blouse should have sleeves unless a jacket will cover the shoulders at all times. A revealing neckline or transparent material is inappropriate in a business setting, especially in a strong, male dominated culture.

The Shirt for Men

A long sleeved professionally laundered cotton shirt is most professional. Should you choose a blend, make sure it has a high cotton content as blends tend to get “tired” more easily and should ultimately be tossed or donated. Plain solid color shirts are more versatile than a stripe (or certainly a plaid). A plain fabric without a woven pattern is preferred. Err on the side of caution when it comes to size – better a little lose than too snug. A sleeve should extend about ½” or more beyond the suit jacket sleeve. Wear a white crew neck tee shirt under the dress shirt.


Ties are a man's fashion statement (although women sometimes wear them and that may or may not be a statement). Conservative ties in a conservative environment are the norm. Ideally the tie is silk with a solid, stripe or small pattern, limited to no more than three colors. The more pattern or color in a tie, the more casual it is considered to be. The length ends just above the belt. A conservative tie will not help you stand out at a networking event and will tend to label you. In this case, experiment with for something just a little out of character, then a little more out of character, gauging the reaction each time and acting accordingly. If a tie wrinkles, steam it rather than press. If ties become soiled or stained, discard them. Frequently, even dry cleaning does not work. The tie should always compliment the suit or jacket in color and level of dress. Tie clips and tacks are out of date.


A man’s scarf should be black, dark gray or camel. Cashmere or superior quality wool work well. For women, a silk scarf is preferred. Save the wild, loud prints and colors for casual events.


A belt is part of the look. For a finished look, a belt must fit through the loops. Most belts have five holes; use the third one. The tail of the belt should extend a little past the first loop on your pants and the edge of the belt buckle should line up with your fly, and the row of buttons on your shirt. Buy leather, preferably black with a subtle buckle, either brass or silver. Purchase a belt a size bigger than your waist. Your belt should match your shoes. If you’re wearing brown shoes, wear a brown belt. If you’re wearing black shoes, wear a black belt. If your belt looks worn, you will look unprofessional. It is time to buy a new one. Of course there are alternatives: toss it, give it away, or dab discolored areas with shoe polish. Make sure your shoe polish is waterproof, if not, when you perspire, you can ruin your shirt.


Shoes make a strong fashion and personality statement. Top executives, and professionals in general, notice shoes. If you see a person is well-dressed, you just need to look down and check out the shoes. While your attire reflects how you look, your shoes are said to reflect how you think. What you wear on your feet can make or break your look, the interview or the sale. Focus should be on quality and style. The classic shoe for men is a black, cordovan or brown lace-up. Shoes should be scuff free, polished and look like new. If a shoe cannot be polished and made to shine, it is not for business.

Women should wear simple classic looking leather heels rather than those made of synthetic material; they convey a richer appearance. Avoid excessively high heels, preferably 11/2 to no more than 3 inches, depending on your height and the length of your pants. If you are wearing high heels, your pants should be about an inch above the floor. Use common sense and choose shoes that are good for comfort and walking. The heel and toe should be closed. Clunky heels, platforms and spike heels are inappropriate. Recommended colors are black, navy, brown, taupe and cordovan. White and pastels are not acceptable for business. Make sure your shoes complement your outfit and do not overpower it.

For either gender, in business, sneakers, deck/boat shoes, moccasins, sandals, and beach shoes are considered inappropriate footwear.


The socks or stockings worn by men or women should not be a detraction.. For men, socks should be long enough so that there is no visible space between the top of the sock and the bottom of the pant leg, especially when legs are crossed. Dark colors, preferably matching the shoe or at least a shade of it, are acceptable; white is unacceptable. Thin socks, made of cotton or wool, are the best choice. Once they are faded or thread-bare, it’s time to purchase new ones.

For women, avoid patterns or lacy stockings, use a natural, beige, flesh tone or tan color. Hosiery is required at all times. Never wear tights or knee-highs, etc.

In Part VI of The First Impression Factor, we will wrap up the “Look” and then move on to attitude, body language, behavior, words and more. The first impression you make should be the one you design to be everlasting.

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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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