Most people underestimate the power of visuals in their lives. Everything people can see gives an impression. Homes, dress, art, vehicles, commercials. Rather than company advertising or big budget movies, I like to look at the smaller visual cues of people going about their day. Those messages are more personalized with each individual crafting an image. My favorite example is clothing.
When you first meet someone you have very little to go by except their appearance and clothing is a big part of forming those impressions. It’s not a good way to judge character or learn about a person but these first impressions will impact how people respond to you. I see that as something to take advantage of.
At one of my internships I wore a blazer and well fitting pants every day to work, in hindsight, I probably should have worked harder to blend. However, one of the new employees was under the mistaken impression that I was someone important and high ranking in the company. In reality, I was just the intern hired a month before him who was overly fond of suit jackets.
The man in the picture below has covered himself in tattoos. First impressions might include wariness or thoughts of how he is unable to get a job. The skeleton appearance comes across as unnerving and is off-putting to many viewers. Particularly with the dark colors around the eyes and the mug-shot-blank background. He likely planned it that way.
In reality, this is Rick Genest a Canadian fashion model, actor and artist. His use of dark visuals and death motifs gives him a unique and intimidating look.
Again, in the image below the two different men pictured give very different impressions. The ill-fitting suit on the left looks like something dug out of a Goodwill rack five minutes before an interview. The one on the left looks the wearer is a successful young business man. It might be a little too trendy for the CEO but in an instant, the viewer has a more favorable impression of the individual on the right. Simply because his clothing fits properly.
This image of women in swimsuits also has a visual impact. Viewers recognize the women’s attire as fashion from the past. The style might bring up thoughts of historical events or more conservative cultural norms. If worn on a beach today by young women it stands out as old, unique or retro.
My favorite swimsuit is in a similar style. It’s quite comfortable and best of all I can body surf without worrying about it falling off. For people around me, it says a little bit about my personality.
The context and use of clothing can also send messages about culture. For example, I have been repeatedly told that European women don’t like to wear exercise clothing for anything other than exercising. If the woman below was walking the streets of London her bright running shoes might give passerbys the impression that she is a foreigner or tourist. Once again, this may not be the case but visuals have an impact on what people think.
5) The fashion in the image below also creates a first impression about the woman wearing it. Perhaps she is unique, rich, classy or sweet. Her choice of accessories and colors might give this impression. She wears a light colored jacket with cute lace and a fur hat with gloves. The light color jacket could be associated with innocence, the gloves with famous women of the 1950’s and the fur hat with wealth needed to purchase the expensive accessory. Those observations may not be true but in a first impression, you only have moments. I am also displeased to see someone wearing one of my favorite outfits.
Visuals do make a big difference in how people perceive you, even if those assumptions are incorrect. As I see it, why not use that to your advantage? Form an image you want. Use fit, colors styles and stereotypes to your advantage. These impressions are drawn from history and culture many years in the making. They come with history and stereotypes and some brands even work to create a desirable stereotype of wealth, popularity or success.