When you greet a stranger, look at his shoes.
So goes the saying, and there’s a lot in it. I’m given to write on the subject because of Will’s podcast on shoe shining over at A Suitable Wardrobe. There’s really something to be learnt here, and it’s not all vanity and preening either. The advice about shining one’s shoes as soon as you buy them is practical and sensible, for good reasons explained by Will and his guest. Go there and find out. Moreover, I’ve been reminded recently – as if I needed it – that looking the part is really so important in life’s struggles. I’ve noted many times that clothes do not make the man, but that the man can certainly be unmade by the wrong sartorial choices (which usually amount to a lack of thought). As a rule of thumb, what comes out of one’s mouth ought to be positively reinforced by how one looks. In the last few weeks I’ve been stretched intellectually by a number of powerful people whose judgments might make or break a career. My mind, I am pleased to report, is able to translate thoughts into words rather effectively, but I dare say this would count for little if my shirt collar were loose, my suit ill-fitting, and my shoes scuffed and uncared for. People move through life at breakneck speed, forming opinions and making policies based on impressions, for impressions are all we have time to gather. Your shoes, suit and shirt won’t be the reason you get the job, but they could easily be the reason you don’t get it. Or, to put it another way, no one will consciously notice the cut of your jib, unless they don’t like it.
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