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Keeping up appearances

Mandy Drury's black eye.
CNBC
Mandy Drury's black eye.

Have you ever felt you've been treated differently because of your appearance? It doesn't matter if it's in a store, on a flight, at work, or in a restaurant. I noticed this week I was treated differently as I walked around with a black eye and bruised face from a skiing accident.

People…strangers… were cautious around me. They had a look of concern. Perhaps they were wondering if I had been abused. It made me examine the fact that I also notice the difference when I have my normal non-work look of pulled-back hair, glasses,plain face and jeans as opposed to my full CNBC regalia of poufed-out hair, screen makeup, tight dress and high heels! No prizes for guessing which look receives better customer service and smiles.

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And I can't imagine how it must feel for those of a certain age that my parents semi-jokingly call the "invisible people." It's no coincidence that spy agencies around the world employ older men and women to pass unnoticed in a crowd to gather intel. So, as much as we don't like to admit it, appearances matter and change how we are treated. No matter how many well-meaning human-resources directives a company may have on not discriminating based on appearance — of any kind — humans have an innate and visceral first reaction based on someone's outward presentation.

Multiple studies in multiple countries show that good-looking people earn more. And taller people are perceived to be more intelligent and powerful. Of course, it's all perception, but unfortunately perceptions count. Try showing up in sloppy clothes with scuffed shoes to a sales meeting, and potential clients will probably take you less seriously than if you look sharp.

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The same can be applied to stocks. The big shiny, glam stocks like Apple grab arguably an out-sized amount of attention from investors,while less sexy stocks with great fundamentals may go unnoticed.

I think this helps to sum it up. My oldest son said to me the other day, "Mum, you're a different person when you wear your glasses, you're not as happy." Am I really less happy? Or is it purely perception because when the glasses come on, all the surface glitz and glamour comes off?

Commentary by Mandy Drury, co-host of CNBC's "Power Lunch." Follow her on Twitter @MandyCNBC.

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