Dress code speaks louder than words

A colleague recently expressed surprise that I had put on a tie and jacket, and was in every respect very formal. That was at a recent arts function. I was somehow surprised myself as to why should I not be expected to be formal.

A colleague recently expressed surprise that I had put on a tie and jacket, and was in every respect very formal. That was at a recent arts function. I was somehow surprised myself as to why should I not be expected to be formal.

However, after some consideration over this off-the-cuff remark, I understood exactly why my dress code caused such a reaction.

For years, I preferred not to dress formally as I felt comfortable in whatever I was wearing. However, things have since changed, thanks to my stint in the corporate world for two years where one was required to dress business-like.

I am stuck with that culture to date as a jacket and a tie have become part of my wardrobe. Clothes do matter, and how you dress is a language you are speaking, and people make judgments about your character based on how you dress.

Or do clothes really make any difference? Are concepts such as power-dressing overrated? Are women impressed by how a person dresses or by the dinner table clever talk.

Sowetan spoke to women to find out if they are impressed or put off by how a date is dressed.

Joelene Martin, a presenter of SABC2's culture show Roots, strongly believes that clothes send a special message about a man. "If a man is wearing black leather pants and a waistcoat, he thinks he is popular, and he has a big ego.

"If I see a man over 40 wearing tight jeans, I know he is a bad character. If a man dresses well, but likes wearing the tie short, I do not want to be involved with him. However, sometimes how people dress unfortunately also leads to people making wrong conclusions.

"A well-dressed man in a pink shirt and pink tie might make people think he is a homosexual. This, however, is not always the case because he might just be a metrosexual who likes looking after his image," she says.

Visual artist Lerato Shadi says she cannot speak on behalf of other women on whether how a man is dressed makes them make certain assumptions.

"But if I see a dread-locked man who keeps his locks clean and is able to strike a balance between being formal and at the same time cutting a neat, non- formal figure, it says that he probably works in a professional environment, and yet is not prepared to cut his locks.

"He is a man who believes in certain philosophies.

"I do not like a man who wears tight pants and looks feminine. It is a put-off because he comes out as bisexual and cannot bring out the feminine side of me," says Xhosa praise poet Jessica Mbangeni.

"A simple and a nice T-shirt with a pair of jeans as well as a formally dressed man inspire confidence in me. I do not like people who dress as if they use drugs," says Miss Winter Gauteng, Nomaswazi Ngwenya,

TV personality Uyanda Mbuli says: "Stylish men of course stand a better chance of impressing women. The trick is to dress to suit a particular occasion. You cannot go to an interview wearing shorts or go to a beach in a suit."

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