I was in NYC a few weeks ago. The color of the season is Army Green. Everywhere you look in NYC, people are wearing Army Green.
I don’t own much Army Green. I don’t like how I look in most shades of green. I tend to avoid green all together (except on Thursdays. Honestly.)
Instead of Army Green in NYC, I wore a white collared shirt, a blue jacket, and grey slacks all weekend. I also had a grey sweater. I wanted to pack minimally and still look put together. I think I did alright. I wasn’t on-trend with that Army Green, which is something I try to avoid anyways.
Maybe you’ve heard the term, “The Clothes Make The Man.” How we present ourselves packs an enormous visual punch. It sets an impression, for better or worse, every time someone sees you.
Many people don’t understand how to dress well. We might buy clothes off a rack and assume it looks good on us. Or someone might not care at all, putting on the same tshirt with that hole that was pointed out last week. It’s clean, innit?
I work at a Tech Company. People there “value brainpower” as if it’s the only metric that matters. As a result, many people dismiss the importance of their visual impression. They do themselves a great disservice when they’re passive about their appearance.
Over that NYC trip, I read Tanner Guzy’s excellent book titled “The Appearance of Power: How Masculinity is Expressed Through Aesthetics.”
Tanner doesn’t tell you what clothes to wear. Instead he teaches you about the meaning of clothes and how they fit within the identity of your tribe, about what color pallets go well with your skin, and more.
Ten Things I Learned from Tanner Guzy’s book, “The Appearance of Power“
- Your wardrobe signals your intention and status. If you want to make a change in your life, changing your wardrobe is one of the easiest ways to get started. It signals to others that you are not the same person you once were, and it’s a reminder to yourself that you are growing.
- People often think in terms of Good vs Bad. This is as true with clothing style as it is with supporting your local team. It’s a false binary. With clothing, we should be thinking in terms of Effective vs Ineffective. Are my clothing choices helping or harming my chances at success?
- Men generally fall into three categories when they think about their clothing choices: Apathetic men don’t care how they look. Neutral men will put in the bare minimum to fit into their tribe’s identity. Men with affinity will work to present themselves as best they can. Within these categories, men will also dress to Assimilate to a tribe’s identity, will Aspire to lead that identity, or will Rebel against the current trend. Most men won’t fit perfectly into any of these groups but it’s helpful to see yourself and how you might fit into your tribe. Ask yourself, do people treat you differently when you dress in one way or another? How does that make you feel?
- Humans have uniforms that confer status and role. Think of a doctor’s lab coat or a prison jumpsuit. Those uniforms signal important information that others understand via Enclothed Cognition. Combine that idea with the Halo Effect, where a person’s one good characteristic leads our brain to believe in other characteristics are good. Taken together, it’s easy to see that clothing we wear has a profound impact on those around us. These are biases of the human brain that have evolved over millennia. Use them to your advantage.
- Masculinity has been under attack as being a Bad Thing, rather than being half of the human experience. We need to stop thinking of Masculinity in terms of Good or Bad, and instead view it through Jack Donovan’s lens. In Donovan’s book “The Way of Men,” he defines Masculinity as embodying Courage, Strength, Mastery, and Honor. These things are separate from being a good person.
- Guzy introduces us to Tactics versus Strategies. Tactics are when someone says, Wear This Shirt. It’s a goal and when you’ve reached it, you’re at the end. Instead, think in terms of Strategies. How can I dress for this event, how can I present myself to this group? It’s similar to Scott Adam’s Systems versus Goals thinking. Go with the system, you’re in control, you remain flexible, and it works out better in the long run.
- It’s important to know your body’s skin tone, your contrast type, your build. Just as a Tactic is a very specific thing to do and it may work for Person X, it may not work for you. Learn about your own body, take care of it, and present it well. It’s the only one you have.
- There are three Archetypes of Masculine Men. There is the Rugged man who loves life outdoors and is known for his skill with tools and his physical power. There is the Refined man who works within social structures and wields his power through connections and status. And there is the Rake who defies social convention, moving the world through charisma and seduction.
- Humans identify with our Tribes. These Tribes include our social circle, our employer, our local sports teams, our musical tastes, our city, and our nation. People within the tribe will dress similarly. People in a higher status might be willing to dress differently from that tribe. If others follow it confirms that status. If others shun those changes, it signals there isn’t as much status. When leaders change their style, others will follow. Social proof will push others to see that this is the new normal. They too will adopt to these changes in fashion. Once the high-status fashion is everywhere, the leaders need to change again to maintain their differentiation.
- People are often loath to resist a fashion trend because they prefer their own taste. The idea that dressing one way or anther makes you happy runs counter to the reasons for tribe and fashion. Cargo shorts may be your preferred way to carry a lot of things and it may not be appropriate in a business setting. Taste can influence your clothing within certain boundaries. Outside of those boundaries you’re sending signals to Rebel against the tribe, which may have consequences.
This is just a selection of my notes as I read this great little book. I highly recommend it for any man who is making a change in their lives. It would make a great gift for that person you know who has started to exercise or who is angling for a job promotion. Maybe that’s you? Pick it up today!
Have you read “The Appearance of Power” by Tanner Guzy? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned!