What kind of impression does your appearance give off? Most of us never bother to think too deeply about how we present ourselves; after all, personal preferences often override any concerns over what others might think. We usually just strive for comfort and affordability, and while this may not be a poor strategy it completely overlooks the power that your appearance has on impression management.
If you’re not convinced then allow us to demonstrate how quickly your mind processes things based solely on presentation.
Imagine that you walk into a subway station and find three men. The first man is dressed in a well-cut suit and carries a briefcase. The second man has a leather jacket, multiple facial piercings, and is completely covered in tattoos. The third man is wearing pants that are far too short, sunglasses (while indoors), and has his hair slung into a ponytail.
If you had to ask one of these men for directions, which would you choose? You know absolutely nothing else about these three individuals, yet from the descriptions given above I can almost guarantee that most readers would choose the man in the suit. The other two might be the kindest, most considerate people in the world, but since their appearances aren’t congruent with this assumption (or societal norms) we would seek to avoid them.
Before any interaction occurs we shape our initial opinions and impressions solely off of how others present themselves. Think of how many people you see each day but never speak to; you have an impression of all of them, but these impressions are entirely based off of visual characteristics.
To put the problem simply, others may be judging you in grossly incorrect ways based on how you present yourself. You might be missing out on countless social or professional opportunities because of this, so maintaining a strong and congruent appearance can do wonders for impression management.

Creating a Positive Appearance
Keeping a good appearance doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to strive to comply with all the societal norms that you can think of. You don’t need to buy designer clothes or wear a suit every day; all you need to do is find a way to present yourself that is completely congruent with who you are as a person. To do this most effectively we’re going to go over the four biggest aspects of presentation: clothing, grooming, physique, and body language.

Think of your outward appearance like a piece of art. If you were to show a well-made piece of art in a museum and it was covered in smudges, the crowd wouldn’t think, “Oh, the artist must have messed up.” The reaction would more likely be “What the &*%$ is up with all the smudges?”
Everything in artwork is assumed to be intentional, even down to the smallest details. The same applies with appearance management, especially with clothing. Nobody is going to think that you “accidently” decided to match a striped tie with a plaid shirt; they will instead assume that you chose this strange (and rather off-putting) presentation. In reality they’re not wrong; unless somebody is dressing you, you have full control over how you look before you step out of the house.
It’s time to start exercising that control. When you’re deciding on what you’d like to wear, think about the usual stereotypes and judgments that your chosen clothing would usually receive if it was on somebody else. Here’s just a small list that I can think up from the top of my head.

For Men:
• Sweatpants – usually implies laziness or lack of effort, especially since this is the usual sleepwear of many men. Therefore you’re creating the “just out of bed” look.
• Jeans – Casual, simple, not too pretentious. Usually a good choice for anybody.
• T-Shirts – Another simple choice, but be careful when they have snappy sayings. Many strangers won’t understand your sense of humor and may find it tasteless.
• Suits – Good for creating a very professional look, but when not combined with proper grooming and body language they can come across as strange, unnecessary, or supercilious.

For Women:
• Sweatpants – almost the same as for men, but most women overcome the ‘laziness’ through makeup, grooming, and body language.
• Booty shorts – while not morally improper in any way, these have become a staple of the promiscuous woman. This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with wearing them, but society has caused them to give off a poor impression.
• Jeans – just like for men, jeans are simple and applicable in most cases.
• Pant Suits – For women, this type of formal wear creates a very strict and professional impression. If you’re wearing this then you probably mean business
• Dresses – in regards to formalwear, dresses are much more elegant and much less serious. They’re also a lot less likely to intimidate.

These impressions are also situational; for example, if you work on Wall Street then anything besides a suit is going to seem inappropriate. All you really need to do is look at your life and figure out which clothes match your wants and needs the best. An anti-social person might be okay with getting obscenities tattooed onto their knuckles, whereas somebody friendly would never think of such a thing since it would hurt their ability to be social with others.
It’s also important to remember that nothing on this list is a prime determinant of how others will view you. It does have a powerful influence, but grooming and body language are both equally important when it comes to overall impression management.

This category doesn’t really too leave much room for variation; if you’re trying to be anything but off-putting then you should always be bathed and deodorized. The options come mostly with hair, both on the head and on the face.
Whether you bother to do your hair or not is a solid reflection of how much effort you’re willing to put into your appearance. People who roll out of bed without even bothering to drag a brush through their hair often appear unkempt and lazy, whereas people who take the time to do anything at all to their hair can usually fix that issue.
Obviously some hairstyles are a little extreme for everyday use. Slicked back hair looks particularly seedy and untrustworthy, and once popular styles like mohawks now come across as childish and immature. I’ve even heard stories of people in the 90s’ putting mayonnaise in their hair to get the greasy look that was trending at the time (please never do this).
Your best bet for a hairstyle is usually something basic and within the confines of societal norms, unless you’re really trying to stand out. Hairdressers are usually fairly good at finding you something that matches your style, so you can always seek advice if needed.
In regards to facial hair, it all depends on what impression you’re trying to give. Studies have found that younger women tend to like a clean shaven man, but women looking to settle down and get married are more attracted to men with beards. A well-trimmed beard is also advantageous in the professional world, making you appear more competent and trustworthy.
A bushy, unkempt beard can be devastating for a man trying to make a good impression. It looks very sloppy, and modern times has even seen the birth of the term “neck beard” used to describe socially and professionally inept people. This isn’t a label you want to earn, so if you choose to have facial hair make sure that you keep up with it.
For women, any traces of facial hair should always be removed. Some females are prone to slight peach fuzz on the upper lip; there’s nothing wrong with this, just basic genetics. However, remember our art metaphor; everything is viewed as intentional. It’s not a bad thing if you’re a woman and grow slight facial hair, just be sure to get rid of it to avoid any negative impressions.

This is another category that is pretty easy to understand. People who are fit give off the impression that they take good care of themselves, whereas people who are overweight present themselves as the exact opposite. There are varying degrees that fall in between these two extremes, but overall being in shape is generally seen as more favorable.

Body Language
On multiple occasions we’ve discussed the importance of nonverbal communication. People gather a lot from how to carry yourself, so learning some body language basics is a must for good impression management. Our two articles on body language (Part 1: Dating and Relationships and Part 2: Basic Social Interactions) will yield additional information, but for our purposes here I’m just going to list a few basic favorable body language practices to get into.

Be Confident
I would argue that over 90% of confidence comes from nonverbal cues. You can see it quite easily; the confident person carries themselves much differently than their shy and timid counterpart. Confident body language includes:
• Standing up straight but relaxed. You don’t want to be rigid like you have a bar in your spine, but you don’t want any slouching either. Stand so that you’re confidently in command of the room.
• Keep your shoulders relaxed, but not slouched. This is more so for men than for women, but for confidence purposes it can apply to both. You want to appear in command without being tense at all, so your shoulders should be relaxed without just letting them drop.
• Take up room. The confident person doesn’t confine themselves to tight spaces; they take up as much room as is necessary. This doesn’t mean infringe on other people’s space, but stand with your legs at least shoulder width apart and don’t yield unless there’s a particularly good reason.
• Don’t self-hug. Any motion which has you grabbing another part of your body is considered self-hugging, and it’s a notable sign of insecurity. Avoid this at all costs.
Be Open
Openness is a precursor to friendliness; after all, nobody is going to want to talk to you if you look like you’re going to attack them. Some good ways to appear open are as follows:
• Don’t hold anything in front of your chest. This is a subconscious way of creating a barrier between you and the other person, which makes both people feel more estranged in a conversation. You should hold drinks and purses at your side, and never cross your arms in front of you.
• Keep your legs open. As mentioned earlier, you want to be standing with your feet about shoulder width apart. If you’re sitting try to maintain open legged posture, unless of course you’re a woman wearing a skirt or low cut dress. If your legs must cross, do so no more than once (as in don’t try to wrap your legs around each other). For men, the figure-four style leg cross is always preferred to other methods if necessary.
• Smile. This is almost a no-brainer, but a smile will always make you appear more open and amiable. It also comes with a whole slew of other benefits that we cover here.

If you’re intention is to create a good impression and get people to like you, these tips cover most of the basics. If for some reason you’re aiming for a negative impression, do the exact opposite.

Remember that you have the power to control every important aspect of your appearance. Troublesome intrinsic things like looks and genetics don’t count for much when you consider the laundry list of other things that contribute to your overall presentation. As we’ve demonstrated, almost all of these can be improved with practice and knowledge, so put forth an effort and you’ll find that you can make your appearance perfectly congruent with the person that you want to be.

Author's Bio: 

Dakota is the founder of TheNew-RenaissanceMan.com, a website created to help visitors unlock their true potential and become more well-rounded in all aspects of life. When not writing or working on improving himself he spends his time making silly faces, creating merriment, and otherwise frolicking.