14 Ways to Cultivate Your Personal Brand

“Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you” – David McNally and Karl Speak

Your personal brand is one of the things about you that is impossible to escape. Not making a decision to cultivate a good one is a decision to allow a poor one to continue, you can’t not have a personal brand and image so, you might as well ensure yours is memorable.

There are two parts to a person’s brand/image. There is their personality, which encompasses ethics, kindness, empathy, punctuality and a range of other traits. Then there is the second part which involves how you present yourself and it’s this we shall be focusing on here.

We’ll examine how best to present yourself, what you should present yourself in and where to acquire the correct apparel to look your very best, securing elevated status within people’s minds.

Subconscious Opinions

When we hear the name “George Clooney” most of us helplessly imagine a sophisticated, confident, self-assured person with an impeccable sense of style. But, when we hear the name “Mel Gibson”, a completely different feeling comes to mind and with no mental effort from us (we immediately know which one of these 2 men we would pop out for a few drinks with).

When people mention your name in a group, what image and perception of you do you think springs to their minds?

Most folks either don’t give this much thought or they wing it, trying to get by looking good some, or most of the time. But if you want to cultivate a bulletproof image of yourself who always looks incredible, you can never let your guard down.

I don’t care if you’re “only shooting off to the shop for a pint of milk”, fix your hair, change out of your pyjamas, and give yourself a spritz as you walk out the door. You never know who you are going to bump into or when opportunity might come knocking. Like a chain and its weakest link, you are only as dapper as the worst outfit you’ve ever been seen in.

Women have been putting on makeup before leaving the house their entire lives, you too should have at least that kind of dedication when it comes to your appearance.

You may be thinking, “come on, how is this important?”.. Try it! Try it for 6 months and watch your life change!

What is a Personal Brand?

Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception. Your brand should serve to elevate your credibility, convey a message and define your success as a form of self-packaging.

When your name comes up in conversation or when someone merely thinks about you, what comes to their minds is your personal brand. So, how would you describe your own personal brand? Take a few minutes to linger on the answer.

What is “Your” personal Brand/Image?

When Johnny Depp is heading out to the mainland from his island and into the public eye, he wakes up a little earlier than you and I might, because he has to style his hair, get out his leathers and put on all his rings, beads, earrings and strips of leather that dangle from him. This is his personal image, this is his design.

One imagines he doesn’t walk around at home with pinkie rings, leather bangles and a hat, but when he’s out and about, he ensures that his image is intact.

How much effort do you invest in assuring your image is always on point for your own sense of self confidence and so you are perceived to be stylish and “together”.

Why is Personal Branding Important?

How you personally brand yourself is something that is overlooked by many, to their detriment. Your personal brand speaks for you in your absence, and while one would hope you’re a kind, decent and caring individual on the inside, do you strike an image of sophistication and style into the minds of those who think of you? Or are you thought of as that scruffy guy with the five 0’clock shadow who scrubs up nicely but is mostly just bland and boring?

More than this though, the way you dress and present yourself has a lot to do with you self esteem and also how you think. In repeated experiments, people wearing lab coats score higher in math than when they’re dressed scruffy.

When you meet a friend somewhere, and they say, “Jesus I feel like shit today..”, how are they typically dressed? No one has ever turned up in a well pressed 3 piece suit with polished shoes and a new watch declaring that they feel like shit..  doesn’t happen.

People are more likely to listen to you and respect what you say if you’re well dressed and with our self-esteem and self-image so fundamentally connected to how others perceive us, it’s just good practice to always look your best.

The 14 Ways to Cultivate Your Personal Brand & Image

These 14 ways to cultivate yourself may seem obvious (as many things do, retrospectively) but they have worked for generations, and they still work well today. When talking clothes, a preference for good fit, high quality, versatility, good value, lack of extremes and ‘keeping it sober’ is the way to solidify your status in the minds of all who know you.

1. Know Yourself

I remember being a kid and having my mom dress me in the strangest get-ups, and I don’t just mean strange by today’s standards, I mean just crazy weird. Photographic evidence of these moments still exists today (though under lock and key). What was most noticeable was how awkward I felt being dressed in a way I wasn’t comfortable with.

You have to feel comfortable with what you’re wearing and own it. Even men with bullet proof self-confidence feel silly in clothes that don’t suit them or makes then feel uncomfortable. If you’re pushing 50 and are still wearing young man’s clothes, you may be missing a trick. Look to someone famous with whom you share some physical attributes and who you know has true style, then build your style around them until you find what works for you.

2. Stay On Top of Your Grooming

Men’s Journal

Use thick quality hangers for your shirts, shoe trees for your shoes and ensure your suit is always pressed and ready for action. Wash your clothes regularly, use a good liquid softener (you’ll thank me later) and remember to keep those sneakers clean and your good shoes polished.

Some men dress really well and have an innate sense of style but they have oily hair or skin (or both) or have breakouts because they’re not taking care of their skin. Skincare has, for years now, not just been the domain of the ladies, you too need to take care of yourself.

Style or brush your hair, cut and file your nails (this goes for your toenails too, you don’t want a girl to tackle you into the sack only to find you are akin to a Norwegian tree climber with those clawed feet)

You need good skin moisturisers and hand cream, a proper anti-dandruff daily-shampoo with a respectable hair product (cheap hair products will leave your head looking like a well sucked mango pip). After your morning shower, apply a daily face cream with a high SPF and in the evenings apply a night time face cream to ensure your skin is looked after while you sleep. I use a moisturising soap to wash my face and never forget to cream after.

Remember lads, moistening isn’t just for more mature men who begin to have wrinkles. You don’t start putting anti-rust treatments on your car after it has begun begun rusting, the idea is to do all you can to keep it rust free for as long as possible. A good daily moisturiser with SPF 15 (even if you’re indoors) is a must. If you’re going to be out in the sun for work, use a SPF50, don’t mess about with the sun, it’ll age you quickly.

3 things will age you more quickly than almost anything else: Smoking, Alcohol and the Sun. If you enjoy alcohol and the sun in moderation, you will look younger longer, avoid them both completely and you will look ridiculously young for your age, always. If you’re a smoker, you have far bigger problems than looking older, stop, now.

3. Own a Good-fitting Suit 

A suit is only as good as the fit. Even if you have a pretty standard physique, I’d recommend having at least 1 bespoke suit in your wardrobe. If you simply cannot afford this option then ensure you buy one off the peg that fits your shoulders well, as having the waist and chest altered is relatively easy.

Stick with the classics here, dark, two-button, single-breasted, moderate in detail, is the best way to go and you will look great in any context. Remember, you don’t have to wear the most expensive label here, the fit is key, almost anyone can look amazing in a well fitted suit. Stand with your stomach in, your shoulders back and your fee shoulder width apart, the less you say and move, the more the suit speaks for you.

If you do buy one off the peg, these 2 companies know what they’re doing, if you’re under 35 the Hugo Boss Men’s Suits Range is the way to go and if you’re over 35, allow me to introduce you to Mr Tom Ford

4. Invest in a Quality Watch

A watch is a status symbol. It says I have arrived and I have the disposable income to purchase something that speaks for me. The secret to watches is not to go overboard. In many cases less is more. You want to wear a man sized watch but you don’t want to look like Flavor Flav straight out of a rap video.

Choose something that speaks about the type of person you are. A watch choice is personal so let it mean something to you. Then, when asked about your beautiful watch, which you will be, you’ll have a great answer as to why you chose that particular timepiece.

I am a Formula 1 fanatic and I have also always enjoyed the style and design of the Tag Heuer brand so, it’s a simple choice for me, I’d choose the Tag Heuer F1 Chronograph   every day of the week and twice on Sundays. It’s practical, aesthetic, functional, rugged and goes with anything. It can take the hard knocks of everyday wear; it looks good in a suit and in a t-shirt.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Add Some Colour

It matters not whether you are going somewhere casual or more formal, have some fun and add a little colour to your outfit, indulge yourself. Most of us men are scared to add colour thinking we might stand out too much, but you need not be intimidated by colours, navy or grey are fine but colour can be timeless too.

In London, where the weather is often cold and grey, most of the folks dress in very dark colours and it’s a pleasant rarity to see a well-groomed man showing off some brighter styles. A deep purple coat or even a dark green suit can really make a statement in the grey heart of winter and in summer a lighter blue suit can make you look even younger than I’m sure your grooming already suggests.

Don’t be afraid, be bold. If the suit fits, wear it and do it in more than just the old black and grey. Both Uncle Hugo and Mr Ford can assist you with this endeavor.

6. Jeans: The Good, The Bad & The Slim-fit

I’m going to go completely against the trend here and say that, although most people feel that the all-time most useful cut of the world’s most popular garment, is ‘slim-tapered’ jeans, I think they make mens legs look like chopsticks.

The “experts” say (of slim fit jeans cut) that “It’s wider in the thigh, so it’s comfortable, but narrows, so it works with either smart shoes or sneakers”, I say nonsense, it makes you look like an anorexic twig insect.

For centuries men wore straight cut denim jeans and looked great. Men were men, they were rugged and tough, they had leg muscle and calves. And just when the generation with the worst developed legs in the history of man arrives, what do we do, we taper the jean bottom to hug the skin-wrapped shin-bone that is the male millennial leg.

It’s not the 70’s so you don’t want to wear boot leg jeans either, but absolutely nothing looks better on a man than a pair of jeans that hugs the ass, conforms to his leg shape until below the knees when the jean should resemble a jacket sleeve on an arm, not a spandex sock.

If you’re over 30, do not wear skinny jeans unless you have the calves of a professional speed cyclist (if you’re under 30, you can blame your poor choice on the exuberance of youth). In either case, get yourself into a nice pair of distressed jeans, Abecrombie and Fitch Jeans are my go-to here (perhaps because Chinese food makes me sick)

Go for distressed denim and ensure they fit correctly and they’re good quality. Expensive doesn’t always equate to quality. I went through 2 pairs of designer jeans which wore through at the very top between my legs. I was grateful to the extra fresh air but the other commuters on the subway weren’t as enthusiastic.

7. When it Comes to Underwear, Simple is Best

Full disclosure here. I haven’t worn underwear for almost 3 decades. It’s weird how that freaks some people out. Men originally began wearing underwear back in the 13th century for “fancy decorative purposes”. They were leg length and showy then but, like the underwear of today, served absolutely no purpose.

The argument i’m often presented with is, “well it keeps things in check”.. Bullshit. It’s so cold most of the time in Europe that men’s willies look like a button on a fur coat. If you’re 12 and suffer from spontaneous erections then sure, but if you’re a grown man, why the hell do you need underwear under your jeans?

Men have just gotten used to the feeling of having it all tucked up, suffocating all day, causing their sperm counts to dwindle. I’ve always found underwear about as useful as a fart in a spacesuit. Perhaps this is because I grew up in Africa in 40+ degree heat where the “less is more” idea in regards to clothing seemed appropriate. I’ve tried every type and style but I could never get comfortable, I always felt like I was wearing a diaper. However, I know that most men do wear them and that’s great, so let’s crack on.

A man’s underwear has become a type of status symbol for the youngsters, they like the Tommy Hilfiger or Hugo Boss name sticking out the back while their Jeans slide down their asses. If you’re one of these youngsters, stop it, you’ll feel stupid when you get older.

If you’re a sophisticated gentleman, then you and your partner should be the only ones who get to see any hint of your underwear. And they should not be like novelty socks nor should they be a platform on which to express your “personality”. If you meet a woman and she takes you home only to be greeted with Superman undies, you’re outta there pal.

Get yourself a pair of cotton boxer shorts, make sure they fit you correctly and that’s it. Your hard-earned rock-hard ass is all the branding necessary to convey “confidence in skants”. The cotton boxer short, as is the case with linen, will take repeated washing, they’ll breathe well and be comfortable against your skin.

The very best site to examine all the ins and outs of this area is The Undershirt Guy. What he doesn’t know about underwear isn’t worth knowing so, check out his site. And if all else fails, just forget about them, go commando and liberate yourself.

8. Always Buy Quality Shoes

You’re never going to go wrong with leather shoes. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, leather stands the test of time. Ensure the style you choose is classy, timeless and simple in design. You don’t want the shoe to look fussy or have tassels akin to a Venetian blind and you’re not a gnome so, no pointy shoes please.

Even my casual shoes, I prefer to be leather, Caterpillar Footwear have some great footwear for any occasion and they will last decades.

If you must wear sneakers, don’t try too hard. You don’t have to have the latest Air Jordan’s. A person with sneakers that are worth more than their entire outfit says, “I’m trying too hard”.  Keep your trainers clean. Dirty shoes equate to a sloppy person so keep those puppies clean. If they begin getting soiled, toss them in the washing machine on “hand-wash” with a nice big towel (to lessen the abuse) and allow them to dry properly before wearing again, otherwise they will smell.

9. Keep Accessories to a Minimum

You already look fantastic. You are dressed stylishly, you’re wearing great shoes and a good watch, you don’t need to look like a Christmas tree. Johnny Depp likes to have feathered earrings and leather bangles, good for him but, you’re not Johnny Depp.

If you’re attending an occasion where ties and pocket squares are appropriate, that’s great, they can certainly bring some individuality to classic clothing but, be careful how you use them. Ensure they complement what you are wearing by picking out a colour or two or contrast them entirely if you so choose, but don’t overdo the accessories or you’ll land up looking like the sultan of Brunei.  

You should be aiming for an air of nonchalance, so pick one point of interest, if your ensemble fits and is stylish you’ve already won. You can get some expensive accessories but there is still some solid finds on Amazon. I always like to be a little different and I am in Africa a lot where security is key so, I went with this Rich Brown Leather Dickies Chain Wallet to ensure it won’t get “lost”.

10. Dress for the Occasion

It is said, that your handshake should be exactly what the person is expecting. That way they are not distracted by it as they meet you. Style is very much the same, it’s also about being dressed appropriately for your environment. The worst style is one which is out of place. Is this a kind of conformity? No, as one of Tom Ford’s oft trotted out fashion quotes explains, it’s a mark of respect for others. And about feeling comfortable in yourself. If ever you are in doubt about the occasion though, overdress in a way that you are able to dress down if need be.

11. If You Wear Glasses, Make a Statement

If you don’t wear glasses yet, you will do sometime soon after 40, trust me. But this can really work for you if you invest the time into finding the right frames. If you spend a few minutes grabbing a pair of reading glasses at the local pharmacy, it’ll show. They’ll look crap and you’ll look stupid as you “play the trombone” adjusting the distance between the menu and your face trying to read what’s on offer.

Get your eyes tested, get the correct prescription and invest some time in choosing the right frame for your style and face. This is a huge opportunity to make a statement about who you are and what your sense of style is. You walk into a group of people wearing square turtle shell frames and you’ve said about all these people need to know about you and you don’t get a 2nd chance at a 1st impression.

If you’re a funky creative type, show that in your choice of frames and the same goes for those of us who enjoy a bit of style in their lives. These glasses are going to define you for the next few years, take the time, choose a great pair, do some research if you have to.

Poor choice and poor fit are why so many people learn to hate their glasses, so buy what you feel good in, taking into account your face shape buy considering the top line of the frames’ relation to your eyebrow shape – team straight with straight, curved with curved – and your hairstyle. Don’t skimp on good frames, if you want stylish, grab some classic Ray Ban or if you want something more sleek and funky, check out Warby Parker.

12. Choose a Good Coat

A good, stylish coat in the winter months is a must. You’re going to be seen in it almost more than anything else while out and about so ensure that you put a little effort into your choice to show you have some style.

The thickness of your coat will obviously depend on where you live and how much time you spend outdoors. In cooler climates, the length of your coat should almost always come to just below your knees and be in a colour that goes with both your work outfits and more casual attire (this is of course unless you can afford multiple coats, in which case you can get a few different colours, lengths and thicknesses).

Do not get a coat that hangs down to your ankles, you’re not Keanu Reeves in the matrix and you don’t park your car in the Bat Cave so, take it easy on the length.

The temptation may be to wear a classic style, but modern technical fabrics in lighter shades and easy cuts are making coats what they should be – lightweight and breathable but also properly protective. This Oatmeal Coat from Reiss is what I wear when I’m out and about on cool autumn London or NY nights and it always turns heads.  

When it gets even cooler during the winter though, you’re going to need something more substantial. I’ve always found Uncle Hugo (Boss) knows what’s best to amour up against the cold and you can do so in style with some great fitting coats.

13. Buy A Dinner Suit, Never Hire

The argument against buying a dinner suit/tuxedo, is that the occasions necessitating one are rare. But this is all the more reason why you should have a good one purchased and hanging in your closet, ever ready to impress against the guys that hire one a day before hand.

A woman of substance recognises a hired tux entering a room as easily as we men notice a toupee making an appearance with a man glued beneath it. But a good fitting tux, that you’re used to wearing, will speak volumes for you.

Occasions for the height of formal dressing may be rare, but they’re all the more exacting for just that reason. So, while it feels like an extravagance, owning a dinner suit that fits you rather than hiring one makes more sense after years of use.

With hiring, there’s always the risk of you looking like you’ve borrowed your big brother’s Tux, or that you’ve tumble dried yours, causing its front buttons to have to hang on for dear life. Suck it up and buy one, they’re not necessarily expensive and it’s paid for itself within a year or two.

Try something simple and stylish like this 100% wool Calvin Klein Suit, it’ll feel as good as it looks. When you own your Tux, each time you enter a room, you can do so knowing that you look great, everything fits you perfectly and mingling can be done with peace of mind.

14. With Shirts, Classics Are the Holy Grail

I have spent countless hours trying on shirts and a small fortune buying them, only to have regretted my choices later. I’ve tried dress shirts, cotton, linen, stretch fabric, forward pointing collars, spread collars, tab collars, cutaway collars, club collars, button down collars, Cuban collars and pin collars… It’s been a right journey..

Cotton, as a shirt, just creases too easily. This is fine in a “Dexter” type weekend short sleeve shirt but it’s not for work or smart casual. Always choose a blended fabric. Stay away from the stretch material, they look and feel great at first but, unless they’re white, after 3 washes and irons they begin to shine on the cuffs and collars.

Speaking of collars and men in shirts, this is what I’ve learnt: If you know your collars and you know what works for you, double check your suspicions with a control group. If they concur, great, if not, then follow the below advice which I’ve given many a man at the end of his tethered collar.

If you are too short for your weight (chubby), then get a standard fitting shirt (and get your ass into a cardio regime), but if you are in shape or have a slender build, then get a slim fit shirt. In both cases, if you’re unsure about the collar, play it safe and get the spread collar.

It has a distinguishing quality, it is elegant and, with the way the collar-points end and disappear right where they meet the jacket, it really looks refined and symmetrical. The Spread Collar says you enjoy putting time and effort into your style but are still more conservative than you are Italian. You want to be unique, but not too unique.

It will work in just about every situation imaginable, won’t get you in trouble for any kind of employer dress code/style violation and just looks damn good. It’s seems a no brainer now, but it took me years to appreciate how good they look.

If you’re ever unsure of which colour suits your complexion, do a search online, most reputable brand will have professionally matched their models with the correct colours. Here are some to get you started. Hugo Boss Men’s Shirts.

In Conclusion

The way you look impacts how you feel about yourself, how others perceive you and the image people hold of you in their minds. It’s just not good enough to periodically “scrub-up nicely”, you should always look “scrubbed up”. The only time you should ever leave your home looking anything other than “on point” is if your house is on fire (and even then, would it kill you to give yourself a spritz as you’re running for the door?).

Okay, and perhaps changing oil or jumpstarting a car too.

Whether you are wearing shorts in summer or coats in winter, ensure your clothes are stylish, clean and that the colours match. Maintain a well-groomed appearance, cut your hair, cut and clean your nails and always wear aftershave.

Look after your appearance. Live healthy, exercise, use creams and sunblock on your face and hands. Do all of this and you will always be thought of as sophisticated and stylish in the minds of all. Even if you have an abrasive personality and totally lack tact, people might say, “He is such a callous wanker..” but someone in the group will always retort, “Yeah, but boy does he have some style”

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