Being easily recognisable has its advantages, and you might even spark a following.
Think Larry King and you will think of wide-rimmed glasses and suspenders.
Think Pharrell Williams and you will think of large topper hats.
Think Yayoi Kusama you will think of red bob-cut wigs and polka dots.
Think Steve Jobs and you will think of turtlenecks, jeans, and sneakers.
Think of Mahatma Gandhi and you will think of dhoti and shawl.
Each of these personalities owned their dress sense and created their signature look by design. There is always a message behind how people dress and present their looks. It is the outer extension of their values, beliefs, and attitudes which forms their brand. They may not be all style icons but what they wear has a distinct look that is consistent and timeless. They are easily recognizable and memorable; it is their signature.
Years ago, I chose to go bald. At first, I approached the idea with trepidation because I was conscious of what people might think of me. In my younger days, I was exposed to the negative stereotype of bald men as villain archetypes and the name calling “botak” (meaning ‘bald guy’ in Malay) as in jest of somebody with a hair-follicle challenge. Thankfully Hollywood’s leading men like Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, and Vin Diesel, managed to bring sexy back with their shiny chrome domes. Today I feel comfortable in my scalp; I mean skin, and I wear my signature look with pride. My appearance makes my presence more recognisable and memorable for people; those I meet in my social and professional life. Sometimes it is the conversation starter. Random people come up asking me “why I do it?” and “how I do it?” I used to find that interaction strange, but now I relish it. In training, I get to meet a lot of people. Some forget my name afterwards, but they remember the ‘botak trainer.’
“Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” ~ Mark Twain
The famous writer Mark Twain might have said it right. Conventional wisdom purports that our choice of clothing affects how people perceive us. Conversely, a social psychological study from Northwestern University revealed that our clothing alters how we see ourselves. ‘Enclothed cognition’ is a term to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. It involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors – the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. For example, if you wear a white lab coat described as a doctor’s coat, your ability to pay attention and carefulness increase sharply. And if you wear a white lab coat described as a painter’s coat, you will show no increase in attentiveness and carefulness. So the next time you show up for a job interview, meeting, making a presentation, or meeting your potential in-laws, take note of enclothed cognition at play with your mind, especially when results matter.
Your signature look affects how others behave toward you and how you view about yourself. It becomes vital that you pay attention to create a look that works for you.
There are a few necessary steps to follow that will get you off the starting block.
Think about your image. Create a mental picture of how you wish to present yourself to the world. Perhaps you like to show a confident, astute, and ready-to-take-on-the-world attitude. What about expressing your creative side and experiment with edgy, abstract mix-n-match pieces. Or how about digital nomads aimed with an array of gizmos and teach wearables? Having that vision is a start point that will help you invent your signature look by choosing the right ensemble. Whichever look you go for, always think about your job and appropriateness of different places and events.
Be body smart. You want to flaunt your assets and hide your flaws. Fashion faux pas occurs when people do the opposite. Assess your body type and shape to create a signature look that brings out the best of your body profile. Not all styles or fashion trends work for everybody. Choose the ones that give you the greatest comfort and confidence of all time. Self-honesty is the best policy. Don’t end up being the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s story of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and get trolled.
Research or Get help. Do your research by finding images of styles that make you feel inspired and happy. Take pictures, store them or write down notes of what you like. Try them out and ask feedback from people you trust who have good dress sense. If you think an investment is worthy, engage a personal stylist to help you out. They could help you identify styles that suit your body profile to avoid fashion faux pas. Finding your signature look is a personal journey of discovery. Enjoy the finds and the adventures that go along.
U is for uniform. A dapper gentleman I work with wears interesting cufflinks, and people take notice of that. The repetition of seeing ‘something appealing’ becomes a statement that attracts attention or possibly goes viral. Larry King shared that in one show he noticed the men at the front seats took off their jackets to reveal their suspenders. Find a signature item and build up a collection to accentuate your everyday look. Use the KISS formula; KEEP IT SIMPLE SIGNATURE.
Own the look. American fashion designer Marc Jacobs once said: “Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.” Your attitude is the life force behind your signature look. It should be about your authentic self, and your style reflects that. You either rock it or sink it. Wear it well, you will be kicking doors down.
Remember that you are a unique individual and your signature look should embody that spirit. It is fine to stand out when others are chasing trends. Pay attention to enclothed cognition and what you wear could alter your performance level. Finally, a well-thought-out signature look would liven up your personal brand and maybe raise a cult following.