How Masculinity is Expressed Through Aesthetics

As a military veteran, I’ve shined boots and pressed uniforms for more hours than I care to recall. Sometimes it was tedious and wasteful, but I always did it. Why was it so important?

In The Appearance of Power: How Masculinity is Expressed Through Aesthetics Tanner Guzy addresses the conflicted attitudes that American men have with regard to style and clothing. In this article, I’ll break down seven key points from the book to help you make the most of your appearance.

1. Your Appearance is a Tool. In my podcast conversation with Tanner, we discussed a strange inconsistency in most men. For a lot of guys, it’s easy to get excited about the appearance of their cars and watches, but they are reluctant to put energy into their clothing and grooming. Men with fancy watches know that they are signaling their wealth and status by flaunting a Rolex, but they don’t use their clothing in the same way. Recognize that caring about your clothing isn’t weak or feminine. You are using a tool as you see fit, just like driving a flashy car or wearing a high end watch.

2. Your Appearance Matters. How you look matters to two groups of people: yourself and everyone around you. It works in two ways. First, when you see yourself looking sharp, you feel good about that and it creates a sense of pride in yourself. This is referred to as self-signaling. Tanner and I discussed the power of self-signaling all the way back to dressing like your heroes as a kid or putting on an athletic uniform. Second, there’s how everyone else sees you. If people think you look good, this creates a bias known as the halo effect. A person with one strong trait will be assumed to have other similar traits. A good looking person is assumed to be influential. A hardworking person is assumed to be good with money. I saw this every day in the Navy. A skilled pilot was assumed to be a skilled manager of people, etc. Pair self-signaling and the halo effect and you can create a virtuous cycle of self-belief and positive reinforcement.

3. This is Old News. We are trained to see style and fashion as cutting-edge. Men who give energy to their jewelry and skin care are declared to be a new wave of metrosexuals. The fact is, men have been giving attention to their appearance since the days of loin cloths. Why did ancient soldiers put on war paint? Why did religious figures wear imposing robes? Why did kings wear high-heeled shoes? The point is to create an influential appearance. This goal is not a trend. It’s here to stay.

4. Be Strategic, Not Tactical. Do you know that guy who tells you all the fashion “rules”? He’s got the exact ratios of this to that and the color palette for his skin and hair given each season. These guys are boring and despite their calculations, often don’t look great. Tanner calls these guys tacticians. While tactics have their place, you’d be better off to focus on high level strategies. Look to the last three points for some strategic starters.

5. Know Your Body. The Appearance of Power is quick to tear down men who wear cargo shorts. However, extremely muscular men will look great in anything, even cargo shorts. Dan Bilzerian is an excellent example. For men who don’t have a chiseled body, it helps to be self aware and dress to your strengths. The cut of your jacket can make narrow shoulders look broad, creating a V-shaped torso. The shape of your sunglasses can make a long face look more round. Knowing what your body looks like and what you’re aiming for will help you to spot these opportunities.

6. Know Your Archetype. Tanner identifies three archetypes that most of us can identify with. They are Rugged, Refined, or Rakish. The Rugged man is physically engaged with the world. The Refined man masters the world through social and financial means. The Rakish man is rebellious and risk-taking. Knowing your archetype (probably a blend of two) will guide your style choices. To find out for yourself, take Tanner’s archetype quiz.

7. Know Your Tribe. As social animals, we care about what people think of us. We don’t care about what everyone thinks of us, but some people matter a lot. If you’re a working professional, your co-worker’s opinion matters. If you’re in sales, it helps to have customers identify with you or desire to identify with you. This is the purpose of identifying your tribe. When you know who matters to you, you can present yourself in a way that connects with them. This can also unify the whole group. Tanner gave a masterful explanation of how tribes can become more powerful through a united appearance in our podcast conversation.

For more from Tanner Guzy, check out our full discussion in the YouTube video below or look up Brendan Carr Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

Brendan Carr interviews bestselling authors and military leaders, then writes about it here on Medium. https://youtube.com/c/brendancarrofficial