Men, in general, judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.
– Niccolo Machiavelli
This is an interesting topic to me. There’s a common expression about judging a book by its cover. While growing up, many of us hear this as a sort of cautionary tale, and the hope is that we’ll judge others on the content of their character. The reason it’s been repeated for generations, however, is because the world as a whole hasn’t changed. Despite the warning, most people have carried on as ever. Consistently, more often than not, outward appearance is still a deciding factor in many major decisions.
All That Glitters Is Gold
Appearance is the outward, visual representation of a thing or being. As a person, of course, it’s a culmination of the clothes you choose, the life you make, and the genes you were given. This, in and of itself, is fascinating because it is clear that only so much of our appearance is within our own control. If you were born with disproportionate features or an inability to tan in the sunlight, there’s little you can do about it. True, cosmetic surgery has become a more common option, but I think you understand my point. Genetics may be beyond any of us, but there is still a greater portion which we can dictate – at least within your means.
But, before I cover that, why does any of this matter? People that judge others by their looks are vain and arrogant, they’re selfish and over-privileged, or simply disgustingly ignorant of the troubles of the world, right? There’s a greater philosophical debate to be had here, but that’s beyond my scope today. The reason it’s worth discussing is because—regardless whether it is right or wrong—we are all judged regularly by our appearances. It’s not whether it’s fair, it’s simply that it is as it is.
The Appearance of Success
Recently, I was privileged to attend a local career and business expo. Milling about the space was seemingly every sort of person you might imagine. In one corner you could see the dashing entrepreneur in full, formal regalia – an outfit that made it very clear she had come to win. At another corner you might find a young man who had clearly been dragged out of the basement by the ear at the hand of his exasperated mother. His hair was tussled about as if by the gust of breath from which she screamed, “You’ll pay your part or you’re out!”. Likewise, he still wore that look of surprise I suspect he had made for her at that same moment.
And this is what I’m on about: Appearance sends a message. You may think it’s unreasonable that you can be judged by your looks, but you’ll be judged just the same. I challenge you to consider it from the other perspective. If you have an opportunity to give, whom would you rather share it with? If the person in front of you has clearly made no effort to impress, what but charity or desperation would move you to hire? Conversely, if it’s very apparent your candidate spent hours grooming and prepping, it’s clear they cared enough to try. When you manage your appearance, you show respect to your potential client, employer, or even employee. It’s a sign they are worth your time to try.
So, as business becomes “business casual”, remember: the basis here is respect. It’s about showing you care enough and you value the time and opportunity at hand. If you do go the extra mile, expect to be noticed. Looks can be deceiving, but most decisions still start with the eyes.
Thank you for your time.