First impressions are a powerful thing, especially when you’re meeting a potential partner. How you present yourself can set the tone for how the first date goes and whether or not you’ll even make it to a second date, let alone start a relationship. Even if we don’t like to admit it, we each make a series of judgments based on a person’s appearance as we search for clues about who they really are. What would a wrinkled shirt mean to you? Or unwashed hair? What about a pair of nice shoes or a smart jacket?

Don’t underestimate the power of putting your best foot forward. Not only should your appearance hint at the type of person you are, but it should also prove to your date that you’re genuinely interested in them. A clean, well-put together look shows respect for your date’s time and energy and suggests that you want to impress them. There’s nothing more disheartening than arriving to a date after spending an hour or more preparing, only to find that your partner looks like they woke up from a nap just fifteen minutes before.

Styling Tips for Gentlemen

Fall trends for men tend to dictate that they grow out a thick beard and forgo regular haircuts. Ripped denim and flannel always have a resurgence. While there’s nothing wrong with trying out a trend, a first date is neither the time nor place.

Gentlemen, my best advice is to arrive clean and polished. Get a haircut, put away your trendy clothes, and aim for a classic, timeless look. If you regularly have a beard, trim it so that it looks intentional and refined. If you don’t have a beard, now is not the time to try to grow one. You’ll be more likely to impress with your usual clean-shaven face.

As for clothing, go for an outfit that is neat, classic, and well-fitted. Take the time to iron your shirt and pants and to polish your shoes if necessary. Even if your date location has a casual atmosphere, dress up a little. There’s no reason to wear a tuxedo to a café, of course, but your date will appreciate you dressing above what’s strictly necessary. For example, where you might usually wear jeans, upgrade to a pair of nice chinos.

Most importantly, be authentic. Although I recommend erring on the side of caution when it comes to your style, you can still let your personality shine through. A leather jacket makes a different statement than a sport coat. Patterned button-down shirts are popular this season and can hint at a playful personality. If there’s a certain item of clothing that makes you uncomfortable, don’t force yourself to wear it. The best outfit is one that puts you at ease and allows you to be pleasant company.

Styling Tips for Ladies

Just as I recommended for gentlemen, ladies should also strive to look neat and classic. Style trends for women change with every passing week, so unless you are a tastemaker, trying to be at the cutting edge of every new trend is a losing battle. A black dress, a nice blouse, or a well-fitted sweater, on the other hand, never goes out of style. Let your main outfit be simple and understated, while your accessories speak to your personality. Pop your outfit with stylish heels, a colorful purse, or a statement necklace.

Confidence is your best and most important accessory. Dress in what makes you personally feel beautiful and alluring, rather than what you think your partner will find attractive. Even if you outwardly look like their dream woman, you won’t be able to pull off that illusion if you don’t feel good about yourself. Be authentic and true to your sense of style.

To that end, treat yourself before your first date. Get a blowout and arrange to have your makeup done. If a manicure and pedicure make you feel relaxed and pampered, schedule an appointment for that too. Beauty and spa treatments aren’t just for your appearance, they’re also for your state of mind. The better you feel, the more appealing you’ll be to your date.

Making the connection that leads to love can depend entirely on your first impression. Make sure yours is a winning impression.