For a month, when I was 19, I wore the same outfit every day.
I wasn’t homeless (although the attic in which I lived for $100/mo was close to it). As an unsure C-student at a community college, I wasn’t bold enough to make any sort of fashion statement either.
I wore jeans that flapped in the wind like a flag around my pole-like legs, a gray hoodie –the kind that might be handed out to prisoners on their first day–and a pair of tan leather Birkenstock clogs (no comment).
The truth is, for months prior, I’d been obsessed with my appearance. The anxieties of what I wore, how my hair looked, and how I presented myself took up so much of my time and energy I would even be late to class and still not feel confident. I opted to don the bland outfit so as to liberate myself from the daily toil of begging for mercy in front of the mirror like a desperate housewife.
Eleven years later and I don’t look back on my younger self with pride often, but, I’ve got to admit, it was a solid move.
I could learn from it today.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve given too much of my mental, physical, and emotional energy to how I present myself. My hair was longer than Cousin It’s so I got it cut and realized my hairline was actually aspiring to be Mr. Clean’s. I have the teeth of a Shih Tzu due to the ignored pearls of wisdom that grew in the back of my head in my early twenties. I am lanky. I am awkward. I am insipid. I have a mustache thinner than a middle schooler and I might be growing a gut. The jury’s still out on that one.
Men Can Care Too
As a guy, it feels vulnerable to admit I struggle with appearance issues. I feel like I’m coming out of the closet as a proud and stylish guy because most men don’t talk about fashion–at least, most real men don’t. Down to their whitey-tighties, the macho wear what they’re told to wear by the innate fashion gurus with whom they’re married.
While the strain generally looks different for men than it does for women, the struggle is real. Whether it’s an obsession with hair, clothes, or maintaining a muscular physique, guys do actually care about their appearance. And, the truth is, any man should be able to feel free, comfortable and confident to invest in his style and physical appearance, and not be labeled as metrosexual or fear strangers might question his sexuality.
I’m not saying every man has a secret fantasy of being a Tim Gunn, but I do believe personal investments in maintaining physical appearance are more of a masculine topic of conversation than what society tends to admit.
It’s actually good to take care of our physical bodies, inside and out.
There Is Value In Taking Care Of Ourselves
Every man can increase his confidence and his awareness of self-worth simply by shaving, buying that nicer shirt that compliments his body type, dieting or going to the gym, or embracing his unique style with boldness. There is certainly truth to the old saying, “Look good, feel good.” In fact, it’s scientifically proven.
Professor Karen J. Pine of the University of Hertfordshire says in her book, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion,
“When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it.”
There is even a social psychological term called “enclothed cognition” that describes “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.”
So, do the research, ask questions, and invest with pride in your wardrobe. Dress like the person you aspire to be.
Focus On The Fabric That Matters Most
It is vital to note, however, that the fabric of our character is of more longlasting value than the fabrics of our attire. So, while it can be beneficial to invest in what we wear, we should be wary not to obsess over it.
In other words, strive for moderation. Caring about physical appearance is healthy as long as your attire is serving you in your overall health.
As evidenced by my own story, a man can care about his physical appearance but he can care about it to an unhealthy degree. What I didn’t have eleven years ago, that I want to now give you, was the fact that concern over physical appearance is something that all men deal with. It is not unique to the sensitive sacks of oddballs who would prefer a ballet to a basketball game. Caring about how you look doesn’t make you any less of a man than the lumberjack who wears saw-dusted flannels and has splintered sausage fingers on calloused hands.
So, do you need to take a month to wear the same thing every day and refocus on what really matters? Or do you need to burst with pride out of your closet, looking and feeling like Fabio?
Either way, embrace your freedom to care, invest in your appearance, but focus on the fabric that matters most: the fabric of your character.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet me!