Here’s the thing.
Whether you like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover.
Everyone, everywhere, everyday goes about their business making instant judgement calls about other individuals based on innumerable subtle visual features, facial cues, mannerisms, all sorts of things. This is an unavoidable and natural human behaviour.
This is a good thing really, and in the not-too-distant future I will do a whole post on judgement, being judgemental and judging a book by it’s cover (and what the Bible really says about judging others). Suffice for now to say that people do it.
For most of us it’s so instinctive and automatic we don’t realise we’re doing it. If you see a man walking down the street with an extremely sour look on his face and a gun pointed at you, you might very reasonably judge that he wants to shoot you, or at least threaten you – this is a very acceptable and rational judgement. If you see someone being ‘judgemental’, you’re subconsciously (and probably consciously) judging them for being judgemental.
The simple fact is, we couldn’t function at a social level without passively and actively making micro assessments of our environment everywhere we go. We’re constantly updating and expanding our perception of the world as we take in more information; information about a person’s appearance is simply one of the factors that gets taken into account.
None of this should be surprising to anyone.
The only question is, what kinds of judgements are we making, and how can we use this fundamental knowledge in our everyday experience to our advantage, or for the benefit of others, or to improve our ability to be effective warriors for Christ?
One of the first and most obvious judgements everyone makes (whether they think they do or not), is about your appearance, what you’re wearing. People will automatically be sizing you up. They’ll be estimating your attention to detail, your personality, your economic standing, the list goes on… all based on what you’re wearing and how you’re presented.
“… It’s tailored” – James Bond
There are lots of reasons to start upping your style game apart from simply wanting to look good. Here are a few reasons that relate to what I’ve already said:
- It has an affect on how people judge your character. Again, as I said, people judge. Everybody is making a value judgement about your character when they see you. Your personal presentation is a huge influence on others opinion of you. Now this is a tough one to deal with. People will say ‘oh no way that’s not true, there’s no way I’m that shallow’. Wrong. People won’t necessarily be rude. Nice people will still be nice to you no matter what, that’s true (and good). But that does not mean that they aren’t making small subconscious assessments about the kind of person you are based on how you’re dressed.
- It legitimately has an effect on how you feel about yourself. It can have an affect on your opinion of your own self. Again, you may not want to admit it, but how you look really does affect how you feel, it affects your mood and other aspects of your behaviour. Simply putting on clothing that makes you look good and more masculine will make you feel more masculine, confident and attractive. Don’t believe me? Try it.
- It affects how other people perceive you and their behaviour around you. Similar to the first point, except that here, rather than simply making judgements about your character, how you look can affect other people’s moods and how they behave around you and treat you. Totally shallow I know, but that’s not your problem. You’re problem is how to use this to your advantage.
- Improving your personal presentation at work can enhance your career prospects. Employers will start taking notice and taking you more seriously, which can potentially lead to promotions. How you dress as a pastor can have a huge effect on your congregation. Newcomers will almost certainly try to estimate your style of preaching based on your appearance. Does he wear skinny jeans? Does he wear a tie? Is he conservative, or more charismatic? Does he look approachable? Is he trying too hard?
Hey, don’t hate the players, hate the game.
More could be said.
Where it all went wrong
I could insert the phrase ‘whether you like it or not’ into every point made here, because making a case for your outward appearance is a controversial idea in the current social culture. Especially in Christianity where the arguably most damnable and horrendous sin you can commit is ‘Judging others’.
Daring to challenge the status quo that ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ is bound to ruffle a few feathers. However,
if it is what’s on the inside that counts, does not mean that what’s on the outside does not count.
We’ve been indoctrinated for decades with the platitude that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The basic sentiment here stems from the general principle that fundamentally we are all equal, we are all people with human rights, and should all be treated the same. This is obviously true! But this does not give us all license to go around dressing like we don’t care.
Just because we should all treat each other equally, does not mean we can all get away with doing the bare minimum.
‘It’s what’s on the inside that counts’ is not a claim about appearances, per se, it is a claim about a person’s character. The idea is that a person’s character cannot be measured by their social standing ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ as they say. Which is true to a point. The problem is that it’s not an argument about personal appearance or self awareness, it’s an argument about social class.
The point is that ‘you can’t judge a person’s character by their social class/income level/etc.’ It does not make any claims about an individual’s personal appearance, especially in an economy where your personal appearance is not limited by your income.
In other words, the claim ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ should not be an excuse to justify laziness and mediocrity in personal experience and expression, which is of course a symptom of a more general social trend to abandon personal self discipline in favour of hedonism and a focus on the self.
The rebel cause is ‘I don’t care what you think, I’m a unique individual and I won’t be shackled by your preconceived social structure and standards of behaviour’, which unfortunately translates into a general lack of effort. Mediocrity becomes the hero.
In the west, personal expression is no longer limited by social standing. The ability to take yourself seriously and dress like a grown up is not limited by your economic class. Individuals of all income brackets have the means, and the opportunity to take themselves and their personal appearance seriously, and have only limited reasons for not doing so. Things like:
- Conveying the idea that they don’t care what others think, which is self defeating. You just care enough to try to convince people that you don’t care. Worse still, you can spend a fortune doing this, when you can simply look like a well dressed masculine man for a fraction of the price.
- A general lack of concern for your personal appearance which is often a reflection of your character anyway. You’re simply demonstrating that, at least in some cases, you can judge a book by its cover. If you don’t care about how you look, people will very rationally and justifiably conclude that you don’t care a lot about other things.
The point here is that, in the West, almost no matter where you are financially you have no excuse to not care about how you look, because you can look like a million bucks on a shoestring budget if you’re willing to put in the effort.
In reality, you should be more than willing to put in the effort, at least in the presence of the Lord if nowhere else.
How can you expect the modern church to embrace its masculine heritage, if you can’t even dress like a man who takes himself seriously?
6 basic style tips to get you started
So to finish off this longer-than-intended post, I’d like to offer a few take home pointers to get you thinking about how to improve your personal presentation.
1. Start caring what other people think. I don’t mean becoming an insecure, self conscious mop. I mean be aware that everybody will be consciously or subconsciously making judgements about you based on your appearance. Start asking yourself, what kind of message am I sending the world about the kind of man that I am? This is not meant to be reactionary. You’re not pleasing others, you’re using your sense of style and your status as a confident mature man to say ‘I want to be taken seriously’.
Let who you are on the outside, become a reflection of who you are on the inside.
2. When you’re heading out somwhere, imagine what the majority of other men will look like, and aim to hit just above this standard (if you’re feeling brave then you can imagine what the best dressed men will look like and aim to hit just above that!)
3. Start checking out other great men’s style websites and educating yourself about the basic rules of classic men’s style (Hint – perfect fit, is rule number one).
4. Start paying better attention to your grooming habits. A perfect fitting suit will not be well complimented by a giant nose hair sticking out of your manly nostril.
5. Get in shape. I just finished a post about doing hard things so I’ll make this real simple. You need to lose weight mate. If you’re overweight, and you want your clothes to look great, then one of the best things you can do is to start dropping a couple kilos. Don’t get me started on all the other obvious benefits too. You can thank me later.
6. Start wearing shirts to church. Yeah I said it. Shirts gentleman. You’re in the presence of the Lord. It’s time to start showing Him what that means to you. Upping your standard of attire really is the least you can do.
Alright fellas I hope you enjoyed that. I hope I gave you plenty to think about. Just remember, it’s not a sin to want to look like a badass, and it’s really not as hard as it seems.
I’m nowhere near finished with this topic. I haven’t even gone into what the Bible has to say about all this.
So if there’s any questions you have, or if you just want to rant a bit and call me a shallow misogynist, then make sure you leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe.
And since this was one of my least Christian centric posts, I’ll leave you with some good warrior meat to chew on:
“From the Gadites there went over to David at the stronghold in the wilderness mighty and experienced warriors, expert with shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were swift as gazelles upon the mountains” – 1 Chronicles 12:8