Tag Archives: scent

Resolve to have a better image in 2013

27 Dec

Gentlemen, if you’re the type to make New Year’s resolutions, make 2013 the year you take five simple steps to improve your image and make a better impression in the world.

1. Keep your shoes and boots clean and polished.2013 shoes It’s a cliche by now, but I say the same still rings true – in the old days, a man’s character was associated with how well he kept his shoes, and there is no reason to think differently now.  Freshly-polished footwear is the sign of a man who takes pride in himself, and people notice.

Shoes are the base of our daily wardrobe, and if they’re dirty, scuffed, and/or in need of repair, your footwear will negate any effort you’ve taken to dress well. On the other hand, wearing magnificently cared-for footwear can actually excuse an otherwise sloppy wardrobe – shoes are powerful!

2. Keep your hands clean. hand illustrationWe meet a lot of people and we shake a lot of hands, and keeping yours clean, like wearing well-kept shoes, sends a positive message about your self esteem and your respect for others. Clean hands also reduce the spread of germs, important  especially in winter – so respect your health and the health of others and wash often!

Unfortunately, washing germs away will dry out your hands, making skin tight and uncomfortable (to the point of cracking, for some of you). The way around this is to apply moisturizer. I hear your complaints already, but  moisturizing your skin is no different than using oil to keep your baseball glove supple. To avoid the discomfort of dry hands, gents, try to apply at least once a day, preferably after your morning shower.

3. Keep scent to a minimum. cologneKeep the smell volume down low, because you may be the only one enjoying the fragrant symphony hanging around you.

Remember that most, if not all of your grooming products, from shampoo to shaving cream, are scented. If you wear aftershave or cologne, this is another fragrance on top of these scents, which  gets to be overpowering quickly.

To make things worse, I just read an article about the fragrance industry using human and animal feces in their products – yuck!

4. Wear well-fitting clothing.  When dressing for business or casual, if you’re not paying attention to the fit of your clothes, you’re doing yourself a 2013 fitdisservice. It doesn’t matter how big or small a man is, ill-fitting clothes visually change your body shape.

Wearing too-small clothing makes bodies bulge and pushes us out of proportion. Too-big clothing (left) gives visual obesity while making us look insignificant as we swim in excess fabric. A correct fit (right) accentuates the positive and makes us more confident. Wearing well-fit clothing feels great!

5. Stand straighter. Want to lose a visual 5 pounds and feel more confident? Inhale, straighten your spine, lift your eyes, and square your shoulders.

People often don’t pay attention to the way they stand, but posture speaks loudly; it can diminish us in the eyes of others or boost our presence and mood. People notice confident people, and confident people stand straight.

I encourage you to watch this 20-minute TED talk with social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, who explains body language and how to turn up your testosterone and your confidence by assuming 2-minute “power positions”:

Without spending extra money, you can sharpen your image by following these simple steps, making for a more confident and memorable 2013. Happy New Year!

Note – In the Key of He is taking January off – see you in February!

Of unconscious behaviour

21 Oct

I attended a small business forum this week and sat in on talks about social networking, growing a sustainable business, and cash flow. Event seminars were broken into rooms – a cash room, growth strategies, sales and marketing, and a social media space.

The first social media seminar of the day was packed but I managed to find a seat fairly near to the front that happened to be between two men. It wasn’t long after sitting down that I regretted choosing that empty chair. (Today I wonder why that particular seat was empty, seeing as though the room was full.)

The fellow to my right was nicely dressed in a grey suit and a red and white striped dress shirt with a red tie. His choice in wardrobe made him look nice and it made him look competent. This made me think that he was probably a nice person.

The man on my left took up more space and looked somewhat unkempt. He dressed casually and wore a thick leather coat and commented on my notebook. Friendly.

Once I got settled, I began to notice my surroundings and was absolutely overcome by a syrupy sweet cologne that was sickening to me. (If you read the Scent post from September, you’ll recall that I have rather a sensitive nose.) I nonchalantly turned my head to see what side it was coming from.

Both Lefty and Stripes wore cologne. A lot of cologne. More cologne than would ever be necessary.  Lefty smelled of Angel Men, the thickest, strongest, and sweetest men’s fragrance I have ever encountered.  My nostrils may have been in shock, but Stripes smelled to have the same smell about him, and the scarf I wore was literally pulled over my nose. This took my concentration away from the seminar.

It would have been alright if Lefty had sat still during the presentation, but instead of taking notes, Lefty photographed everything. Every time he moved his right arm to take a picture, the movement released another wave of cologne. Not only this, but his elbow came to my eye level which to me was a looming threat and this made me feel uncomfortable.

Further to my distraction was the space issue. Now, I’m a small person and I don’t take up much room, but if you’re beside me, this is no reason to open your knees 2.5′ apart. (I made a point of eyeballing the distance between Stripe’s legs as I sat there.) Lefty rested at a 2′ expanse which left me with a scant 1′ legroom. In his large coat, Lefty took up even more space around him, and cheeked his way over to the edge of my chair, reducing my  cramped space further.

Unfortunately for me and the young presenter, I missed most of his presentation because I was sandwiched between these two heavily-scented men with their knees wedged into mine, moving my focus from this probably fascinating talk to the stink in my nose and the threat of being whacked upside the head.

*                                          *                                             *

A large part of exercising a good image is to behave well and treat other people with respect. It is also about being conscious of yourself. The fellas I sat between seemed completely oblivious to themselves and to everyone else. In the end, I had to leave the seminar because I couldn’t take the cologne any longer and I was just too uncomfortable.

What exactly did this unconsciously-driven behaviour of the men who flanked me do for them? Their choices or lack of mindfulness completely foiled any attempt to make a good impression. Bad behaviour is good at ruining your well-dressed image and your friendly demeanor.

Moral of today’s story: Be aware of yourself – acting without thinking can destroy an impeccable image.


9 Sep

Tuesday was a gorgeous first day of the new school year and I found some time to go out for a walk. I saw many excited young people eager to make a good first impression in a new grade or academic year. People obviously fuss for the first day of class with new outfits and haircuts, and fragrances often find themselves in the mix.

I passed a university-aged fellow on his way to school and got an unexpected snootful of heavy cologne which sent me back to high school.

I remember feeling some sort of social or advertised pressure to use scent during high school (as though it was/is an unwritten rule that girls should wear perfume), and choose Dior’s Poison in grade 11. Thinking about it now, I can’t imagine what I was trying to get across by wearing such a thick, sickly-sweet fragrance. (I’d like to formally apologize to anyone who I may have inadvertently offended with my choice in fragrance in 1985.)

Scent, the choice of, and the amount used carries just as many messages as any other part of our image, like if we mow through a business dinner, wear tailored clothing, or spit on the sidewalk.

For people who choose to wear fragrance, your choice in scent is psychologically important, within and without.  What do you like to smell like and where do you like to smell like it? Is it consistent with who you are and how you come across? Have you ever thought about the confusing (or delightfully ironic, depending on your perspective) mixed messages sent by a patchouli-scented Mac truck of a man? What about a modern, stylish man wearing Aqua Velva or Brut? Or a fair wisp of a man laden with heavy musk?

Our image is painted with perfume and the composition that is our image should work with everything else, including scent. To confuse matters, be aware that beyond the cologne you choose or don’t choose, there is fragrance in most bath and toiletry items including shampoos, soaps, and shaving creams. To illustrate my point, a recent client who didn’t wear cologne but used Mennen Speed Stick didn’t realize that the heavy, fougère (fern-scented) smell of his deodorant arrived in the room before he did. (I looked into it and found that his choice of  “arm charm” is scented with all sorts of chemicals mixed into silicone and petroleum-derived solids – for ingredient info, look here.)

Part of being scented is the amount of scent we decide to use. We have all had the experience of being around people who have an itchy pumping finger when it comes to cologne application – riding in elevators with ladies in strong, floral scents, or walking past packs of heavily-scented men on their way to nightclubs. It isn’t a pleasant experience, especially for those with allergies or people with sensitive noses. So the question is, is the wearer conscious of how much scent they’re applying and how it affects other people? Is it an insecure crutch or a cover up for something, or do they simply prefer the strong scent?

Scent is not meant to be a cloud that hangs over and around us; scent is to be subtle and inviting, it should whisper, not shout. In other words, one squirt should do it.  Sometimes if  a cologne with a pleasant but particularly strong scent is chosen (i.e. Dior’s Fahrenheit), half a squirt is all that is necessary, or alternatively, you could spray into the air and walk through the mist.

Scent is a part of etiquette, really, and if etiquette is about making other people around you comfortable, it’s only natural to think of them and how they might react to you, including the smell you carry. This is essentially about empathy.

Empathy, according to U.S. psychologist, Roy Schafer, involves the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person*. Since most of us know what it’s like to be amongst the heavily scented, shouldn’t we think before we squirt? (Same thing but double for iPod users in public spaces – turn down the volume please – not everyone wants to listen to what you’re grooving to.)

On the other side of 40, I have mostly abandoned scented anything for various reasons including having a sensitive nose (my olfactory sense skyrocketed after I quit smoking) and terribly sensitive skin. Chemical additives and fillers are not good with me so I hang out at health shops and opt for more natural products. That’s more my style.

The trick is taking the time to research, experiment, sniff, test, and interpret to find what works best for you, and think about your sent scented messages to be interpreted by other people and their noses.

* Schafer, R. (1959). Generative empathy in the treatment situation. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 28, 342-373