“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world: what we do, how we look, what we say and how we say it,” American leadership guru Dale Carnegie once famously said.
Today, looking good and projecting the “right” image has become critical in most jobs, especially in positions that involve meeting clients such as sales and marketing or public relations.
Yafeth Talker, 27, is an engineer working with an information technology company. While his job doesn’t require him to meet clients or interact with customers, he is always attired in formal clothing and well groomed, given that he works for a multinational firm. Over the past year or so, the money Talker spends on clothes has increased as the price of branded clothes has gone up. Instead, he cuts costs by buying accessories such as belts and shoes online. He also buys perfumes online but advises it is safe only if you trust the portal and you are sure about the fragrance you want.
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On an average, Talker spends about Rs 10,000 a month on his upkeep
Apparel: Rs 4,000 to 4,500
Grooming: Rs 1,000 to 1,500
Accessories (Once in three months)
- Shoes: Rs 5,000
- Belt: Rs 1,200
- Perfumes: Rs 4,000
- Office bag: Rs 2,500
Ajanta Chakraborty is the chief operating officer of OneAssist, a company providing emergency assistance related to financial cards, mobiles and travel. She prefers to dress formally in trousers or skirts with blazer while at work, as it gives her a ‘professional’ feel. She also uses a scarf at times. Her shoes are either boots or wedges, depending on her outfit.
“I believe you have to be well groomed for any kind of work. If your job involves plant visits, you can wear jeans. But they should be clean and well fitting. One doesn’t need to buy expensive brands all the time,” she says. Her personal expenses are not more than Rs 7,000 a month, she adds.
If Talker’s and Chakraborty’s expenses surprise you, here’s more. Meenal Sinha, country head of Imperial Servcorp, an international service office and virtual office firm, spends close to Rs 1 lakh every six to eight months on business suits and shoes alone. She picks up her business suits on trips abroad and each costs Rs 20,000-30,000. In addition, she spends on accessories such as jewellery, bags and makeup.
Given that Sinha’s firm is in the hospitality and real estate business, there is a strict dress code. All the staff, right from the receptionist and secretaries to those at the managerial and senior managerial level, have to be well groomed and dressed in formals all the time.
“If we don’t project a ‘premium’ experience in our looks and presentation, our clients will not have the confidence in the service we offer,” she says.
The staff is given an allowance for two full business suites in a year. For anything over and above that, they have to spend themselves, which will include expenditure on accessories (bags, shoes, jewellery), grooming (parlour) and laundry. The firm also arranges workshops by image stylists. The stylists help by giving the staff a sense of international styling tips and where products will be available in India at more affordable prices, says Sinha.
Why image builders
Image consultants say they get scores of individuals who want to groom themselves, especially those who have been elevated to the next level in their organisation or women rejoining the workforce who also want to upgrade their image. “Right now, we are helping the top executive of a leading IT firm, who’s going to take charge as the chief financial officer, a senior banker who’s been given a foreign posting and a new entrant who will soon start her career,” says Rose Peck of Bangalore-based image consultancy Impeckable Impressions.
About 70 per cent of people want a makeover in appearance and 15 per cent each want help in communication skills and pronunciation, adds Peck.
For most people, the biggest expense is on clothes. Image consultants say it is better to invest in good quality clothes than spending money to buy up a lot of clothes. For instance, instead of buying two shirts every month, buy just one that might cost a little more but will last longer. Typically, a branded shirt for men will cost anything between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000. A good pair of trousers will cost not less than Rs 1,250.
Women can choose from either western formals (trousers/skirts, shirts, jackets) or Indian (salwar suit, saree). The price can vary, depending on what you buy and if it’s branded or not, etc.
Sheena Agarwal, image consultant at Delhi-based Urbanista, suggests a wardrobe audit every few months for women. It helps cut out on things are unused or not required. “With the remaining, see what fits you well and what doesn’t. Start looking for fillers like a nice formal top or shirt, shoes, bags and so on. With a budget of around Rs 6,500 every month, you can create a good wardrobe,” she says.
Is it absolutely necessary to use the services of an image consultant? Maybe not but it helps. A consultant helps you dress and groom in a way that accentuates your strong points and presents a confident image. The fee can vary from Rs 1,500 to 3,000 a session. The number of sessions required will depend on individual needs. Clients are evaluated and advised based on their goals and roles in personal and professional life.
What they do
Usually, the image consultancy sessions start with image analysis, preparing a report on what personality traits you have, your strengths and weaknesses and also colour and wardrobe analysis. An image consultant will also help you improve your communication skills, body language and etiquette.
The next big expense after clothes is the money spent for regular parlour visits for personal appearance. While basic grooming for men and women is not very expensive, it is important to follow the proper grooming routine every month, says Debasmita Ghosh Mashru, director at Morph Image Consulting, Bangalore.
For women, basic grooming can cost anywhere between Rs 1,000 and 5,000 a month, depending on the salon and services chosen. For men, basic grooming should not exceed Rs 500-1,000 a month. At a high-end salon, haircut for men can cost anything from Rs 200 to Rs 1,650, while for women it can be Rs 500-1,650 or even more. The trick is to go for a hairstyle that is easy to maintain and not outdated. A basic manicure and pedicure can cost you between Rs 350 and Rs 1,500, whereas other parlour expenses can go beyond Rs 1,500 too. However, these charges could be higher at high-end salons.
Expenses for hair styling includes hair cut, hair colour and hair treatment, all of which together will cost up to Rs 5,000. However, this might not be required on a monthly basis.
You could invest in a hair straightening machine and a make-up kit, which would cost about Rs 3,000 each, a one-time investment, says Greeshma Thampi of Mumbai’s Avance Image Management. Make-up should be kept simple, including kajal (kohl liner), lipstick, gloss, blush-on, concealer and compact. Jewellery should not be too noisy (like metal bangle/bracelets) or too large. Costume jewellery, too, should be avoided. A good wristwatch is also part of appropriate jewellery for women. The basic cost of jewellery, including earrings, chains and bracelet, is about Rs 1,000 for two-three months. Small diamonds or pearls are a good option for corporate wear.
Accessories for men can include a good belt (upwards of Rs 1,000) and shoes (upwards of Rs 2,500) which are required to be bought once in two-three months. Whereas, a good office bag for women will cost anything upwards of Rs 1,500, shoes can set you back by Rs 2,000 at least.