Do the Clothes Make the Man?

February 13, 2014


Christoph Waltz, the Oscar winning Austrian actor, who played the cruel Nazi Hans Landa in “Inglorious Bustards”, was asked in an interview how did he manage to reach the level of performance he showed in that film, where he “became” that character. His answer was that he did not have to do anything, because the SS uniform did the job for him. Waltz confessed that the infamous uniform had an emotional impact on audiences, as it “made” the character.

Our outward appearance, our clothes (uniform) and body language have an influence on System 1, our intuition, which based on non-rational processes. Members of an audience are exposed to nonverbal cues sent by a speaker or presenter, and they immediately respond to relevant mental associations aroused by these cues.

Effective performance, in entertainment or business, is based on the ability to build and maintain attention level, which is a sign of interest and some kind of a change.  The change can be in the mental state of the audience, or in actions resulting from an actual call for the same.

To return to the matter of clothing, it can influence not only your audience and their perception of you, but also your own perception of yourself as speaker. Landa’s SS uniform influenced not only the film audiences, but also the actor himself. When we wear a certain outfit, it creates or support and reinforces our perceptions, or our state of mind, at that moment. Therefore, next time you face an audience ‒ whether when meeting a single manager, or addressing a large audience, put some serious thought into your outfit. It will trigger in others an intuitive response, influencing their perception of you and your perception of yourself. That may be your first stepping-stone towards the Oscar.


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