How to Take Your Style to the Next Level
Looking good may sometimes seem like a frivolous, superficial thing. But David McKnight is here to let us know that it goes way deeper than that.
As an NYC-based image consultant and professional coach, it's David's job to help his clients look good and get the professional results they're after. In his world, a sharper image leads to career aspirations that are even more on point. Looking good is a critical component of achieving your (serious and seriously good) goals in work and in life.
It's a dynamic he sees play out successfully with his clients, day in and day out.
He explains how it works.
"When you look better, you feel better," David says, "and when you feel better, that means you are radiating more positive energy, and people can feel and sense that. This means that you will attract more opportunities, and you will be more likely to get the things that you desire, such as a new job, new relationship, higher paying clients, et cetera."
David says the positive energy you'll radiate is all about confidence.
"Confidence is a very attractive trait, and people generally gravitate towards more confident people. It may seem like a far stretch to suggest that improving your appearance can improve your life, but as you can imagine, when you are happier with how you look, then others will sense the confidence and you’ll be more likely to get what you want."
Improving how you approach and invite the world in with how you present yourself isn't just surface-level stuff. It's deep, it has impact, and for many clients – it's an emotional process. David has many stories of clients who thought their "style was fine, and it didn't matter" but soon become devotees who only wish they'd had this change of heart (and wardrobe) sooner.
You can Start. today. David's here to give us the structure he's been using with his clients for the past 12 years, as seen through the lens of our own Start. Sort. Style. steps.
Step 1: Start.
In this step, we ease into adjusting your mindset around your current closet and the overall image you project. Our goal here is not to edit anything out quite yet, but to create a "safe space" for you to think about your clothes and how they make you feel, with more honesty.
"To do this, you must conduct an honest self-evaluation of your style and your wardrobe," David says. "Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and prioritize your focus."
1. Take a good look at what's in your closet. Assess the current state of where you are today. Start to understand why you've been holding onto what's there for so long.
"We all have things in our closet that we know we need to get rid of, but we don’t. Most people hold onto articles of clothing out of guilt (like, 'my mother gave me that dress'), obligation ('but I bought those jeans in Italy'), investment ('I paid $300 for that blouse'),
or they may be simply waiting to lose weight or waiting for the right occasion."
Don't donate or discard anything right now (that comes next). If you find some guilt, obligation or investment items, don't freak out. David's got a plan for that.
"If it’s one of the aforementioned reasons," David says, "then I recommend taking it out of the closet and putting it away for 6 months. If you don’t miss it, need it, or think about it, then it’s safe to just let it go. Most people need to address the mindset issues that they have around clothes. This is what I help my clients do."
2. Get honest about what you like and don't like about what you have now.
"This current state assessment step also involves asking yourself, 'How do I dress now? What do people say about my style and attire? What do I like and not like about my style?'"
3. Dream a little. What do you want your style to be like, moving forward? This is the "future state." Get creative with it, and capture what speaks to you.
"This step involves determining and clarifying what you want your style and image to be.
To help with this, it’s useful to cut out photos from magazines of styles that you like, and put them onto a poster board. Or, create a Pinterest board and start pinning style photos from clothing websites, online magazines, and blogs that you like. Write down why you like the style so that you can articulate it to others," David advises.
With an idea of what you're working with and what you actually prefer, now it's time to make a plan. That gets us to...
Step 2: Sort.
The Sort. step here is all about "gap assessment" – it's all about the in-between space of 1) where you are and 2) where you want to be – and how to fill it.
1. Identify the gaps. Let's make a list! David says to write down what you:
Need to acquire
Need to get rid of
Need to buy more of
Need to buy less of
These things will help you fill in the gaps in your wardrobe and start to create your own personal confidence-radiating style statement.
2. Out with the old. You'll want to remove the items in your current wardrobe that currently don't work (based on what you ID'd in the Start. step). Go deeper here, with the steps on how to organize, well, anything.
3. In with the new. You want to create a simple shopping list of the new stuff you need in order to implement your new, next-level style.
Step 3: Style.
It's time for some more action (and a schedule for how to maintain it).
1. Start to purchase (and wear!) your new items. Don't wait, David says. You don't have to have all of the "new" items before you start wearing them. Put them into rotation immediately.
"I strongly recommend not procrastinating," David says. "Just make a decision to move forward and then GO!"
2. Maintain it. A regular "wardrobe review" will keep your next-level gear in tip-top shape.
"I suggest reviewing your wardrobe twice per year – once in March for Spring and Summer, and again in September for Fall and Winter. This is also when you should turn over your closet," David says.
New clothes, a new style perspective AND a new spring in your step... It's time to get the success you deserve, and taking action on your wardrobe, using the Start. Sort. Style. steps could be just the thing to get you there.
Get David's book, Zen and the Art of Executive Presence.