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It’s OK to want to look good. We can look good without being overly vain or obsessed. I heard someone say once “I don’t buy into the whole fashion thing.” This is an ironic and untrue statement because what the person was essentially saying was that their idea of fashion was to be unfashionable. Some people don’t care about fashion or hygiene, and of course on the other end of the spectrum you can get obsessed with either. I’m not pretending to be an expert on the subject of appearance but I do get compliments often about my style and I thought it would be fun to provide some guidance on the subject.
Frequent readers of the blog know I like to focus on the deeper and more meaningful aspects of health & fitness but allow me to muse for a few moments about where we’re at culturally when it comes to fashion, hygiene, and a sense of style. Plastic surgeries, laser hair removal, men with no hair on their chest, really bad face lifts, waxes, facials, glute implants, and cure-all supplements are all the rage. Every fitness magazine for men or women over the last 20 years has exactly the same articles every month– 6 pack abs, rock hard arms, glutes of steel, burn fat like a champ, mind blowing sex, etc. etc.
I quit reading any fitness magazines or Men’s magazines years ago due to this vapid shallowness. There’s nothing new under the sun and most of that stuff is worse than shallow, it promotes a type of self-destruction consumerism. I don’t want to look like those cheeseballs on the cover of the magazines either. I’d rather look like Tom Selleck from Magnum PI and I find women attractive who are traditional and feminine like Maureen O’ Hara or Marylin Monroe. I’m born the way I am and I have to work with what I have. So I would rather emulate the styles of Cary Grant, or Frank Sinatra, or George Patton than these metrosexual models. But hey, to each his own. It’s a free country.
Another big trend is popping up, the transsexual movement, and it’s even affecting style. You can see it in the way people are playing around with fashion, with many men even deciding to “become” women. I have no doubt that some of these people are sincerely struggling with their identity and I feel for them. The whole “trans” movement may be exactly what it sounds like, the desire to “transcend” normal human experience, which frankly is difficult at times. Being a man is hard, being a woman is hard, being a mother or a father, or a child is hard, dating and being single is hard, being married is hard. Life is hard. Having a role as man or woman implies there are expectations and commitments and limitations and we live in an age when many don’t want to commit to anything or be expected to do anything.
It will be interesting to see where all of this “playing God” leads when artificial intelligence & medical technology and the unhinged and unrestrained ego and its narcissistic tendencies converge somewhere in the not so distant future. The rise of the machines, perhaps, or a new race of people? This new species may be similar to Homo sapiens but a little different, asexual possibly. Or a half man- half machine with a computer chip inserted at birth. The government may completely take over reproduction. Perhaps we as Homo sapiens will try to maintain our culture and dignity after this devolution progresses further and other human-like species evolve. Cue the myriad of sci-fi plots. Aldous Huxley, as close as we have to a modern day prophet, explored some of this future dystopia in his Brave New World. The recent film Ex Machina, which I enjoyed, involved a plot of a man following in love with a cyberwoman.
These efforts to change how we were biologically born can get a little scary if you take them to their logical conclusion. All of that being said, and taking into context how much ridiculousness there is out there and how silly and at times frightening things have gotten, I’m giving you permission right now: It’s OK to want to look good, and it’s OK to want to be attractive, and be the best looking man or woman you can be. Bottom line: You’ve got to work with what God gave you and make the best of it and you can do it without going overboard. The iconic Madonna is a great example of this. She has a big gap between her teeth and still became Madonna. Seal (pictured here), the famous singer, had a great career and married Heidi Klum the supermodel despite his face being covered in scars. The actress Fran Dresher had a horrible voice to many people, but I liked it personally. It was definitely her. These people are not afraid to work with what they have.
So what are we to do? If you don’t want to go overboard with consumerism and narcissism like a lot of people have, you don’t have to become Amish and move to rural Tennessee (though I have wondered what that would be like)… Nah, I’ll pass. Just because we are trying hard not to let the culture destroy our sanity doesn’t mean we can’t care about aesthetics, appearance, or hygiene. If anything, in the era of rampant hyperobesity, sagging hip-hop pants (modeled after prisoners), weird looking face lifts, purple hair, tatted up arms and necks, girls with shaved heads, and disgusting nose rings (which conjure up thoughts of boogers), we can take the high road! We can care about appearance and put some effort into it without letting it consume us. I had lunch with an older mentor today and he said much of the same thing: When he was in position of leadership he would never hire someone who didn’t take care of their appearance or hygiene.
In fashion, style, and hygiene, discipline and knowledge can go a long way in helping us feel better about ourselves and living a healthier life. Though we want to live a virtuous and meaningful life, caring about our appearance makes several important statements:
1) We have respect for ourselves. We care enough to make an effort to look good.
2) We respect other people. We don’t want to smell bad, look unkempt, or show disrespect for cultural or organizational norms. We care enough about other people to make an effort.
3) We can be trusted. Discipline in grooming and fashion projects social trust and builds social cohesion.
4) We believe that objective reason, decency, rationality, beauty, and truth exists and we can express it in the way we clothe ourselves and present ourselves to the world.
Up until the 1960s, when it became cool to be counter-cultural, much of fashion was aspirational and based on respect and cultural norms. Though earlier eras may have been limiting for us as individuals, in that we would have been severely ostracized had we not fit in, previous times made up for this detriment with plentiful aesthetic beauty and order in fashion and art. Great example of this: If I look back at photos of family members from rural north Georgia and north Alabama from the 1920s, 1930s, and on through the 1950s, they showed one strong characteristic: neatness. Shirts were tucked in, dress shirts were worn, hair was neat, hats were on, women were wearing dresses, and men often wore ties. Most of these people didn’t have much to their name, but when they went out on the town, they got dressed up and made a serious effort to look good.
I’m not advocating we go back to everyone dressing the same and not standing out, quite the contrary. I don’t think any of us wants to go back to the conformity of previous eras, but that being said, a return to care, cleanliness, and neatness is in order. The pendulum of respect needs to swing back to the other direction. You will feel better, be treated better, and you’ll be healthier if you take some time to care about how you look. Here are some suggestions:
- Take a bath and wear deodorant daily. There’s no excuse for stinking.
- Trim your nails once a week.
- Trim facial hair on your nose and ears. If there is one thing I will fight as I get older, it’s this!
- Keep your BMI below 30, preferably below 25, and stay as lean as you can.
- Shave your neck at least once a week. This includes the sides.
- Ladies, don’t over treat your hair. If you care what men think and you want it to look good, keep it long and soft in my opinion. It’s amazing how much women waste on bad haircuts. If you don’t care what men think, cut it short.
- Men, no comb overs. Shave it.
- Men (and women) can wear boots or shoes with a lift to be taller.
- Here are a couple fashion tricks I’ve learned:
- Blue and Brown go great together.
- Monochrome clothing matches make you look taller.
- Match your shirts to your eyes.
- Exercise every day 30-60 minutes.
- Drink water for your skin and so your breath doesn’t stink.
- Men should lift weights or do manual labor to keep muscle mass, unless you have an active job.
- Women should do some sort of resistance or strength training or active hobby too to stay reasonably toned.
- Be careful with the yoga pants, short shorts, or tank tops. No one wants to see some of that stuff.
- Men or women who are bigger can be attractive. Choosing the right clothing and grooming make all the difference.
- Conform for the most part, but stand out and be unique. Pick out a thing or two that makes your style unique.
- Always try to dress as good or slightly better than the people in the environment you will be socializing in.
- People with limitations and disabilities can be very attractive. Character and attitude make all the difference.
- Men, if you spend more time styling your hair than your woman does, you may need to change your priorities.
- People treat you differently when you wear a suit.
- Play up your masculinity and femininity. People have been shamed so much into being who they are that many men and women walk around with their heads down and don’t take pride in themselves.
- Use good body language- posture, eye contact.
- Make up your bed every day. It will change your life.
- For the less affluent focus on several things:
- Fit is more important than price when it comes to clothes.
- Shop at Goodwill and Salvation Army and other thrift stores.
- Start with the very basics- a nice pair of oxford dress shoes and a good blue sport coat for men.
- Focus on neatness over flash. It’s so exceedingly rare you’ll stand out.
I can remember having lunch for the first time 3 years ago with one of the biggest names in Atlanta business. Here I am, much lower on the totem pole, as far as age, net worth, social status, and success. Guess who made an effort to dress up in a tie for the lunch? Yep, he did. Guess what else? He showed up with a notebook and a pen to take notes and to try to help me however he could. He taught me a lesson I will never forget: Care about people. The details are important. Though I was dressed neatly, I was embarrassed at how casual I was at the meeting compared to him.
We have to work with what we have if we want to be happy. You may never be a super model, but everyone can look their best. It’s OK to want to look good. It’s OK to care, to want to be respected, and to make an effort. You deserve respect so act like it. Most importantly, you will feel better about yourself when you start caring more.