Advice!Finally someone has answered the call! A sweet young man has taken pity on me and asked me a question...what's more, it was a question I could answer! Okay, he didn't exactly ask me...he asked the general populace on one of my message boards...but after I asked nicely, he agreed to let me use the question here. So maybe the public isn't clamoring for my input...but it's better than ripping off Ann Landers (though that was fun, wasn't it?)
- Dear Miss Marlénè,
I'm a gay guy who just turned 18 and I have decided that If I'm to have any kind of future on the dating scene, I need to change my look. I'm not particularly unattractive really, I'd say I'm a 6 on a 1-10 scale. But I know that with the right hair and a little fashion change, I could become a 7 or 8. Any advice on how to neaten up my appearance without spending all kinds of crazy money? Just simple makeup or style tips would be appreciated.
Simple tips? I never do anything simple. But just for you, I will highlight any simple Helpful Hints I write in bold so you can skim for them. In the meantime, I have plenty to say on the topic:
First of all, don't ever, under any circumstance, rate yourself by a numerical code. While it is a good practice to have an idea of where you fit into the generally-accepted aesthetic spectrum (in certain situations, such as Circuit dating and hustling, you do have to "rate") it's not indicative of your eligibility and definitely not one of the things you can really change — despite what the gym-bunnies and fashion-queens would have you think — and it's not the thing that good dating is based upon: I know lots of ugly fashionless people who date plenty, and lots of handsome well-dressed people who date not at all. If you're going to have any future on the Dating Scene, according to my research you need to be completely unafraid of rejection, sexually and verbally communicative, and "emotionally available" (whatever that means). Being cute certainly helps, being in good physical shape is pretty much de rigeur these days, but your clothes really won't positively affect your dating unless you are chasing after shop-boys and style-queens.
However, the rest of your question is more intriguing. Changing your 'look' is one of the most important — and the most dangerous — decisions of your young life. The clothes and haircut and accessories you choose say a lot about who you are. On the one hand, being a slob is not attractive; yet at the same time, being too neat isn't very attractive either — too stylized and you'll look like a freak, no style at all and you'll look like a nerd — too much fashion and it looks desperate, not trying enough looks like an insult. If you're a bookish, stay-at-home kind of guy, dressing up in the latest White Party gear may send the wrong message about you; similarly, if you'd rather dance than think, yet you look like a Harvard MBA, you're going to find a lot of very confused people around you. You want to be yourself, but not so much yourself that you look like you have no idea what is going on in the world around you.
My first instinct is to advise you not to change your whole look. Start small, like with a new and different pair of shoes; then work your way up to a haircut; then maybe try a new style of pants. But don't walk into a store and try to assemble a Whole New You (as we've seen in so many films, from Pretty Woman to Can't Buy Me Love). There's too much room for error, especially if you don't have a rich style-queen shopping with you.
But you're young, you're exploring your new adult life, and you want a new look. So what to do?
The first thing to think about is what kind of person you want to be (a banker, a professor, a dj, a conceptual artist, a porn star, a golfer, etc.); then think about how such a person might appear. How do your favorite characters in movies and television dress? What do your favorite musicians wear? What designers or stores have the ads that turn your crank? Focus on what YOU like and find attractive, rather than what other people appear to like...you can't be yourself (which is attractive) when you're busy being someone else (which is pathetic).
Other than that, any outfit that you FEEL good in will probably look good on you...and by 'feel good,' I don't only mean merely 'comfortable.' Walking around town in your sweats and pjs is just silly and contemptuous. But if you're wearing a fabric you enjoy the feel of, in a color you find soothing or attractive, in a cut that gives you plenty of room to move and grips the parts of your anatomy you want to recommend to people's attentions, then you're doing okay.
Next, listen to your feedback very carefully. If someone says to you "That color is great on you," memorize that color and buy more things in that range; if someone compliments the cut of your shirt or the material of your pants, keep that in mind when buying new things. If your aim is to be attractive, keep an ear and eye open to the colors, shapes, and textures that appear to be the most effective in attracting people to you — and not necessarily sexual attraction...when your Mom thinks you look good in something, when the girls at the office think that your shirt is a pretty color, if the guy behind the deli counter likes your watch, you are attracting positive attention, and that's a good thing.
To turn the discussion back to myself (because, ultimately, it is all about me), I recently became enamored of the Chunky Turtleneck after seeing it on a lot of really hot guys on television, and have been buying them like mad. They really are quite flattering...they tend to forgive figure flaws on me, and accentuate physical perfections on others; the collars frame the jawline nicely and set the face off well; and since I have a really long neck, and tend to get cold very easily, they are absolutely perfect in these chilly winter months. So the general thing goes: I saw something I thought was hot on TV; I bought one to see how it looked and felt; it looked and felt great, so I bought a whole bunch of them; and a new Look is born. The same thing happened with the flat-front chinos (oh, how clearly I remember seeing this one really cute, really hung guy wearing some, which led me right to the Gap for a pair of my own) and the t-shirt/v-neck combination (layers are always the best thing for Northern California...and if it works for Steven Weber, it will work for me) that have been part of my Look for the last couple of years.
As to more specific-to-you advice, Nubile Newbie, I cannot hazard to guess without knowing more about your personality and body-type. However, here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I was your age:
1) In assembling your new wardrobe, go for quality rather than quantity, good stitching over popular names. One good sweater in a neutral tone that won't unravel is better than ten adorable shirts of bright-colored crap; one good pair of well-fitting khakis that will survive thousands of washings and sittings (and yes, kneelings) is worth more than ten pairs of cutesy dry-clean-only slacks that will go out of style about the same time the seams come apart. It's a fairly good rule of thumb to never buy anything in a vivid pattern, or with a large label or memorable writing anywhere on the outside...if you don't have a lot of clothes, people will notice how often you wear your orange "I'm Not Gay But My Boyfriend Is" shirt with your chalk-striped purple drawstring pants. But mostly, when you shop for clothes, examine the material for durability...and more importantly, examine the seams for good stitching. If there are a lot of loose threads, cheap mesh-stitched hems, or irregularities in the material, leave that garment in the store.
2) Invest in good shoes...not expensive brands, necessarily, but solid brands like Rockport or Bass or something equally well-built, with plenty of padding and arch-support...your feet will thank you, and you will save money in the long run. Like with clothing, you must examine the stitching very closely, for it is the loose threads and irregular materials that make the shoe look shabby after a few wearings.
3) Do not EVER color your hair (or get a tattoo or get pierced) when you've been drinking booze, smoking pot, or (more importantly) dropping acid or ecstasy. All the most egregious Fashion Don'ts are made Under the Influence.
4) Low-maintenance haircuts are the only way to go. You can't carry a blow-drier and curling-comb and fifteen kinds of products around with you everywhere (especially if you're planning to get serious on the Dating Scene...you're going to wake up in all sorts of inconvenient places). Get something that dries on its own or can be fingerstyled. If you have the right shape of head and the right hair-line, a buzz-cut might work for you; if you have very delicate features, a straight-edged geometrical cut might look nice — but most people look better with a bit of softness around the face, some body and bangs or curls or layering. If you don't know what sort of shape or style would look best on you, consult a hairstylist (and if the hairstylist's hair looks odd, funny-colored or extravagantly cut, run like hell to a hairstylist with nice, blah, barely-noticeable hair). And if you don't want to go to that much trouble, Supercuts' standard shag works for most people, it's inexpensive, and no appointment necessary (it's what I have, y'know).
5) Don't wear makeup on a daily basis. A little eyeliner works well in a dark bar or club, but is tacky as crap in full light (unless you're a drag queen, of course, and then it's a different story altogether). If you don't wear glasses, brushing a little Vaseline on your lashes looks great; Cherry Chapstick is also good for keeping the lips a little pinker and wetter than nature might have intended, which looks more kissable. The important thing, though, better than any makeup you can buy, is to take good care of your skin. Drink lots of water, steam your face and neck every morning with a hot cloth (like barbers used to do), and remember: you're never too young to moisturize! Again, you don't have to spend a lot of money. Water comes out of most taps, just get a sports bottle and keep it full; most civilized countries have steaming-hot water on tap, too; and skin-care products don't have to be expensive (St Ives is a good brand and always cheap).
6) If you can't coordinate colors, don't. Either get someone to help you, or buy everything in neutral earth-tones that go together automatically. And for God's sake, don't wear black as if that were the answer to color. Black is a good choice, it's dramatic and it goes with almost everything, but as a 'Look' it's boring as hell. Stick to mixing earthtones (black, brown, tan, ecru, slate, taupe, sage, aubergine, etc.) — it's safer and easier and more versatile.
7) Wrapping up, the following rules should be observed at all times: never wear dress shirts, especially striped ones, unless with business attire, and never ever wear dress shirts with short sleeves (unless you're the vice-principle of a junior high school, and even then it's questionable); never wear tight pants if one can see between your thighs, if your groin bulges beyond the waistband, or if your butt sags in any way (standard lower-body figure flaws that often look okay out of clothes, but not in); the same goes for shirts — if it ain't pretty, cover it up; never ever wear your bangs in a straight line across your forehead (if you have a bowl cut or bob...and those are dangerous anyway...you must part the hair, even if you have a receding hairline or a huge hideous scar on your forehead); in a related matter, if you lose your hair, do not try to cover up the patches...that never works — either accept your hairline or shave your head; never ever wear white socks with dark shoes, or dark socks with white shoes (for simplicity, I suggest keeping all your socks and shoes in the same color range...otherwise, it's easier to match your socks to your shoes than to your pants); never wear a thin material that is not silk or silk-like (there's nothing tackier than lightweight cottony synthetics); don't show off any part of your body that you don't want people staring at (be it something good, like a nice butt or big basket, or something less-than-desirable like fat ankles or a saggy chest)...if it's there, they will notice.
8) Finally, and most importantly: DON'T TRY TOO HARD. There is nothing in this world so pathetic as begging for approval. Do your own thing, make yourself comfortable, and the rest will follow.
Well, if you're not sound asleep by now, Newbie, you're probably a fashion maven waiting to happen. The very fact that you asked aloud about your overall look bodes well for your future in the world of clothing, accessories, and grooming. It's the people who think they have it all figured out who are most often in trouble. That's why even I always ask four or five people about a new look before I get started on adoption procedures (Shiloh, Caroline, Dalton, my Sister, and the Grandmother...they all have different tastes, and if I can get an article past all five of them, it's a definite keeper).
So, wasn't that fun? Do you have any questions about fashion, grooming, etiquette, color-harmony, trivia, love, relationships, or life-in-general? I'm all ears.
But on the other hand, would you take advice from someone who'd be caught dead in public looking like this?
This was the outfit I wore for the "Lady Marmalade" number at this month's Galaxy...I even surprised myself!