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The Importance of Getting Your Appearance In Order

Putting more thought into your appearance is one of the easiest ways to improve your social prospects and the way people see you. It falls under the broader category of non-verbal communication. It's not that your social life will be a lost cause if you don't look perfect, but if you slack off with your appearance then you're making things harder than they have to be.

Most people are pretty superficial and mentally lazy when they size others up. If you look like you have your act together, they can't help but assume you really do. The opposite is true too, if you don't look all that great, people will be quicker to assume you have other negative traits. But clean up your look, and suddenly you don't seem so bad, and everyone's more willing to give you a chance, even though you're the same person deep down.

This article is referring to the kinds of good grooming and dressing that cuts across all social groups and identities. Sometimes certain ways of dressing or styling yourself are central to a niche you belong to. I'm not saying everyone has to adopt a standardized 'fashionable' uniform. I'm more talking about just looking decent, whatever your scene is, and not selling yourself short.

The two levels of improving your look

When I talk about looking better, there are two degrees of this. The first is to just get yourself looking half-decent and eliminate any blatant appearance-related mistakes. I'd have a hard time arguing that someone shouldn't at least do this. There aren't any downsides at all to it.

The second level would be to put the effort into becoming more fashionable than average. There are benefits to doing this, but it takes more work. You have to learn about clothes and style, devote time to shopping, and possibly spend more money.

You don't have to take this extra step to have a good social life. As long as you're reasonably well put together your clothes won't be a big influence on your social results. Outside of a few fashion-obsessed types, most people don't devote a lot of mental energy to their friends' clothing choices (unless their buddies are wearing something blatantly unstylish).

Getting outside feedback on your style and grooming

This article is about the importance of looking half-decent, but that doesn't automatically mean you need to change anything. It's possible your current style is absolutely fine, and any worries you have about it are just insecurities. It's also possible you think you look presentable, but you've got some blind spots in your grooming and fashion sense. The best way to know where you stand is to get an outside opinion on how you present yourself. You could ask a supportive friend or family member for feedback. There are also fashion-related forums where can post photos of yourself and get a critique.

A few basic tips for guys on looking better:

Below I'll list some basic tips and things to avoid (geared towards guys, since that's all I know), but really, this almost isn't necessary. Once you start devoting even a little thought to how you look, you'll very quickly notice and correct all these yourself:

Basic grooming

It feels condescending to write these out, but I suppose I should anyway:

Basic dressing

Again, a list of stereotypical mistakes:

Basic Appearance

Some advice on getting better clothes

Having decent clothes is one of the biggest factors in looking better. It's also a bit more complicated than vowing to take good care of your skin. This site's readers are too diverse for me to try to recommend any specific styles, or stores, or labels. I'm not enough of a fashion maven to get away with doing that anyway. Here are just some more general pointers:

There are two broad paths you can take when it comes to getting better clothes. One is to just dress like your peers (the ones who look good that is). This is cheaper and easier. Yeah, you're not being a one-of-a-kind trailblazer, but you'll still come out looking a lot better than you did before. The problem is your clothes will go out of style sooner rather than later and you'll have to get new ones.

The second option is to go to hip, higher-end stores and buy some slightly more unique items. This is more expensive and there's a higher risk that you'll accidentally buy something that isn't a good fit for your personality. On the upside, these clothes tend to just look better and attract more positive attention. They also exist outside of the short-lived trends more mainstream styles are subjected to, so it takes much longer before they're blatantly out of fashion.

Your external looks are influenced by your internal state

If you took two outwardly identical guys, but one was insecure and had a lot of other issues, and the other was self-assured, happy and confident, they would come across as quite different from each other. They would carry themselves differently and wear different expressions on their faces. One would literally be better looking than the other. As you invest in the inner you, your outer appearance will benefit.

Here are two related looks-focused articles, but which are more about insecurities:

When You Feel Like You're Too Ugly To Have Friends
Ways To Get Past Insecurities About Your Looks