Imagine this for a moment:
You’re talking to your potential future boss and everything’s going great…until you point to your resume, and he sees your grimy, unkempt nails.
Or you’re halfway through an amazing dinner date, and you lean over the table to say something charming…and she’s hit with a wall of bad breath.
Often, during make-or-break situations like job interviews and first dates, your success or failure comes down to a few small details of how you present yourself. In those moments, it no longer matters that you suited up and combed your hair, because you ignored the details. You didn’t think the other person would notice, but they did.
Why do the details matter so much? Because as the saying goes, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Grimy nails don’t just mean you’ve given up on your dream of becoming a hand model. They mean you’re ok with letting little things slip. Little things that could potentially have bigger consequences down the road…
The good news is that it’s never too late to start paying attention to details like grooming.
Here are a few grooming issues that might be holding you back if you don’t take care of them. Fortunately, all of them are easy to fix.
1. Ignoring rogue ear, nose or eyebrow hair
Gents, once you reach a certain age, you have to embrace the fact that your body no longer confines hair growth to the “designated hair areas.” You suddenly become a Chia Pet, with hairs sprouting up everywhere. Beyond the whole discussion of back hair or manscaping, the areas that cause the most issues on the surface are unruly ear, nose and eyebrow hair.
If it’s starting to look like you’re growing earmuffs or like a spider is trying to escape from your nose legs first, then it’s time to take action. And you may think it’s unmanly to trim your eyebrows, but once they get some real heft, it can look like you have two Gremlins living above your eyes. You don’t need to do anything drastic, but trimming a few straggler hairs now and then will keep you from looking like Groucho Marx. And it’s easy to have your barber just take care of this during your regular visit—it’s usually no extra charge.
2. Dirty, unkempt fingernails
Nothing is a quicker indicator of someone’s hygiene than the state of their nails. Untrimmed, scraggly or dirty nails are a sign of a lack of care overall, but also a health hazard, especially if you’re preparing food for people. Next to your face, the hands are often one of the most viewed parts of your body when you talk to someone in person. All you need to do is trim your nails regularly, occasionally scrub under them with a brush, and also clip any stray hangnails.
3. Not flossing
It’s easy to convince yourself that flossing is a personal decision between you and your dental hygienist. Not so. When you brush regularly but neglect flossing, you leave tiny bits of food between your teeth—and that food starts to rot and build up bacteria that can make your breath pretty heinous. It’s an issue for anyone in close quarters with you, but especially anyone who’s getting smoochy with you. Do your gums and your social life a favor, and start flossing.
4. Not trimming or brushing your facial hair
Having facial hair is like owning a car: once decide to do it, you’ve got to take responsibility for it or it becomes a liability. One issue is simply neglecting to trim/brush/comb your beard or mustache—you’ve got wild hairs going everywhere or you’ve got uneven patches.
The other issue is more insidious: when you don’t DECIDE what you’re doing with your facial hair. For whatever reason—maybe because facial hair is one of men’s few accessories—as soon as you start growing facial hair, it seems like everyone gets involved. You can get a lot of flack when you start growing facial hair without a clear goal: “Are you working towards a beard, or are you doing the “strategic stubble” thing? What’s the deal here?” Make a decision and start caring for and maintaining it along the way.
5. Shaving your beard line up too high
This is a pet peeve of mine. So many guys trim their beards above their natural beard line, thinking it will eliminate the appearance of having a “wattle” or double chins. They think, if I trim my beard up this high, you’ll think my face is all svelte and you won’t see the jangly mess hanging below. But in reality, it doesn’t do them any favors. That’s like some guy wearing a half t-shirt hoping you’ll ignore his pot belly hanging below (sorry to put that visual in your head!). Star Wars mastermind George Lucas has been trying to use the beard trick for years. As much as I respect the man and love his movies, this is one special effect I wish he would retire.
By trimming around the natural beard line where the bottom of your jaw meets your neck, it can actually help cover up your jowls in a tasteful way—and it doesn’t look like you’re trying to use smoke and mirrors.
6. Using too much product in your hair
There are many things in life where “more is better.” Hair product usually isn’t one of them. Whether you just applied your gel or molding cream too liberally, didn’t work it in well enough, or your hair was too wet when you applied it–if you’re not careful, you’ll have a Something About Mary situation on your hands…er, your head. It’s too bad, because you were so close to getting points for having nicely quaffed hair, but then lack of attention was your downfall. Try using just a little bit of product, and make sure you look at your hair closely (maybe use an extra mirror to see the back of your head) to ensure everything’s worked in properly.
7. Wearing too much cologne
I’ve never been a big cologne guy, but for some, a nice subtle fragrance can work great. Notice I said SUBTLE. If you walk into an elevator and people can TASTE your cologne, then guess what, you failed on the subtlety front. The thing is, wearing too much of even the fanciest cologne makes it smell cheap, and and it’s going to ruin your chances of making a good first impression.
It’s easy to get used to your own scent, so this may be something where you want to get help from an honest friend. Ask them about whether your cologne is too overpowering. You can also try using much less, and then ask them if they can still smell it. If they can, maybe you don’t need as much as you thought.
8. Letting your lips turn into the Sahara desert
It’s pretty hard not to notice someone’s lips and mouth when you’re talking to them. So, even if you’ve combed your hair perfectly and groomed your facial hair like a Bonsai tree, if your lips are dry and cracked, they’re going to be distracting. Just at that key moment when you’re telling a story, people won’t hear how you managed to scuba dive next to sharks or deliver a baby in an elevator. Instead, they’ll be looking at your cracked lips. Key here is making sure to regularly use lip balm (preferably with an SPF), and to try and avoid excess sun exposure.
9. Untrimmed and scraggly toenails
While you can avoid unleashing your toenails at the office and on a first date, there’s always the inevitable outdoor BBQ, pool party or trip to the river. And that means wearing flip flops or sandals. It’s great to give those nappy toes some oxygen and maybe a little sun. But are they ready for public viewing? Are they scaring young children and passersby? Most guys don’t pay much attention to the hygiene of their toenails, probably because we think “hey, out of sight, out of mind.” But when we bust out our scraggly toes and haven’t taken care of them, it can be a big turnoff for those around us. All it takes is a little trimming and filing, and you’re good to go.
To Sum It Up…
As you can see, even if you’ve taken the time to put on a nice outfit and comb your hair, there are a ton of little grooming details that if you don’t pay close attention, can really sabotage you.
The good news is that all of these are extremely easy to fix. And most don’t require more than a few minutes a day, if that.
In fact, if you make them part of your routine, they’ll become second nature, just like brushing your teeth.
What are some other easy grooming habits you see people missing?