When I was home for the holidays, I had a conversation with my barber that completely changed the way I look at life.

The man cutting my hair also happened to own the place, so naturally, I asked him about the business and how people find out about his shop.

He said that although he doesn’t do much advertising (he’s tried various local publications in the past, with little to no benefit), word of mouth from his customers has always served him well.

“If I give you a great cut, and you love it, and people ask you where you get your hair cut, you’ll gladly tell them about my shop. My best form of advertisement is you.

I’m his walking, talking, living, breathing billboard. Brilliant!

(It also helps that he gives a great haircut. Naturally, I’d tell my friends about his shop, and I’ll go back whenever I’m in town.)

Your Best Form Of Advertisement Is You

How does this apply to you, dear EG reader?

Consider this for a moment. Even if you don’t own a barbershop, and even if you’re not selling haircuts, every waking moment, you’re selling something.

My barber is selling his haircutting services.

You are selling yourself!

To your wife, your loved ones, your friends and colleagues, your boss, your company, your customers, your clients, that pretty girl you see on the train every once in a while… you’re always selling yourself.

People are receiving you, even when you’re not actively giving yourself to them.

If you dress well and put a bit of thought and effort into your appearance, it shows you pay attention to detail. It shows you care about presentation.

People assume that level of attention and care extends into other parts of your life (even if it doesn’t, ha).

You’re instantly more attractive, approachable, and open. You’re a walking, talking, living billboard for the persona you want others to see.

What They See Is What They Get

We often judge books by their covers, don’t we? The old adage tells us not to do that, but we do it anyway. We can’t help it, we’re human.

People are complex and individualistic, but we put them in boxes, because it’s easier for our limited minds to understand them.

The boxes can be constructed from physical characteristics (“mustache guy”, “redhead”, “super tall dude”), personality types or interests (“guy who’s really into sports”, “craft beer aficionado”, “couch potato”), or even first impressions (“he seems like a D-bag”).

Sometimes we combine boxes to create assumptions of these avatars we completely make up, which is even more crazy.

“Oh man, that mustachioed guy drinking a craft beer over there must be a D-bag, because one time, I met a D-bag with a mustache who kept going on and on about craft beers, so therefore, they must all be D-bags.”

Of course, your train of thought is rarely that linear, but we do make these assumptions from time to time.

What’s my point?

While you can’t control everything about how people receive you, you can control their initial impressions by how you dress.

Being an awesome, interesting, charismatic person also helps. But if you’re dressed sloppily, you’ve already got one thing working against you.

People judge books by their covers. Why not have a great cover so people will be open to getting to know the real you?

You know, instead of them wincing slightly as you approach because you look like an sloppy, unkempt college student.

In addition to refining your appearance so that others will be more open and receptive to you, realize that dressing well also improves your own outlook.

Yes, you can improve how you feel and think about yourself simply by dressing the part.

Notice, I said “appear”…

It goes without saying, you have to work on yourself, on the inside, before any true change occurs.

But! have you heard the phrase, “Act as if”?

Act as if you’re already the confident, sexy, in-charge man you want to be (by acting the part, dressing the part, surrounding yourself with the right people), and the rest will follow.

Three quick ways to be your own best advertisement

  1. Own your outfit. Learn to be comfortable in what you wear and the outfits you choose. Step it up a notch. Throw on a tie when no one else is. Tuck in your shirt when everybody’s in T-shirts. Own the fact that you’re a notch or two above everyone else around you. It’s a good thing.
  2. Inner game. I don’t know what comes first, inner game or outward confidence. I know for me, when I’m feeling and looking good, I exude confidence. For others, they manifest their confidence outwardly first (acting as if), which boosts their inner confidence. Whatever works for you, know that inner game and outward confidence go hand in hand, and people can subconsciously feel when that is lacking.
  3. Be deliberate. Confidently take steps in the direction you’re headed. Smile. Act as if you know what you’re doing, even if you’re somewhat unsure. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out along the way.

All of these things work together, so practice everything simultaneously. And if you’re not getting the reaction or reception you expect, take a step back and see if you’re knocking out all of the above.

Imagine you as that billboard people see. How do you want them to react? Dress and act accordingly.

Just a little something to think about…

Don’t treat 2015 as just another year. The same ol’ routine.

I love receiving emails like this:

“Just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed the articles on your site and the Lean Wardrobe guide. The same day I read the guide, I ended up tossing about 4 garbage bags full of clothes from my closet, then visited several department stores a few days later and stocked up on OCBD shirts, snazzy V-neck sweaters, fitted dress shirts, dark chinos, bright socks, shoes, and a bunch of other stuff that fits right and is helping me to form my new wardrobe.

My wife is impressed with the ‘new me’ and I can already tell that people at work are noticing the difference. I feel more confident and am just really enjoying the new style. I didn’t have any big New Years resolutions until I stumbled on your website.”

Resolve, at the very least, to be aware of the way you are advertising yourself. Make the smallest adjustments to the way you dress and carry yourself, and expect big results in the coming months.

Here are a few other articles to check out, if you haven’t already.

Kickstart the change to a sexier, more confident, more in-charge YOU

Okay, you understand appearance matters, and you’d like to refine what you’re advertising. Now what?

It’s not about looking at what’s on the runway, or checking out what the guys at Pitti Uomo are wearing this season.

That’s all great, and may be inspirational to a certain point, but you’re not there yet.

We need to build you a base, a small but interchangeable wardrobe that will serve you well now. Right now.

Are you ready to dress sharp and feel confident in every situation this year?

Smart Sharp StyleIn the midst of the holiday madness, I launched a new course, Smart Sharp Style, which is based on the popular 90-day challenge I put together a few years ago (over 1000 guys went through it!).

This new course has every single piece of information you need to make the right decisions when buying.

You could figure it all out on your own, and reading all the articles on this site will certain help. But, if you don’t have time to wade through all the information, I hope you’ll consider registering.

It’s a straightforward course that helps you dress sharp and feel confident in every situation. Make an unforgettable impression by figuring out exactly what clothes to buy and how to wear them. If you’re large or skinny, tall or short, black or white, you’ll know exactly what to do after taking this course.

I list variations and alternatives so no matter if you’re in a cold / hot / temperate climate, you will have what you need. I even provide a shopping checklist. Print it out and you’re on your way.

How much more simple can it get? Get more details here.

YOU are your best form of advertisement

Maybe you’re not a barber, or a business owner.

Maybe you’re not a public speaker or are rarely in the spotlight.

Maybe you’re a regular 9-5er with a family to support, or a guy who is just starting his career, on his way up in life.

Guess what? You still have to advertise yourself in the best light possible, to everyone you know and meet.

Dressing well is only one part of the equation, but arguably the most important, because the way you carry and present yourself is the first thing people see, when they see you.

Think about that. And if you’re not completely happy with the presentation, make 2015 the year you change it for the better.

Here’s to a great new year!

If you’re reading this, know that you’re in the right place to improve your advertisement. I’m happy you’re here.

In the comments, tell me one thing you want to change or improve this year.

Even if it’s the smallest, littlest thing.

Even if it’s not necessarily related to style. It may be about your health, your wealth, your self-improvement (on the inside), you get the idea. Whatever it is, let’s hear it!

I’ll start, check out mine in the comments. Can’t wait to hear yours.

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If you found this article useful, make sure to check out our Lean Wardrobe resources page.


19 Responses

  1. Julian Veerkamp on

    I just started reading you blog a few days ago and I really like the advice you give.
    My goal is to build a nice wardrobe and the challange you linked would suit my current situation perfectly, sadly it’s the expensive for my small student wallet. so I’ll just keep on browsing you blog and read all day long.
    Btw In one of you older posts(don’t know which one though) you referenced to other notable blogs in you footer which are now gone. Could you guide me in the right direction to find more to read?

  2. Ivar Zukovskis on

    My goal for this year would be to up my formal wear game. I work in a position where I am expected to wear a suit and tie to work everyday with the exception of casual Friday. I owned a navy and a grey suit with a bunch of shirts, but due to not so good quality of the materials the grey suit is now obsolete and the navy one is on its death bed. The shirts had even a more dramatic faith, since I started going to the gym and simply grew out of them. So right now I have one navy suit, one blazer and just enough shirts to get me through the week without wearing the same outfit twice during the week.

    My goal for 2015 is to get myself a nice custom made grey and blue suits and refresh my shirt arsenal. I’d also like to infuse a bit more color with a few new ties and pocket-squares. I’d be very happy to get this done this year.

    • Barron on

      Sounds like you know what needs to get done. Also I imagine having a variety of suits would be a good idea, considering you have to wear one every day. Not that you have to pick all of them up at once, but it’s good to keep that in mind. Good luck and have fun! I wish I had to wear suits every day. 🙂

  3. just james on

    This was one of the first blogs I found after my divorce. I was lost and in need of direction. Using your suggestions, I cleared my closet, bought better fitting, matching outfits and got back out there. What a world of difference a year makes!

    Great article. I have heard the advice before, but as a Taoist, we’re always learning what we already know. This year I’m fine tuning my wardrobe and making sure each time I go out, even to just run a quick errand, that I am am presenting my best.

    • Barron on

      Glad to hear it, James. Also, you never know who you’ll run into when on that quick errand. Never a bad thing to dress the best you can given the time you have and the stuff you’re doing while you’re out.

      “We’re always learning what we already know.” – love this

  4. Bo on

    My goal this year (stylistically) is to get better at mixing patterns — I feel like I’ve got a lot of the essentials down in terms of business-casual dressing, but I’d like to work in more of those (think large windowpane shirt with solid knit tie and a small check pocket square, etc.) Working on that today, wearing a shadowplaid pocket square and herringbone jacket — I think it works!

  5. Juraj BĂ©ger on

    I was waiting for the first ‘fresh’ article by Baron because I found this web with the ‘Until next time gents!’ article at the top. Since then I read many of the old articles and slowly adopting the changes to my possibilities. Today was the first day at work for me after a nearly 2-months home office hiatus. I the meantime i lost about 9 kg of weight (intentionally). I walk to the office with new clothes (just a basic outfit: dark coloured jeans, white blue striped shirt and a grey V-neck sweater. Everyone noticed my weight loss – but I bet partly because of my new better-fitting clothes because in the last weeks I realized, that I bought clothes that were too big for me. I realized it just now so I am really looking forward to change my apperance so as the article above says ‘others can be more open and receptive to me’. This is also my gratest expectation for this new year.

    • Barron on

      congrats on the weight loss! that, plus a new look will always get the attention (rightly deserved). Now, just nail down the fit going forward. Keep it up

  6. Q on

    A year ago I changed jobs and needed to upgrade to a dressier work wardrobe. I came across Barron’s blog and jumped aboard the lean wardrobe bandwagon. I purged my closet and bought several new items. I wear lots of bow ties and am also in the process of making some bow ties out of vintage vertical ties. I now wear a slimmer cut of pants of jeans and brown brogues and other classic shoes. I also wear vests without jackets frequently. I stick mostly to basics which are interchangeable with pops of wild color here and there (I just bought a pair of electric blue Levi 511 pants, after my red ones were such a hit).

    A man has to make a mental leap of faith to dress differently. Society (and even the women in our lives) expect us to dress safely with the traditional suburban dad look. The first time you wear slim jeans, wild socks, or a bow tie, you will hear comments. You may or may not appreciate this attention, depending on your personality. But soon people will acknowledge that you are “stylish”, “dapper”, “a good dresser”. People’s first impressions of you will be consistently positive, because they will see your confidence and individuality.

    Every day I get positive reactions to my style that give me a boost all day:

    Last week, at the beginning of a business meeting, a man looked at me for the first time and said, “Wow, you look really good!”, right in front of the whole meeting.

    During the holidays I walked up o the counter at a hip delicatessen, and the employee, a woman half my age, looked at me and froze, stared, and smiled. A big ego boost for a guy my age.

    Every day I hear an enthusiastic “I like your bow tie” 3-5 times (more if I’m out shopping).

    So if you are approaching this transition as most men do, with stylophobia, face your fears and take confident steps forward. The transition will disrupt your world, but in a very good way.

      • Q on

        Have to add this postscript: a young guy at the reception desk for one of our offices just told me that my clothes are always “on fleek”. I had to look it up in the urban dictionary, but it turns out it’s a real compliment.

  7. Andy Budnik on

    The email you received above is almost exactly what happened to me. Except I’ve realized most of my stuff doesn’t fit and had too much. I threw out half – literally half – of my clothes. 2 full 35 gallon garbage bags. A lot of old stuff, but a lot of things that I bought on a whim when I was shopping with no plan. I’m taking them into the consignment shop and anything not taken there will go to Goodwill. I’ve been more deliberate with my shopping and made a list of the things I need and focused on getting just those things and nothing else. A couple of versatile shoes (great cognac oxfords were first), chinos, a few v-necks, and now working on the oxfords. I have transitioned to slim/straight jeans as well. For me, with a lot of muscle and big legs and ass, it’s hard for me to find stuff that looks right. I’ve gotten to be ok with pants fitting a little tighter and it’s made me look thinner and taller. Found a couple of steals with well-fitting and affordable things online, as well as finding a couple stores that I can turn to such as Old Navy. My biggest thing is not worrying about where I find clothes and focusing on the fit. Paying for quality is definitely a great suggestion, but for the everyday articles, there’s really no need to splurge (t-shirts, certain button downs, jeans). Feeling much better about being able to wear anything in my closet. Now if I can only find some well fitting dress shirts that take to ironing….