Contrary to the way pop-culture portrays us, men tend to be very anxious in their physical appearance. In fact, most of us are painfully insecure about it. Very few people are truly happy with how they look. No matter how objectively attractive any of us may be, when we look in the mirror, all we can see is a collection of flaws that we’re convinced make us absolutely hideous or otherwise undatable. Personally, I’d love to burn about 99.999% of all photos of me. Hell, even Tom Cruise – with his chiseled jawline, ebony mane, perfect teeth and thousand watt smile – has a complex about being shorter than average.
If he‘s insecure about his looks, how are the rest of us supposed to measure up?
The truth is: we all have features that we’re less than pleased with about ourselves – ones that we were gifted through the genetic lottery and can’t change without spending thousands of dollars on painful (and often pointless) surgery. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work with them. So let’s look at the top five issues men have with their looks – and how to fix them.
There are few things men are more insecure about than their hair… only penis size comes even remotely close in capturing the same level of male anxiety. A full, lush head of hair is closely associated with youth and masculinity… so as a result, we cling to it like a koala with separation anxiety. Men spend literally billions of dollars every year trying to prevent hair loss and spur our infertile follicles into action so we can grow it all back.
Of course, there are so many potential causes to baldness, that trying to find a one-size fits all cure is almost a lost cause; the blame has been leveled on everything from genetics to environmental factors, stress, rapid weight-loss and hormone levels – too much testosterone equals a lovely head of skin. And it’s incredibly common; androgenetic alopecia – male-pattern baldness – affects over 35 million men in the US alone. So if you’re dealing with a receding hairline, a forehead that’s turning into a five-head or the ever expanding bald spot, take heart: you’re not alone.
But that’s cold comfort when it feels like your masculinity is busy falling out and clogging your shower drain.
When your hair starts to go, it’s far easier and more reliable to keep what you still have than to try to get the rest back. Rogaine is about 80% effective in preventing further hair-loss. Propecia has some effectiveness on renewed hair growth, but frankly the side effects – including erectile disfunction, loss of libido and depression – make many people question whether it’s worth the price.
Other options to help slow hair loss or even grow it back include changing your shampoo – many shampoos contain harsh chemicals that can cause follicles to go dormant. Using a gentler formula can help you hang on to your hair. Nutrition is also important: scientists have found that iron and vitamin D are critical to hair growth and maintenance.
But after a certain point, you have to face facts: your hair is going away. So what can you do about it?
To start with: get a new cut. Keeping your hair long actually highlights your hair loss. Instead, you want to keep your thinning mop trimmed short. Ask your barber to cut your hair to about two inches on the top and maybe an inch on the sides and back, tapered to the bottom. Asking him or her for some texture will also help; it gives your hair mini-layers which help give the appearance of volume and thickness. Use a matte product like clay or wax to give it a messier, tousled style.
In the end however, these tend to be stop-gap measures. If you’ve got more skin than hair, then the most dignified answer is simply to just skip the interim stages and embrace the baldness Grab some clippers and trim it down to the skin and revel in your newfound masculinity. Bald equals bad-ass; just look at Avery Brooks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bruce Willis, Yul Brenner, Jason Statham or Charles Dance.
In one of the cruelest ironies the universe has ever devised, while men tend to lose hair from their heads, we often end up with far more than we want everywhere else. The hair on the crown of your head may disappear if you so much as look at it funny, the hair on our chests, stomachs, arms, backs and butts turns into a rainforest canopy of keratin at the drop of a hat.
Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind: acceptable levels of body hair are a matter of fashion. It wasn’t that long ago that having a luxurious thicket of body hair was the height of masculine beauty.
At the moment, the current fashion is towards more an almost complete removal of all body hair; there are even some adventurous souls who go for the “Boy-zillian”, a concept that makes men curl up on themselves in sympathetic agony. Personally, I think many body types simply look weird without hair – they seem oddly unfinished. But as with many issues, it comes down to personal preference and many men would prefer to be less hirsute… especially if they have a particularly hairy back.
The first option is simply to manscape; using a hair clipper designed specifically for body hair (which has a different texture and thickness than the hair on your head) to trim your man-fur to acceptable levels. As a general rule, it’s better to leave the chest hair longer, while trimming the hair on your upper arms, stomach and sides short; the contrast will make your chest look larger and slim down your torso. Of course, unless you are exceptionally flexible or have an especially indulgent roommate or significant other, the odds are that you won’t be able to reach your back. There is the odd trimmer with an extra long handle for reaching the impossible-to-access parts of your anatomy but frankly, you’re probably going to end up with random patches that you simply didn’t catch.
The next option is professional hair removal via either waxing or sugaring. This is done by a licensed aesthetician at a salon and has the benefit of keeping the hair off from anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks. In some cases, the hair will even start to grow back thinner and finer – which makes it harder to notice. Of course, the problem is that it hurts like a motherfucker. The famous chest-waxing scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin may be exaggerated… but not by much. The only reason why Jack Bauer wasn’t interrogating spies and terrorists with waxing is because it was quicker to just give them the heart-punch of death.
Laser hair removal offers a more permanent solution – the pulses actually kill the follicle and prevent future growth – but it too has its limitations. To start with, it’s expensive, with treatments costing upwards of $400 a session, with at least 5 or 6 sessions to permanently inhibit hair growth. It’s also incredibly painful – akin to having rubber-bands snapped on your skin a thousand times a second – and doesn’t work on many hair/skin combinations. If you have pale skin and light colored hair, you’re basically out of luck.
Keep in mind though: while you may lament your pelt, there are many, many women (and men) who love a hairy, burly man. Just because you’re not seeing it on the cover of GQ doesn’t mean that there isn’t a woman out there waiting to find the bear of her dreams. They’re far more common than you’d think.
You’re Too Short
This is another common one; height is associated with masculinity and power, leaving the 5’7″ man at a seeming disadvantage. Then, adding insult to injury, there are women who are vocal in insisting that they wouldn’t date a man who’s shorter than X height (where X = anything from “shorter than me” to “First pick of the NBA draft”). As a result, shorter men tend to see themselves as shut out of the dating sphere.
Of course, this ignores certain realties. The average height of an American man is shorter than most people would think; it varies from 5’7″ to 5’10” depending on ethnicity and locale. Moreover, men who are 6′ tall or taller are actually shockingly rare – according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the number of men 20 years and older who are over 5’11” is aproximately 14%.
Now in fairness: height is an attractive trait… but it’s not an absolute one, nor is it an end-all, be-all. I’m 5’8″, a little shorter than average for a Caucasian male of European descent, and I’ve not had my height – or lack thereof – hold me back in dating. In fact, I’ve dated several women who were much taller than me, including a few who towered over me at 6′ tall. It made ballroom dancing a little interesting, but it certainly didn’t hinder my love life; after all, we’re all the same height laying down.
Now there are many ways of compensating for being of below-average height. The first and most obvious are shoes. I have a pair of New Rock boots that, back in the day, I used to wear every time I went out. Not only did they make me look like a shockingly well-dressed extra from The Road Warrior, they also gave me an extra two inches in height thanks to the massive soles. Other people may use lifts or inserts or rely on cowboy boots to supply an extra inch or so.
The problem though is, these are basically Dumbo’s magic feather; it’s giving you a boost that is ultimately all in your head. You’re no longer thinking of yourself as short, and so you’re carrying yourself differently… and that’s making the real difference. Of course, like a push-up bra, anything that’s helping you fake your height is going to come off eventually… and then unless you’ve actually managed to overcome your insecurity about height, you’re going to look a little deflated at best and insecure at worst. Not the sexiest of looks, to be perfectly honest.
If you’re worried about your height, the best way to adjust is to simply learn how to make yourself seem taller. The keys here are posture and presence.
Proper posture goes a long way to making you seem taller than you actually are. People on the whole tend to slouch and slump over, curving their spines and pulling their chins into their chests. Blame it on bad ergonomics and a tendency to hunch over keyboards and video game controllers. All of this slouching tends to make you look even shorter than you actually are. By straightening up, you actually increase your perceived height. Think of a string attached to the crown of your head, just above where the spine meets the base of the skull, gently pulling you upwards. This will straighten and lengthen your spine, bringing you up to your full height – not to mention making you look more confident in the process. Hold your shoulders back and let your arms dangle down by your sides; when you curl in on yourself, you show that you’re trying to take up less space which in turn makes you seem smaller. Pulling your shoulders back until they’re parallel with your sides (but not so far that you’re standing at attention) expands your chest and opens up your body language, making you more of a presence.
Being more outgoing, even a bit boisterous, also makes you seem larger; the phrase “larger than life” applies here. Even if you’re not necessarily drawing all attention to yourself, being willing to stand out and be noticed will cause people to assume you’re bigger than you actually are.
Your face is the first thing that people pay attention to; because so much of human communication is based on facial expressions as well as vocal tonality and body language, we literally want to put our best face forward, as it were.
Naturally, this is one of the areas where men tend to have the most anxiety. After all, we’re stuck with the bone-structure that we’re born with and nothing short of painful surgery can change it… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s nothing to be done about it. After all, people have long understood how the perceived shape of the face can be affected by outside influences.
This is why facial hair is frequently God’s gift to men. When done properly, it’s a way of drawing attention away from problem areas or even covering them up entirely.
Carefully maintained stubble, for example, can help thin out a wide face or enhance cheekbones by creating contrast and shadow, making your face appear thinner.
If you have a weak jawline or a soft chin, you can get some much-needed definition with a neatly trimmed beard. A goatee or Van Dyke will help fill out a weak chin; letting it grow a little at the bottom helps fill in the space and lend some much needed symmetry. It also provides some separation if you have a wider face. A short beard, on the other hand, can shape and define your jawline and provide visual contrast between your jaw and neck, slimming down your facial profile.
Notice how I said “beard”, not “chin-strap”. Nobody likes the chinstrap. It makes you look like you’ve been trying to find a drummer for your Creed cover band and nobody wants that.
Different facial hair styles work better with different shapes and sizes. Do a little research if you’re considering one; find a celebrity or model who has a face shape similar to yours and see what works on them. Celebs have stylists dedicated to making them look good… and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t blatantly steal their expertise.
If you’re going to grow a full beard, you need to keep it trimmed and shaped. The dreaded neckbeard gets mocked for good reason: it looks sloppy and immature. You want to shape your beard around your jawline, giving it a gentle curve towards your ear and straight down from your sideburns. And while we’re at it: it’s imperative that you shampoo and condition your beard regularly. Not only do you not want to have to deal with chin-dandruff (a real thing), but shampooing and conditioning it keeps it soft and luxuriant… and much less likely to cause beard-burn on any prospective make-out partners.
Clothes make the man. No matter your size, shape, height or facial features, how you dress is going to directly affect the way that people see you. I’ve mentioned the Halo Effect before – the way your physical appearance influences the way that people perceive you. Much of this is specifically based on the way you put yourself together. In experiments, scientists have found that dressing people in neutral outfits – grey sweatsuits with unstyled hair and no make-up – changes how physically attractive they are to the opposite sex. By dressing well, they’re displaying themselves to their best advantage, invoking the halo effect and causing them to be perceived as much more physically attractive.
If you want to take advantage of the halo effect, you need to put more care into your clothes – not just the outfits you wear, but the quality as well.
To start with, you want to embrace your archetype – this will give you the structure to build your wardrobe around. Just being the t-shirt and jeans guy means that you’re going to fade into the background with all of the other folks who don’t put any thought into the way they dress; you want to dress to stand out from the crowd and impress others. Having an archetype to build your personal brand around will give you an edge over everybody else; while they’ll be dressing just in whatever happens to be clean that day, you’ll be deliberately invoking the sexy stereotype you want people to think of when they see you.
You also want to make sure it all fits properly. I know I emphasize this a lot, but most guys are completely unaware of just how clothes are supposed to fit and end up wearing a size larger than they actually need. All this does is make you look sloppy – like you’re dressing in your older brother’s cast-offs or a kid pretending to be a grown-up. Yes, a snugger fit may feel a little weird at first… but that’s ok. Not only will you get used to it, you’ll quickly realize that clothes are supposed to do more than just hang on you, they’re supposed to support you. And, of course, they will make you look so much better.
Moreover: when it comes to clothing, you frequently get what you pay for. Higher quality material and construction are visibly noticeable and this can make a difference when it comes to enhancing your look. Fortunately, you can get quality clothes and shoes on the cheap…
But most of all don’t forget this one important fact…
It’s Not Just One Thing
Guys make the mistake of thinking that there’s only one aspect to attraction and that not being Mr. Hotty McHotterson with the razor-sharp cheekbones, perfect skin and a body that ripples like a buttered ear of corn cuts them out of the running with women.
And it’s not true.
There’s never just one thing that makes men attractive; it’s about the whole person. It’s not about having the most symmetrical facial features, it’s about the way your eyes sparkle when you laugh and the way you make her feel amazing. It’s about being able to bring a smile to her face and the fact that you remember some small off-hand comment about something she likes and give it to her for her birthday. It’s about the way you move or the way you can crack the right joke at the perfect time and the way you get excited about Breaking Bad’s finale and the new Thor trailer.
It’s not about being perfect, it’s about all the little things that build up to a critical mass of attraction. And when you’ve built up to that crescendo… even your imperfections will be part of what she finds amazing about you.