On a sunny Wednesday morning in Jos, Nigeria, I slipped into my lazy clothes to go withdraw cash. When I got to the ATM, a strikingly handsome young man with perfectly trimmed facial hair and glistening skin caught my attention. There was a queue at the branch but I figured if I asked him to help me with my transaction, I would save time and it would be an opportunity to talk with him. I walked up to him and asked him politely if he could help me out. Much to my surprise, he eyed me and rudely asked why he would do that. Almost immediately someone tapped my shoulder and said “my child, didn’t you see us here, next time leave your engagement ring at home before you approach other men”. What! Every fibre in my bones wanted to tell the elderly woman to mind her business and mock her for not knowing the difference between a commitment ring and a fashion ring but I couldn’t. It isn’t African to challenge elders; at least that’s what we were taught. Eventually I joined the queue and fiddled with the ring on my finger till I pulled it out. This experience triggered a question in my mind; do people really address you based on how you’re dressed or accessorized? If you think on this, you will find that the answer is definitely yes.

“Dress how you want to be addressed”, a cliché that remains arguable but factual. Have you ever felt out of place or been treated as a misfit simply because you weren’t dressed for an event you went for? I have. As social beings that interact with others on a daily basis we must learn to co-exist without being socially awkward. Your appearance on any occasion determines how you are perceived whether you like it or not. This is often influenced by peoples’ mindset on how particular accessories or patterns of dressings are affiliated with a certain group of people. Wearing a nose ring or an anklet could get you in trouble with overly religious people; revealing clothes could earn you a great deal of disrespect in other cases. People can be approached wrongly because of how they look, It may seem shallow to be judged by a complete stranger just because of your appearance but this is ineluctable. It is important to appear ready in any situation, consider your looks as the first introduction you have with anyone that catches a glimpse of you. If you have been lackadaisical about paying attention to how you look, I hope this article helps you have a rethink and encourages you to prioritize grooming yourself. Spice up your look; it may be with a new perfume or nicer shoes; appear a little more chic and make a statement every time you walk into a new space. This could lead to better relationships and also pave a way for other healthy interactions.

This article was written by Sarbyen Vanessa Sheni; connect with her on IG here

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