Personal Branding Image Consulting ,Atlanta
Photo courtesy of J. Hilburn.
As I consult both professional men and women, I reach out to many sources for sartorial knowledge and information to stay current and in-the-know about corporate and professional style trends. Although I never encourage fashion trends, as they are so flighty, I always want to pass on smart information that applies to my client and his or her personal style. Maintaining a quality, current and professional wardrobe takes a bit of effort and investment, but the result is a wardrobe that is relevant for many seasons and a professional image that authentically represents the individual. Afterall, style means nothing unless its personal.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Kevin Knaus, Creative Strategist, Retail Advisor, Trend Forecaster and Professor of Fashion Marketing and Management at SCAD, Atlanta. Our special focus was on men's wear and the trends corprate America is witnessing in professional attire.
Q: In the past decade, we have increasingly seen casual attire take over offices all over America, and not just in the creative industries. Do you see this continuing, or is there a fall-back to a more sophisticated and "dressed-up" sense of style?
A: I do see it continuing in the office environment. Future change will be up to the company or organization and how they establish or enforce dress codes. Today’s employees must exert a certain amount of judgment when casual attire is offered.
So much has been written about the changing of dress codes. Recently major Wall Street firms announced new relaxed dress codes to compete when recruiting talent from major technology firms but, today’s employees are still very confused on business casual which gives retailers an exciting opportunity to develop fashion education programs for the customer.
Q: Do you think that younger men/millennials have a greater sense of personal/individual style than their Gen-X or Baby Boomer predecessors?
A: Yes – Younger men/millennials are more open to experiment with dressing. I do see a difference in the older millennial verses the younger millennial. The younger millennial wants to dress with a more significant personal style. When visiting retailers, the staff are telling me that young millennial men have a stronger interest in dressing up. This customer likes the educated staff that can help them with the correct purchase.
Q: European cuts are just that! Are Southern professional men embracing the more fitted shorter jackets and pants or are they still inclined to wear tailored and classic cuts?
A: I feel this is a personal taste and depends on the man. As we know the American man has a build that is different than the average European man. It’s very common for American men to be larger in the middle, more so than European men. American men can have difficulty finding correctly sized European suits because if the jacket fits, the trousers may be too small. It comes down to how much a man wants to spends. A well-fitting suit can be expensive. In the end, the Southern professional male is still inclined to wear the classic cuts.
Q: The blue blazer is a timeless piece for men. How often must it be replaced to stay current in a man's wardrobe?
A: The blue blazer will always be a staple in a man’s wardrobe. The blazer is perfect for a meeting or with blue jeans as it’s a timeless silhouette that will always be in style. Dressed up or down a man always needs the classic blue blazer. Today, many types of blazers are available but, I recommend either the standard double-breasted or the two button as they are the most classic for men. Today’s man needs a great cotton/linen blend for summer and a wool for winter.
Thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge and expertise with my followers, Kevin!
"helping you express your most authentic self"
It's already summer in the South, and as the temperature rises, professional clothing is getting skimpier. Women are losing their blouses and jackets, pants, and close-toed heels and instead opt for sleeveless or strappy tops, shorter skirts, and sandals. Men tend to lose the jacket as well and wear sports shirts or short sleeve shirts exclusively. They sport their shirts untucked and even wear the dreaded flip-flop. You know you are guilty on some level.
There are some industries that can handle a slight summer shift to more casual attire, especially as the season tends to be quieter, in terms of work and client load, but your selections must remain appropriate for your work environment. If you work in the finance, accounting, consulting and law fields, or in a large corporation, you have to continue projecting your professional image year-round. So, you must pay attention to your company's dress code.
Inappropriate work clothes will distract from
your professional purpose and message.
Don’t frown as if this is a horrible thing! As the consummate professional I know you are, you owe it to yourself to look your professional best all the time! Consider the promotion or raise you want. You also owe it to your company. You want to be taken seriously. Remember, you are dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. In fact, in a survey conducted by careerbuilder.com, 93% of executives admit they take in to account an employee's dress style when they are considered for a promotion. If you are a manager or in the C-suite, note how you want your company to be represented by your employees. After all, I advise young professionals to emulate you!
I’m not trying to stifle your style--I’m trying to bring out your professional style! Inappropriate work clothes will simply serve as a distraction and the focus will be on the state, quality and appropriateness of what you are wearing not the quality of your work and performance. Coco Chanel said, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress, dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” This applies, of course, to men and women.
There are ways to look professional and feel comfortable throughout the summer months. The key lies in selecting the right fabrics for a professional summer wardrobe. You can invest in a handful of key pieces in light fabrics and dress appropriately and comfortably all summer long.
For the summer, fabrics to consider are linen, lightweight cotton, and airy silks. You will always feel cooler in natural fibers. Seer sucker suits were once the staple of summer business attire for Southern men and are still available through J. Hilburn, Hugo Boss and Brooks Brothers, among others. Linen jackets, twill pants, and lighter weight cotton shirts in pastel and neutral colors look appropriate and feel great.
Here are some tips for dressing appropriately during the summer.
Advice to women:
Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his own image. - Goethe
I have two pre-teens. Not since they were "two under two" have they been as difficult as they are now. Yes, their current erratic behavior, emotional outbursts and appalling lack of interest in grooming are due to their surging hormones, but there is a consolation. I am frequently complemented by other adults on how kind, confident and polite they are. I always respond with a secretly amazed "thank you", then wonder if they perhaps mistook my kids for someone else's, because who my kids appear to be in public are not the 11 and 12-year-old I observe at home. I constantly remind them: there is only one you, behave like you want to be remembered all the time, not just some of the time.
Does your professional behavior reflect the real you and the image you want to project?
Behavior is another obvious expression of self that impacts your image and demonstrates to others who you are. Behavior includes manners, etiquette, and body language, but these aspects of behavior are teachable and coachable. Many times habits, lack of manners-training, social awkwardness, or lack of confidence prevent individuals from behaving appropriately in many business situations at the detriment of their image. There's a misconception that manners and etiquette are too formal, pretentious and class-driven. Consider them instead as commonly observed methods and practices to help people feel comfortable, included, and considered. There are many books and professional behavior training courses that cover business meal etiquette, telephone etiquette, meeting etiquette, note writing, and cell-phone etiquette, as well as, the physical expression of confidence in terms of body language. It is imperative to have good manners and practice proper etiquette in all aspects of your personal and professional life, but ultimately it is your core values that influence your behavior first.
Human behavior flows from three sources: desire, emotion and knowledge. -- Plato
As you have identified the core values for which you want to be known, consider this: does your behavior reflect your core values? Say you desire be known as an influential team member--generous and knowledgeable. Does your behavior speak to those qualities? There are actions you must take and behavior you must engage in to BE that for which you want to be known. For example, being influential requires that people trust you. How do you garner that trust? Are you honest and authentic in your communications? Are you emotional and show passion about your subject? Do you take a position and stick to it? Do you engage others with your knowledge for their benefit, so that they become educated and inspired to share your message? You will not be influential if you have wishy-washy tendencies. Think about the many politicians whose positions on an issue "evolve"--another way of saying I changed my mind. It is very hard to trust someone who wavers in their affirmations and core beliefs.
I invite you to challenge yourself by considering the many times you have honored your core values with your behavior and the times you did not. Be honest with yourself, then BE that for which you want to be known.
--helping you express your most authentic self
As I explained in the introduction of this series last Wednesday, there are four elements that I refer to as the ABCD of a personal brand: Appearance, Behavior, Communication and Digital Presence. These are not only important for making a positive first impression, but imperative to our lasting imprint--that for which we want to be known. Since image is visual, the first aspect I will discuss is Appearance and how people perceive us.
Appearance includes our clothing choices, fit, quality and grooming. A professional appearance is not only important when trying to make a positive first impression, but must be considered every day as we dress for work. Appearance is imperative to one's lasting imprint. Everyone understands that who you are, what you think, your performance, and your values ultimately define you, but the fact exists that we ALL have biases about appearance. In fact, we make up our mind about someone within the first seven seconds of meeting them.
The first determination we make about someone is their trustworthiness and competency. "That, from appearance?" you ask. A recent study, conducted by Harvard social psychology professor Amy Cuddy, confirms that when we meet someone, we first evaluate their trustworthiness and second we determine their competence. There are nine other attributes that we consider within those first seven seconds including intelligence, socio-economic status, and sexuality--all determined by a first impression.
We owe it to ourselves to be the best we can be--from the inside out! We don't want someone to stop at the distraction of a wrinkled shirt, a jacket that is too tight, scuffed up shoes, an ungroomed face or a blouse that is too low. These faux pas can give the impression that we are lazy, sloppy, incapable of details, lack confidence, are unintelligent, and more. Iconic designer Coco Chanel said, "Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman." Of course this applies to both men and women. Our appearance can help people see our core values--who we really are--by helping them get past what's on the outside and get to the nitty-gritty good stuff inside. We want to invite people to come in and get to know us authentically. Don't let your appearance be a distraction! The goal is not to be remembered for what you wear, but who you are, what you said, your ideas, and your actions---that for which you want to be known.
Last week I asked you to come up with three things--core traits or values--for which you want to be known. Did you write them down on a sticky? Grab that sticky and contemplate how you express those three adjectives in your life and work. Does your appearance reflect those values and traits? Or does your appearance distract people from truly seeing who you are?
"helping you express your most authentic self"
As an image consultant the first piece of advice I impart, before I even discuss professional attire with a client is--be that for which you want to be known. Be all the core values that make you who you are and show that you are a valuable asset to your company. When you give your very best self, you become known for that -- in all of life, not just work. This effort starts with creating a positive first impression then goes way beyond that and becomes your lasting imprint--that for which you will be known. It is not just the Oprahs, Zuckerbergs, or Bransons of the world that make lasting imprints. We all do. We all have unique gifts that when discovered, developed and used in the best way, can leave positive and lasting imprints in our personal, professional and communal lives.
Image is so much more than your selection of clothing. You know the colleague who is always on-the-ball, organized and sharp or the friend who is positive and energetic no matter the circumstance. You also know the negative nay-sayers who are skeptical and critical. This is their core being at work. So when I begin work with a client, we start from the inside out. Image is about your tone, attitude, communication style, behavior, and manners. It is about every way you express your core values and your inner style. It is also significantly about how you choose to represent yourself digitally. You control your message, so what do you want to say?
I ask some initial questions: How do you want to be perceived? What do you want to be known for? The answers are not always easy, nor are they fast-coming. Once someone takes the time to ponder their purpose and how they want to be perceived, the focus of our work together is to develop and manage their personal brand to reflect their purpose, image and that for which they want to be known.
There are four aspects to image development that I work on with a client: the ABCD of their image and "personal brand", including Appearance, Behavior, Communication and Digital Imprint. In this five-part blog series, I will discuss in greater detail each aspect and I'll explain why it's important to manage each of these areas.
Next week, I will start with Appearance. If you plan to follow this series, I'd like for you to do some soul-work/homework. Select three words that best describe you and for which you want to be known. Next week I will explain why and how your Appearance is important in reflecting your personal brand and image.
"helping you express your most authentic self"
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I write about the topics that make you stand out and help you be that for which you want to be known. My passion is helping you as a professional, discover your values and your inner style and project them authentically and confidently though your words, actions, appearance and digital presence.