Save. Spend. Splurge.

If you look like a slob, you’re probably going to be judged as slob

Know how everyone says you can’t judge a book by its cover?

Well I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but it’s a load of crap.

I’m of the opinion that if you look like a slob, you’re probably a slob.


EVERYONE judges someone the minute they meet them, this is a raw, biological instinct to do so.

Anyone who says that they do not have a gut instinct or opinion that forms within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone new is a liar.

Few examples:

  • Men & women judge potential mates when they first meet them to see if this could turn into something awesome
  • Business rivals judge each other and size up their competition to gauge where they might stand relative to them
  • Customers judge professionals they meet and assess instinctively whether they will be the right fit for them or not

This is why it is really important to present the right image because first impressions (formed within 5 minutes) count for the long-term.


Even if you are able to stop yourself, correct your initial judgement and think:

Okay this person looks like a slob but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re absolutely brilliant at their job, and their appearance really doesn’t mean squat.

…it takes you a minute or two to stop yourself and use your rationality to remind yourself that people are not who they seem on the surface, and you will be conscious to go forward and re-judge this person with an open mind rather than just going instinctively on your first impressions.


Some people have a knack for sizing up someone the minute they meet them and to somehow get a feel for the person within the first 5 minutes that proves to be quite accurate.

I have no scientific proof that I can do this and be right 100% of the time, but generally, my first impressions of someone are usually spot on.

I absolutely credit my father for giving me this intuition or knack, because he has the same ability to meet someone and within 10 minutes have a feel for what kind of person they are based on his previous experiences with others who have acted or talked in the same way (mannerisms and all). He also passed it on to my brother.

Of course, instincts can always be wrong — someone who seems like a good person can turn out to be a snake and vice versa.

My mother however, is awful at this.

She cannot discern within 10 minutes if the person is a trustworthy person or a snake because she is far too trusting of everyone around her.

How does this work?

Honestly, I think you need the ability to act like a snake to be able to recognize another snake, especially if you are someone who is generally suspicious or mistrustful of others.

That’s not to say that you will ever use this rather dubious snake-y quality, but you have the ability or capacity to do so, and this makes you a better, quick judge of character than those who don’t have a snake-like bone in their body.

(Yes, I totally realize that I am pretty much confessing that I could be a snake; I admit it..! But it doesn’t mean I am one all the time, only when the situation calls for it.)

A good book that goes into detail about first impressions and gut instincts is this one:


I went to visit a doctor and within the first 5 minutes, I had an instinct that I didn’t like her and wouldn’t be happy.

I couldn’t really tell you what it was, except that my first impressions were a flurry of thoughts like this:

  • Her hair is a mess
  • She talks like a scatterbrained dodo
  • I hate her shoes
  • Her coat is dirty and unkempt
  • She has an overall disheveled appearance to her
  • She mumbles, I hate mumblers
  • She doesn’t speak very precisely

I told myself:

Self, you’re being an idiot.

She’s a doctor.

She OBVIOUSLY passed a filter somewhere and became a doctor because she wanted to, and she’s smart. Don’t be a judgmental moron based on her clothes, let’s give her a chance.

For me, my first impression and going just on it without trying to give the benefit of the doubt would have been akin to saying:

Hey that person must be rich, she’s decked out head-to-toe in designer logos and has perfectly blow-dried hair.

(even though she actually has $0 in the bank and is $50,000 in debt)

Yet after 3 visits, I switched doctors.


My instincts were pretty much spot on, but they were just based on the way she looked, and then I put those first impressions out of my mind and rationalized with myself that I had to give her the benefit of the doubt and re-assess my opinion of her each time I saw her.

Turns out, she WAS a disorganized, hot mess.

She made mistakes on my chart, booked unnecessary appointments, always seemed to be late or in a rush which made me feel like she didn’t care enough about me as a patient to spend even 10 minutes discussing all the options available to me, and she missed a lot of details.

In fact, she never reviewed my chart before seeing me, and it was like a brand new meeting each time I met with her.

I knew my chart inside and out, so I would actually remind her of things she missed!

I get that doctors have a lot of patients day-in and day-out, but there is no shame in taking a few minutes before each meeting to review a patient’s chart, get into the mindset of who you are diagnosing, and then talk to them.

I’d be relieved to have a doctor to would rather take a little time to read over and check my chart before seeing me each time, than to have a doctor who thinks she has memorized it all and doesn’t need to review anything, and would rather wing the appointment.

You may be the smartest person in the world, but if you can’t pay attention to the details and to make sure that you are accurate and precise, you are as useless to me as the average Joe Schmoe on the street who wears a doctor’s coat and read a book online on how to deal with sick people.


This is kind of my belief, that if someone takes the time (even 5 minutes) to care about the way they look, it means they take the time to care about everything else in their life.

You don’t need to be dressed in high-end, sleek designer clothing, but your clothes do have to be wrinkle-free, neat and clean.

You should at least care enough about yourself to brush your hair, brush your teeth so that they’re clean (no need for them to be toilet bowl white), and not have a body odour.


..and if you are a professional, you should at least learn how to present yourself as a calm and in-charge rather than rushed, scatter-brained and disorganized.

You don’t need to look mundane or dress “conventionally” in matching sweater sets and high heels to look professional (heck you could have tattooed arms for all I care).

Sometimes when I am sitting on the bus or on the train, I’ll immediately know if someone is in charge of their life or not, and sometimes it has nothing to do with the clothes that they wear.

I notice things like…

  • if they are unable to find their metro pass easily to get on the bus because they didn’t organize themselves the night before
  • if their purse or bag (when opened) looks like an office hurricane vomited in it with crumpled papers, half eaten bars of candy, etc
  • if they take money or have change and just drop it into their purse instead of putting it away carefully, then they spend time digging
  • if they are carrying many little bags (a lunch bag, purse, laptop bag) and struggling to keep them all in place while walking

.. all these little things signal to me that this person is not organized or conscientious because they haven’t taken the time to get their act together for the simple tasks they have to complete each day as a human.


For me, this idea of being presentable and professional is not unique to white-collar professionals such as doctors or lawyers.

Someone who works in construction for instance, cannot be expected to be in crisp, clean clothes day-in and day-out (what a silly idea!), but they at least are not wearing pants that are belted at their knees, with 5 rings on each hand or with really long unkempt hair that they’ve styled into some inconvenient hairdo that keeps getting in the way of them being able to do their job.

Someone who is a lawyer


The only people who can get away with dressing however they want and not caring (to some extent) are people who have already proven themselves and do not need to say anything, this includes brilliant mathematicians such as Albert Einstein, iconic business figures such as the late Steve Jobs who always wore a black turtleneck and jeans, or that young upstart Mark Zuckerberg who doesn’t give a damn what he wears.. and so on.


Or even researchers who are in their field of expertise but are well regarded as complete geniuses.

They could show up in a potato sack and sweatpants to lecture students, and while some might smile at their choice of an outfit, NO ONE WOULD CARE because their brain is so amazing.

These folks have already proven their salt.

We wouldn’t care what they wore because we have already rationalized beyond first impressions, and have seen that their unusual appearance is minor compared to who they are as people.


As a consultant, I know that being professional not only means wearing the right things, but it also means avoiding the wrong things; this sounds like the same difference but it isn’t.

I know for instance I should not be in the office with a strapless top, it is showing far too much bare skin, and if I wore such a top, I should at least cover my shoulders, even in the summer.

I also know that no matter how casual the business environment, I am NOT to show up in flip flops, or at the other extreme, 4″ f*ck-me heels.

I can decide to dress however the hell I want on my own time, but there is a time and a place for every outfit and style.

For instance, I certainly wouldn’t go into a rowdy nightclub wearing a turtleneck, and a buttoned-up suit with low, chunky heels!!

So yes, if you look like a slob all the time, you are probably are a slob, either in your lack of organization and/or lack of care you take in having a presentable, neat appearance.



  • SP

    Yes and no. Habits are indications of personalities to a degree, and you can see the results of habits pretty easily in first impressions.

    Working with many scientists/engineers, extremely well put together women strike me as less technically competent on first impression. I definitely recognize that bias and try to override it with logic, because it is an unfair judgement.. But there is this ingrained part of me that thinks spending a lot of time on daily primping is just totally silly and a waste of time – every minute a woman spends doing her hair/make-up in the morning is a minute not spent becoming great. (Again, I realize this isn’t a good position to hold, and it isn’t as if avoiding an extensive primping routine means I’m spending the time I save being great.) It also applies to men who overdress for their role – I assume it is an intentional strategy to boost status.

    When I used to commute by train every day, I used systems for myself for things like my metro card, because my natural tendency with the little things is to move fast rather than be extremely careful (i.e. slow). So, I don’t have to “organize myself” every day, I just always kept the card in the same quick spot (inside my phone case), and it worked. But when I get out of a routine for whatever reason, my systems can fail. Like, I can lose something really important (metro card, drivers license). It drives me nuts, but I get impatient to get to the next thing, and if I’m doing something out of my normal habits, I sometimes fail. I’m aware of that now and try to be extra careful when I’m traveling for work/pleasure (travel is the most common time I fail!).

    Essentially, I strive for maximum efficiency, and some things simply seem like a waste of time, even if they might make me appear more organized to others. I’m extremely dependable at work, and have been given feedback that I’m perceived as very competent/professional/impressive based on the way I conduct myself. I also take care of normal standards of grooming and cleanliness – which there is really no excuse not to do and is nonnegotiable in the professional world. (And just in the world!)

    People’s brains work differently. My husband is more conscientious in that he never ever would lose anything important, double checks that we locked the car/turned off coffeemaker/everything, checks all of his belongings after going through airport security, etc…. Yet, I’ll never miss deadline, forget about an event, or ignore an obligation. He absolutely might do these things – despite appearing more organized on first impression.

    I have good intuition about people, but I try to keep an open mind and gather data slowly, It is really hard to override the psychological first impressions, but in longer term relationships (which most working relationships are), the true character comes out.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You know, women who spend TOO much time on their looks are derided but those who don’t spend ANY time are not exactly well received. This is my impression of watching executive women at work.

      My partner is like yours — he is super cautious but my brain just.. can’t handle double-checking everything obsessively. He has a list he follows, I just leave it to him and put my brain onto Baby Bun.

      I will say that women are more harshly judged at work. I saw one who was very efficient and competent but no one wants to chat with her unless they have to (for work), because she just doesn’t come across as friendly or engaging. It’s a bit sad.

  • Anne

    I wouldn’t trust first impressions or gut feeling too much. How do you know your observations have not been biased because of your first impressions? If you think someone looks slobby you might only observe the signs that confirm your prejudices and miss all the other signs. Being slobby in one area of life does not mean that a person is it in other areas as well. There’s a great variety in people. Even though it can be useful to categorise or generalise in certain situations, I think it is very important to always keep ├án open mind when it comes to individuals.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Excellent point! As a mother, I am a slob 10% of the time and DON’T CARE, but I do get looks and the raised eyebrow on occasion. Contrasted to when I actually look decent with a bit of slap on (or sunglasses LOL).. I get treated immensely better. Like.. fall over backwards can’t serve you fast enough, nicer.

  • The Luxe Strategist

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a perfect world, where no one was judged by how they look? Unfortunately, we live in the REAL world.

    That’s exactly why I dress up a little when I have big meetings (usually I’m in ripped jeans and sneaks). And why I dress in designer clothes when I go shop at Barneys and Saks.

    My friend is also a dentist and she takes the time to look more put together when she goes to work.

  • Kathy

    I react to people the same way you describe. And personally, I’ve found that if I’m in the middle of housework and need to run to the store for one or two items, if I’m dressed like a slob, I always run into someone I know. If I take the time to change clothes, I never do.

  • sammy

    Interesting and accurate insights. Taking care of oneself is a sign of self respect and respect for others.
    Especially with doctors, we should listen more to our intuition as doctors can sometimes cause permanent damage (through dental treatment, surgery, etc.); also through negligence.
    As for other people, I’ve found that the very slobbish were usually lazy, disorganized, late for appointments and unreliable. Maybe there are exceptions, but, as you said, we need to know those people better until we can say who they truly are.

    • sammy

      But I am not very exigent either; I myself don’t see the point in spending ages preening myself, or have the time or patience for it.
      By “very slobbish”, I mean, for example, not washing oneself and smelling in the bus, not combing one’s hair even when going out in public – just basic common-sense things.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      There is a woman who is super efficient at work but doesn’t dress like it. Unfortunately, people react to her dressing habits first.

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