What your Image Says about You

What does your image say?
What does your image say?

What your Image says about you

Making a Statement…(whether you realise it or not)

Fashion and body adornment not only have a language of their own, but can be read as an explanation and text of one’s personality and character. Cultural semiotics is an important part of visual rhetoric because it allows us to take simple signs and codes and turn them into an actual conversation. Each person has a unique personality, set of beliefs, opinions, and in order to convey that identity, we use our body as a canvas to project that identity.

The earliest forms of ‘clothing’ seem to have been adornments such as body painting, ornaments, scarifications (scarring), tattooing, masks and often constricting neck and waist bands. Many of these deformed, reformed or otherwise modified the body” (Rampley 68).

Clothing for Protection

Considering early human beings, we know that clothing was used as a way to keep warm, to protect the skin and as a mean to comfort the body. As people roamed from region to region, the body continued to prove inadequate for certain environments, thus the need for protective clothing. Even today, we understand that when the weather turns cooler adding layers will keep the body warm. Removing layers keep the body cooler in the summer time, and wearing various other garments protect our body from almost all the natural elements. However, clothing has become much more than a way to protect the body, the fact that we do indulge in clothing beyond mere comfort suggests yet function– modesty. I the movie, “Survivor” Tom Hanks’ character sources protection for himself before he establishes comfort and with no concern for style.


According to the Oxford Dictionary, modesty is a “Behaviour, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.” Many cultures have deemed it necessary to practice a certain amount of modesty in dress by covering up certain body parts. A familiar story in the Christian bible talks about the characters of Adam and Eve wandering through the Garden of Eden completely naked and oblivious prior to gaining knowledge and knowing shame. In most cultures, individuals are expected to keep certain aspects of their body covered up. In certain Eastern cultures, women are supposed to remain in purdha (seclusion) to avoid being seen by men and or even other women outside of the family. To be exposed would constitute a lack of propriety and cause a certain degree of dishonour to the family. While western practices vary in their interpretation of modesty, the same idea goes as why mothers and fathers may feel uncomfortable with their thirteen-year-old daughter leaving the house in a tube top and a mini skirt.

Personal and Cultural Display

Lastly, and arguably, most importantly, clothing is a way of presenting one’s personal and cultural values; alternatively demonstrating one’s style or lack thereof. Clothing has become a symbol of an individual’s identity. Society acknowledges and accepts certain forms of dress and attributes them to the characteristics of the individual. For instance, a doctor may wear a clean white lab coat in order to appear sterile and present a professional image to his or her patients. While wearing a white coat makes signs of hygiene obvious, the white coat has come to be more of a cultural badge than anything else is. However, these markers, or familiar icons in dress, are not limited to this single white coat. In western society, police officers wear variations of blue uniforms, football players wear shorts and judges wear wigs over their heads. These stereotypes have become useful in our everyday lives as they help simplify things and people into categories. These distinctions are what enable the individuals in the cases listed above to choose their own way of communicating nonverbally to the world. At this point, one should understand that non-verbal communication is unavoidable. Regardless of whether or not the message is intentional, we continue to communicate with each other long after our mouths close. “It is impossible to remain fully clothed and silent.” Even choosing not to wear clothes sends a message. The decision each individual makes about his or her appearance sends the viewer a message. This includes people who claim they pay no attention to their clothing with regard to its communicative value.

  • A guy with long hair and a full beard who insists that he will not shave for anyone may be quick to change his decision if he were to be brought to trial for possession of marijuana.
  • When going into a job interview a candidate may opt for a suit and tie instead of sweatpants and flip-flops.
  • As the weather warms, shops fill with pastels and brightly coloured clothes.
  • In order to avoid trends, a young woman chooses not to conform by donning jeans and a t-shirt.

These situations are examples of how we use clothing to communicate. On a cultural level, the man with the beard understands that maintaining certain hairstyles sends out a certain message through non-verbal communication. Not wanting to be misunderstood or perhaps to send out a different nonverbal message, the importance of nonverbal communication is something acknowledged by all. Not only are these examples of trends, or avoiding trends, they convey a message depending on the culturally accepted codes that they apply to among within our culture.

Within the blink of an eye, an impression is made. The very first time you see, hear or read about someone you will have formed your own conclusions. In fact, that decision is made within the first 3 seconds of contact. As you will see further down those conclusions are wide and varied and may have little in common with the reality of who the person is. Just as you make judgements on people you don’t know, those people will make judgement on you as well.

Like it or not what you wear and how you wear it, the way you talk and move, your body language, even the type of pen you use or the watch you wear, speaks volumes about you. You want to be sending clear messages about who you are, what you can do now and what you can do in the future to anyone and everyone you meet.  This is what we call image management.

“Image management is the ongoing process of evaluating and controlling the impact of your appearance on yourself and others. It is creating an authentic, appropriate, attractive and affordable personal/professional image which increases your confidence, capability, and productivity; and contributed to the achievement of your goals and continuing successes; and simplifies your life”.

Can you afford to miss some of the greatest opportunities in your life because you either didn’t think you could or didn’t bother to be good enough? Both choices are defeatist. Life is a series of first impressions, make the most of every single one of them.

“Living your life, on purpose, with passion and power.” 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually who are you not to be?

An excerpt from Marianne Williamson’s, “A Return to Love

This article is an excerpt from the Personal Branding and Presentation Success Strategies program

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