Advice column: is it important to spend a lot on clothes to make a good impression on clients?

Dear Ash

I am constantly being criticised by my colleague for not spending money on designer clothes for work. He pokes fun at my choice of clothes and claims that I am failing to impress clients because of my lack of attention towards my appearance. However, I am normally smartly dressed in a suit, although I refuse to spend money on designer clothes or expensive hairdressing salons. I also sometimes decide not to shave in advance of client meetings, but I do not see why all this is relevant. I work really hard and resent being made to feel as if I need to expend money in order to make a good impression.

Ash replies:

Although in an ideal world we would like to think that we are astute enough not to judge a book by its cover, the reality is that it is human nature to make assumptions based upon aesthetics. It is therefore important to make a good impression with clients, who normally seek assurances as to your ability and professionalism by largely relying on first impressions.

Saying that, I personally do not see the need to spend an inordinate amount of money on designer clothes or haircuts in order to achieve a professional and well-presented look at work. Indeed, in the present climate of cuts and austerity, certain clients may not necessarily be impressed by seeing their advisers in expensive clothes.

Being smart and well presented is essential, but your colleague should also appreciate that having a good personality is also a key element in making a good impression. There would be little to be gained from merely wearing designer clothes and neglecting your personable qualities. Trying to impress by mere appearances makes me recall a well-known BBC sitcom character who had aspirations of becoming a millionaire; he may have spent money on designer suits but made little impression when he opened his mouth... “mange tout”!

With regard to shaving, there are mixed views on whether stubble is acceptable or not in the workplace. There was a trend for designer stubble for a while, but on the whole I would say that men are still expected to make the effort to shave, unless of course there is a clear intention to grow a beard. 

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.
  • Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or
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