Whilst not directly a component of body language, the way we chose to dress ourselves has a big impression on how we are perceived. Social psychologists think that during the first four minutes of meeting someone lasting impressions are formed about how we perceive that other person. Naturally, the first thing a person perceives when they see you is how you look, so you can be confident that your appearance alters whether people are willing to accept or refuse your ideas.
For the workplace, it’s obvious that you need to be presentable and well-dressed. Above and beyond ensuring that you look sharp, stick to traditional and subdued colors and design choices. You might feel that a vibrant green tie looks good on you, but it will distract people from what you are saying, making your arguments less effective. Likewise for suits and office wears, stick to beiges, browns, grays, blacks and blues. Stay away from the colors purple, pink and green.
In casual settings, it’s much harder to determine what the ‘right’ dress is and what the ‘right’ impressions are. Just think about the impressions associated with what you wear – you probably don’t need to be told that wearing a gold watch and driving a Mercedes gives an impression of wealth, or masking your face with a hoodie or balaclava can be somewhat threatening. Even if these signals are not particularly accurate, they are strong. Dress for the situation at hand.
In general, attractive people are more persuasive. In psychology this is called the halo effect and it goes beyond persuasion and arguments and into almost every domain. Attractive people are perceived as more intelligent, wealthier, more successful and happier than less attractive people. Obviously, there is only so much someone can change about their appearance, but you can, for lack of a better phrase, work with what you have.
Firstly, in general, a younger appearance is more attractive, but it is also seen as more honest. Mature faces may be less appealing; however, they are more likely to be seen as an expert. After all, almost every politician and leader we are exposed to is on the older side of the age spectrum; we associate maturity with competence as an indirect result.
In men, beards can also give an impression of maturity and masculinity. Baldness is generally perceived as lowering attractiveness, but it can be mitigated by a clean shaving head, which is typically viewed as a better alternative than masking bald spots with a comb-over or another poor solution. Consider what impression your appearance creates and whether you can use this to your advantage.