Describing other people’s appearances is something most of us do now and then. We might do it in order to ask who someone is: ‘Who was the very smart guy in the blue suit?’ Sometimes we describe how other people look simply because we find it interesting: ‘Sophie always looks so elegant – not a hair out of place!’ If you’d like to expand your vocabulary for describing how people look, read on!
There are a number of positive adjectives for people who are clean and tidy in their appearance. In UK English smart is the most frequent of these, describing someone who looks clean, tidy and also slightly formal. In US English sharp means the same thing, with the added meaning of ‘fashionable’: You look very smart/sharp in that blue jacket.
An adjective that emphasizes how clean and tidy someone looks is spruce. Someone who is spruce looks as if they’ve just had a shower: He looked spruce and handsome in a clean, white shirt.
Two other ‘clean and tidy’ adjectives – clean-cut and dapper – have extra meanings. ‘Clean-cut’ suggests that a clean and tidy person is also well-behaved and respectable: As an actor, he had a very clean-cut image. ‘Dapper’ is used of smart, neat men whose clothes suggest they have made an effort with their appearance: He was looking very dapper in his nice grey suit.
The words groomed and well-groomed are used of both sexes for people whose neat appearances show that they have made an effort with their hair, skin, and clothes: Camille’s mother was always very well-groomed.
Elegant and glamorous are two more approving adjectives that relate to appearance. An elegant person looks attractive, in a simple and graceful way: an elegant woman. A person who looks glamorous has clothes, hair and make-up that are attractive in a way that gets attention: glamorous movie stars
There are idioms in this area too. If you look like a million dollars (US)/ look a million dollars (UK) in a particular piece of clothing, you look very attractive and special: You look like a million dollars in that dress! Someone who does not have a hair out of place is very neat, with every detail perfect: Lara is always perfect – not a hair out of place. If you are dressed up to the nines, you are wearing very smart or fashionable clothes for a special occasion: Where are you going, all dressed up to the nines?
Of course, we can’t look perfect all the time! A person who looks untidy may be described as dishevelled (UK)/disheveled (US): He had a slightly dishevelled appearance.
Someone who is untidy and looks a little dirty may be described as scruffy: He was a small, scruffy-looking man. Another word for this is unkempt: We hadn’t showered for a week and were looking rather unkempt.
Finally, there are some (slightly unkind!) idioms for people who look untidy and dirty. You might informally say that they look like something the cat brought/dragged in: I don’t know where he’d been but, honestly, he looked like something the cat had dragged in! You might instead say they look as if they have been dragged through a hedge backwards: I’d just got up and looked as if I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards!