Dress to Impress: Walking a mile in her shoes

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeff Walston
  • 913th Airlift Group
Originally published July 27, 2009

My father is my number one mentor, whether I want him to be or not.

Much like the AFI 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel, guides our Airmen in uniform policies, my dad has always had his own set of guidelines for my appearance where his reputation is concerned.

Many times in my "adult" life, Dad has checked my hair and offered to shave the back of my neck in between haircuts. Fortunately, I've learned to do that chore on my own.

Dad's appearance guidelines are fairly simple - iron your shirt and pants if they're wrinkled. Keep your hair neat, and if you need a haircut get one or he will cut it at no cost. (Dad is a trained barber, thanks to the "ancient" GI Bill, and he still has his tools of the trade) Shoes must always be shined, and socks can't have holes in them. If the holes in your belt are worn so large that is doesn't hold the pants up correctly - buy a new belt. If you've got a job interview, dress for the job. Example - don't wear a suit to an interview for a construction job. Use common sense. "Dress to impress," summed it up.

Although AFI 36-2903 is over 161 pages long, I find it easier to follow than Dad's guidelines at times. There is very little ambiguity in the AFI, and the photos and illustrations make it easier to follow in the world of dressing to impress.

For me, military uniforms are pretty simple. He who has the least amount of wrinkles and danglers, the shiniest shoes and the most medals, usually leaves the best impression. But, that's just me.

As much as Dad is my mentor, my mother was my advisor in my early years. She passed away a few years ago.

Mom was emphatic about her point-blank advice.

Don't scrape your teeth across your silverware. Don't stick your tongue out to meet your food. Don't say "you know" when talking. Don't worry about your looks, we'll work on your personality, and never compliment a women on her clothes.

The first three could get you popped in the jaw if you were within Mom's arm reach. I didn't understand about my looks until high school - we won't delve into that. As for the clothes, I had to ask, because I felt it was in direct conflict with her advice of always being nice to women.

According to my mother, complimenting a woman on her clothing brings attention to the fact she owns it. If too many people compliment that particular piece, then every time she wears it, they may think there's nothing else in her closet. This forces her to never ever wear that particular article of clothing again.

I didn't realize the impact Mom's advice had on me until last week. You never know when an epiphany will strike.

For the most part, I don't care much about impressing people. I just do my job the best I can. For example, I signed my first major business contract in a Hawaiian shirt in 1987, just because I could. If you're not impressed with performance, clothes aren't going to make the difference. But, that's just my experience on the subject.

Recently, I wanted to impress someone I was going to meet with. I went shopping. I bought three pairs of pants - I couldn't make up my mind. I pick up a shirt and a new belt. I really wanted to impress this person, which is a rare occurrence for me.

The morning of the meeting I had a problem deciding on which of the new pants I bought. I wound up wearing a pair of older slacks and the new shirt. But, the pants didn't match the new belt, so I wore an old one. That threw off the total look, so I polished my boots instead of wearing shoes. Unbelievably, I made it to work on time.

The morning went well and I had numerous comments about my new look and especially the shirt. I was feeling pretty good about myself and my meeting went off without a hitch. I was impressed and I seemed to impress a lot of people, which in turn made a difference in the way I performed and felt about myself. All in all it was a good day.

When you look good and feel good about yourself, people notice, and your self-esteem and performance are usually increased. This can benefit everyone. The problem for me is, now I have a 42 dollar shirt in my closet that I can never ever wear again.