Quite often, some people are ready to do anything to make an impression of being a certain type of a person that they actually are not.

For example, being asked for her first impression about Mr X, Mrs Z may say:

"He is a gentleman… (?)*"

*Here, I'm looking for a word or phrase which may express the idea that Mr X gives Mrs Z the impression of what she thinks an entirely, in all ways a perfect type of a gentleman must be. What I've been able to come up with so far is "from top to toe"/"through and through", which doesn't seem to match the usage standards in this context.

Some time later, Mrs Z may find out that Mr X, say, has the habit of biting his nails, or that wears the same pair of socks for several days, or something like that. So he wasn't what she had taken him for at the first glimpse.

In this regard, I'm searching for idioms or colloquial phrases for Mrs Z to explain why she took Mr X for what he was not. (I was thinking of "turn skin" or "werewolf", but I'm not sure whether they would work in the context.)

  • 1
    They give the superficial impression that ... or if we know that the good impression is false All hat and no cattle
    – djna
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 12:27
  • 1
    @djna - Thanks, I also found "all frosting, no cupcake", "all show, no go", etc.
    – Victor B.
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:15
  • I think the phrase from top to toe doesn't suggest anything about being or not being able to get the right idea, or even an impression at first sight. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:31
  • At first I thought he was a gentleman through and through, but later I found out he was a wolf in sheep's clothing. I don't think that "wolf lin sheep's clothing" is quite right. It has a more specific meaning than just "not what he appeared to be", but it is something you might hear in a similar context.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:43
  • @DamkerngT. - What phrase may it be then? "To one's fingertips" or "through and through"? I'm asking for that too.
    – Victor B.
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


There is an old saying:

Don't judge a book by it's cover.

meaning that outward appearances can be deceiving, there is also the literal

Looks can be deceiving.

This was used to good effect in an ad campaign by Sunkist oranges using the tag line

If it doesn't say Sunkist, you don't know what you're getting

Such idioms exist throughout different cultures and languages.

To say that someone is fully of a certain type, one might say

That person is 100% something
That person is 100% a gentleman

That person is totally something
That person is totally lost

That person is completely something
That person is completely Swedish

  • Thanks a lot, and I also found "Beauty is only skin deep".
    – Victor B.
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:26
  • That's another one, though specific to gender. There is also "His bark is worse than his bite", meaning someone who appears to be rough and combative but is not so dangerous.
    – Peter
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:33
  • I disagree that "beauty is only skin deep" is gender-specific.
    – ArrowCase
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 19:54
  • it's its not it's
    – Deipatrous
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 8:32

He is ever the gentleman. (UK usage.)

Isn't he ever the gentleman. (...with a touch of irony.)

He is quite the gentleman, isn't he?

He is such a gentleman. (Informal.)

He is gentleman in full. (Slightly archaic.)

He is a perfect example of a gentleman.

He is the very model of a gentleman. (Only jocularly nowadays, because of a famous song.)

He is the very picture of a gentleman. (This emphasises appearances and thus first impressions.)

He is a gentleman in every way / in all respects.

He does rather strike one as a gentleman. (Again, only jocularly.)

He cuts a dashing figure.

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