I was speaking with a friend last night and we got on the topic of first impressions. And they asked me “do you really think clothing affects first impressions or is that people just being shallow?”

I responded, Unequivocally, yes, dress matters – and here’s why:

Years ago a study of “cop-killers” was done. The interview went to prisons and spoke with people who had been convicted of killing a police officer. There was numerous things the study wanted to inquire about, but one surprising lesson came up about dress.

One of the inmates told the following story:

He said he woke up angry one day. He sat up in bed and told himself “You’re gonna kill a cop today.” He decided that the first police officer he came across, he would kill.

So, he said he got dressed and got on with his mission. He left his home for a walk, determined that he would kill the first police officer he saw.

They asked him if he carried out that plan, and he said “yes and no.” He went on to explain that the first officer he saw was directing traffic. The inmate reported that he stood at the corner of the intersection and watched the officer for about 10 minutes. He said there was a lot of opportunities when the officer had his back to him.

But as the inmate watched the officer, he saw that the officer had his uniform pressed. His shoes were shined. He appeared to be in good shape. The inmate said he got the impression that this officer was serious. He had his sh*t together. He appeared very professional. The inmate said that he felt that if he engaged in a shoot-out with this officer, the officer would react with his professionalism and seriousness and clearly win…. So he walked away. The officer never even knew he was there.

But the inmate said he continued on his walk. He came across an officer that was clearly out of shape. His uniform didn’t fit. He said it looked like he just didn’t care. He engaged THAT officer, and killed him.

Now, who knows if the first officer would have won. But that story illustrates the power of impression.

Care about your appearance, at least your professional appearance. Own the room, meeting, interview, sales pitch, etc when you walk in. Impression are made fast, and often times far before you will have the chance to explain your resume and personality.

Dress the part.