To hear a lot of guys tell it, real men don’t care about style. Where did this idea that men don’t care about their appearance come from, has it always been around, and is there validity to it?
My guest today argues against the idea that real men don’t care about clothes and lays out a case for style being a valid part of masculinity. His name is Tanner Guzy. He’s a stye coach and the author of The Appearance of Power: How Masculinity Is Expressed Through Aesthetics.
Today Tanner and I discuss why caring about how you dress is typically thought of as effeminate, why men should think of clothes as an amoral tool, and how that tool can be a valuable means towards accomplishing your desired ends. Tanner argues that rather than focusing on the mechanics of style, men need to figure out their larger goal in dressing better first, including which of 3 style archetypes they fall into. We also discuss the relationship between style and status and how to balance dressing in line with the particular tribe you belong to, with dressing for the wider world.
- The history of the movement of men who say style and appearances shouldn’t matter
- How current trends in men’s style got to where they are
- The advent of the suit as the de facto men’s uniform
- What are the benefits of being intentional about what you wear
- How what you wear affects the way you think
- How what you wear affects how other people see you
- Why we naturally feel inauthentic when we first start dressing better
- Why defining your style now is harder than it was 100 years ago
- Balancing your style with fitting in with your tribe and society at large
- Conformity vs individuality and personal taste
- How style is connected to masculine virtues
- Style and power
- Understanding what looks good on you
- The 3 archetypes of personal taste, and how they intermingle
- The idea of sprezzatura
- How can you figure out your archetype? Your personal taste and style?
- Why dressing better is an easy win in bettering yourself
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- AoM series on honor
- AoM’s style archives
- The lab coat effect
- The halo effect
- AoM series on status
- My interview with Jack Donovan
- In Praise of Sprezzatura
- Personal style archetype quiz
- What Not to Wear
Connect With Tanner
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Recorded with ClearCast.io.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. You here a lot of guys tell it, real men don’t care about style. Where did this idea that men don’t care about their appearance come from? Has it always been around and is there any validity to it? My guest today argues against the idea that real men don’t care about their clothes and lays out a case for style being a valid part of masculinity. His name is Tanner Guzy, he’s a style coach and the author of the book ‘The Appearance of Power, How Masculinity Is Expressed Through Aesthetics’. Today, Tanner and I discuss why caring about how you dress is typically thought of as effeminate, why men should think of clothes an amoral tool, and how that tool can be of valuable means towards accomplishing your desired ends. Tanner argues that rather than focusing on the mechanics of style, for example like what shoes go with what pant, men need to figure out their larger goal in dressing better first, including which of the three style archives they fall into. We also discuss the relationship between style and status and how to balance dressing in line with the particular tribe you belong to, with dressing for the wider world. After the show’s over, check out the show notes at aom.is/appearance of power, and now Tanner Guzy joins me via clearcast.io.
Tanner Guzy, welcome to the show.
Tanner Guzy: Thanks Brett. I’m excited to be here man.
Brett McKay: So you got a new book out, ‘The Appearance of Power, How Masculinity Is Expressed Through Aesthetics’, and what I like about this book it’s not so much like a lot of style books that talk about like what tie to wear with what suit, how to match your shoes to your suit. This one’s more about the overarching philosophy of style and how you can take that and shape it the way you want, how to express yourself. But let’s get to this big question, because I’m sure it’s something you’ve experienced putting out style content ’cause we get it too. Whenever we put something out about style, there’s always this contingent of guys that say, “Oh, this is dumb. Who cares? Real men don’t care about clothes and stuff.” Has this attitude always been around or is this something pretty modern?
Tanner Guzy: It’s relatively modern. In fact, if you look back at different cultures and different traditions, especially when you look at things that are honor based cultures, where masculinity is very measured and there’s very strict hierarchies. Appearance is something that’s always being used by men to be able to determine where we fit within the world, who’s honorable, who’s dishonorable, who’s at the top of the status chain, who’s at the bottom, who’s been able to accomplish feats of greatness versus those who haven’t earned the right to do that yet. And so this antipathy for style that a lot of men have now is something that’s both relatively modern and it’s a little bit hypocritical because it’s not actually true indifference, it’s just this idea that you’re supposed to hate it. If you really didn’t care, then all these guys wouldn’t end up looking the same. They would literally be wearing garbage bags or togas or whatever else was just available to them. But the only appropriate attitude within them and their tribes or ideals of what masculinity is, is to have this kind of hatred for what appearance is. But that’s still caring about it.
Brett McKay: Right. Yeah. That’s a fun … They care about it, but yeah as you said, they don’t … They might not wear a suit. They might think that’s dumb, but like they’ve got their thing, they sport that they care about and think about, ’cause they thought about it when they bought it and they liked it. So they’re showing that.
Tanner Guzy: Right. And all their buddies dress the same way and all the people that they aspire to be like dress the same way. There’s the fact that we … There’s no common denominator that’s the bottom of the totem pole that everybody kind of defaults to. We all dress to fit in with the people that we associate with and we wanna be like and if that means that you have to pretend that you don’t care, but only to the same extent that everybody else acts like they don’t care. You still care.
Brett McKay: Right. Well something you … Okay. Let’s talk about … So the style stuff that you put out and maybe like in the general like style, men’s lifestyle genres, right. That’s the stuff that guys say … think is like … a lot of guys say it’s effeminate, it’s wussy to worry about suits and like how they look and how to match ties. Like why do you think that idea is out there, that being a real man means you don’t care about suits and all that other nonsense?
Tanner Guzy: I think a lot of this stems from what happened with the cultural revolution in the 60s and the 70s with baby boomers, because as they went through this idea of rejecting everything that not only their parents, but even previous generations stood for. Obviously appearance and aesthetics was part of that, but at the same time they didn’t take it to the full extent that we’re seeing now, where they were rejecting traditional gender roles, rejecting the idea of what masculinity was or what it wasn’t.
And so it became this conflation of somewhat rejection of the old world, where status matters, hierarchy matters, those social indicators through appearance matter, they rejected all of that. But they still very much cared about being men and being seen as men, and so those two married together into this idea of real men don’t care how they look. Part of that is based off of the idea that how we look is only somewhat related to function, especially as we’ve moved away from being an honor culture or a society where honor is an external thing. And you’ve written a great series about this, where it used to be that honor was based on your external actions, now we’ve moved to a society where it’s based on our internal actions, and so the way that we dress is considered to be external. So part of it’s related to that and part of it also is that women have never rejected this idea and so we’ve seen it as something that’s only acceptable to women, because at some point in time men have rejected it.
Brett McKay: Right. Yeah. Going back to what we were talking about earlier … what you were saying earlier, it’s like if you look back at pictures and paintings from like the 1600s and the 1700s, like the top dog, like males. Right? The princes and kings and even the warriors, like they wore like really fancy, frilly looking clothes, like high heels, stockings, like silk. And you look at that and like, “Boy, that’s really wussy.” But they were some of the fiercest warriors out there. But then like in the 1800s, the culture shifted from putting a premium on aristocracy and these warrior values, to … anyone could be a gentleman based on merit and values and virtues. And so it-
Tanner Guzy: Right.
Brett McKay: I guess like the … That’s when the suit … right? Like sort of the suit as we know it today became sort of the defacto uniform for men.
Tanner Guzy: Yeah. ‘Cause we went from this culture of aristocracy and lords and nobles and all of these other things where there was a very clear demarcation, a lot masculinity was expressed by … Yes, you had men who were very strong in battle, but one of the ways that this kind of frilly and wimpy clothing would signal their masculinity was that they didn’t have to get down in the dirt with the rest of the plebs. They were able to rise above and let somebody else do this physical labor and so it was an expression of mastery through social status and finances and your connections. And then as we moved away from that aristocracy into a more merit based culture, where hard work and these other western values became more and more valued than the suit and it’s somberness became a status signal, as opposed to the excess, the frivolity, all these other things that were status symbols from previous generations.
Brett McKay: Right. And then I said the 60s counter culture revolution, it rejected that ’cause they saw it as too conformist. And so worrying about how you look in a suit, well no that’s not what you should be doing. You should just wear whatever you wanna wear.
Tanner Guzy: Yeah, even though what you wanna wear is ironically whatever everybody else like you wants to wear, by pure happenstance. Right?
Brett McKay: Right. Right. Well okay, we’ll get in that idea later on about status hierarchies and tribes and things like that, but you … In your book, you encourage men to see clothes as an amoral tool. Why is it important to see style as amoral?
Tanner Guzy: I think there’s two big reasons for it. One is because we do to some extent and for most men, it’s on a subconscious level, we recognize the power of appearance and that’s why we don’t wear dresses, we don’t wear pink gorilla suits. If we represent one part of the world, we don’t dress like we live in another part of the world. We naturally default to that and so we see that our identity to some extent is both tied up into and represented by what we wear. So there’s that component of it too, but then there’s also the understanding that it is, it’s a tool. There’s nothing that … It’s not one of these top things, there isn’t something … I mean aside from the ideas of modesty or other things that may have religious undertones or moral undertones to it. There really isn’t anything more or less moral about wearing a Henley and jeans or a suit and a tie or a floral shirt with some cargo shorts or anything else. And so taking all of this identity, all of this morality and everything else out of it and looking at it as, “Okay. What clothing is going to help me best accomplish my goals in my life?” I’m going to pursue wearing that clothing takes it into the realm of it being purely functional and I think for most men, it’s a lot easier to wrap their minds around the importance of it as soon as we see that the form does have function.
Brett McKay: So what ends can clothes you meet? Like what can you accomplish by being intentional about what you wear?
Tanner Guzy: What I love about it is there’s so many of them, but the biggest thing that I help my own guys understand is that it helps you see the best version of yourself. I believe in this idea of self optimization. I think a lot of times when we think of like self help or self improvement, there’s some negative connotations that come with that. It means that you’re starting from a bad place. But a lot of men who were very good places want to continue to get better, we self optimize, and we understand about things like the power of visualization. And if the man that is looking back at you from the mirror doesn’t look like the version of yourself that you’re aspiring to become, whether you like it or not, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, to some extent that holds you back from being able to rise to the levels that you’re actually capable of doing.
And so not only does it affect your own perception of yourself, but it can either negatively or positively impact the way that you interact with other people. Because regardless of what the world tells us now, people do judge you by the way that you look, they do assess you based on how you look and you can either use that to your advantage, you can have it be used to your disadvantage. You can whine about it, you can embrace it, but the reality of it is that those consequences are there. And so if you choose to understand them and use them to your advantage, then you make your life easier, and you see yourself in a better context, so you win in both counts.
Brett McKay: So let’s talk about that idea of perception. You mentioned in the book, the lab coat experiment, sort of highlighting the halo effect. What is that and what can that teach us about how clothes can modify people’s perception of us?
Tanner Guzy: Yeah. So I love being able to go through and find these two different studies. The lab coat one relates to this idea of enclothed cognition. And the way that that experiment was set up was there were two researchers who were trying to understand how much power our own clothing has over our own self perception. So they took three different groups of people and they had them go through a different series of mental tests to gauge how the clothing that they wore, that they associated with would impact them. And so the first group, they had them put on a white lab coat and they told them that it was a doctor’s coat. The second group, they had them put on the exact same coat and they told them it was a painter’s smock and then the third group, they had them put the lab coat on a chair in front of them and it was just something that was available to them as they were taking this test.
Now they factored out all these other things like time and persistence and all these other variables that could’ve affected it. And what they found was that those who wore the coat and understood it to be a lab coat, got better results than those who wore it and thought that it was a painter’s smock and those who saw it as a lab coat, but didn’t actually put it on were right in between those two. And so the power of the clothing affected their confidence, their brain recall, their own perception of their credibility, authority, how well they could get these answers. Because they saw themselves as better embodying the things that we think of when we see a doctor wearing a lab coat, which is credible, authoritative, all these other variables.
Brett McKay: That’s crazy. So yeah, the clothes you wear can affect the way you think basically.
Tanner Guzy: 100%. Yep. Because if you feel more confident, if you feel more authoritative, if you feel more competent in what you’re doing, then you’re better able to recall the kinds of things that you need to do in order to actually be more competent, more authoritative and more confident. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes out of thin air. It’s not like these guys could answer questions that they wouldn’t have been able to answer before. But your ability to tap into those resources is enhanced by wearing things that make you feel like you can tap into those resources better.
Brett McKay: All right. So what’s the halo effect? How … What’s going on there?
Tanner Guzy: So the halo effect is something very similar but it has more to do with how other people see you. And the basic idea of it is if we see something or understand something that we like about somebody else, then that creates a halo in which all the other negatives about them are minimized and the positives about them are maximized. So for example you and I, if I were to see you on the street and not know that you were Brett from The Art of Manliness, I wouldn’t be able to … I would be able to see you more indifferently or more objectively, than if I were to see you and recognize that you were Brett, that you were somebody who I respected, somebody whose work I really looked up to, those kinds of things. So regardless of what our interaction on the street would be like, regardless of how poorly you were dressed, regardless of whether or not you were a jerk to the other people who were there. I would see all of that through a more positive lens because I see you as Brett, somebody that I look up to and respect versus if you were just some random guy.
And so we can create that ourselves by being able to tap into the fact that people like and respect men who are taller and are better looking and exude more discipline, and all these other variables. And those are all things that can be communicated through our clothing, thereby making us more likable, maximizing all of our benefits, minimizing all of our weaknesses.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I think I’ve seen some studies on the halo effect where they’ve done … where they’ve put guys in different types of clothing, and they put them out on the street to ask for donations for some made up organization. With one guy, they just had him wearing kind of grubby clothes, just like a T-shirt, jeans, et cetera. And then they had him go back and this time they had on … I think it was like some sort of … it was like a polo shirt … like an Izod polo shirt with the alligator.
Tanner Guzy: Oh, okay. Yeah.
Brett McKay: Right. And when they were wearing the Izod shirt, they got more donations than when they were looking grubby. Right?
Tanner Guzy: Yep.
Brett McKay: And it’s like an example of the halo effect. Like whatever reason … Whatever silly reason stupid alligator imbues on someone’s like status-
Tanner Guzy: Yeah.
Brett McKay: Compared to wearing just a grubby T-shirt.
Tanner Guzy: Exactly. And therefore we are more … It’s a fixed action pattern. We don’t consciously look at it and go, “Well I objectively realize that this man might be higher status and therefore, I’m going to be likely to …” No, of course not. But it is … Just because it’s not conscious, it doesn’t mean that it’s not real and that there aren’t real consequences as the results of experiencing it.
Brett McKay: So how do embodied cognition and the halo effect work together in a synergistic way?
Tanner Guzy: Well that’s what’s so fun because when you do it right, then not only do you get all of the benefits of increasing your confidence, tapping into your own resources and becoming a better version of yourself. But then you’re able to better exude that so that those things that you are judged positively for end up being stronger, your weaknesses that you’re trying to minimize end up being minimized even more. And so the halo effect has more to work with, more strengths, fewer weaknesses so that becomes stronger, therefore you become more likable, more trusted, more trustworthy. People treat you with more respect, which in turn increases your own perception of your confidence, your competence, all of these other variables. And so it is this kind of concentric circles going up in an effect where they feed off of each other very well and you do work to become a better version of yourself.
Brett McKay: Right. So it creates a virtuous circle … a virtuous cycle.
Tanner Guzy: Yep.
Brett McKay: Well I mean and this is true. I mean like this doesn’t mean you have to go out and wear a suit. Right?
Tanner Guzy: No.
Brett McKay: Like it could it be … Like maybe you want the halo effect with … like you’re in a biker gang.
Tanner Guzy: Yes. Exactly. A suit’s gonna be a big drawback if you’re in a biker gang.
Brett McKay: Right. Right. So you wear clothes that they wear and they’re like, “Oh, I can trust this guy. He’s one of me.” And they start treating you like a fellow biker gang guy, which makes you feel more like a biker gang guy and because you’re wearing clothes like a biker gang guy, you feel more like … So like yeah, again that synergistic effect is going on.
Tanner Guzy: Exactly.
Brett McKay: Well, okay. So you mentioned earlier that our clothes can make us feel … Like we can dress the way we want to feel or the man we wanna be. You hear that from style experts like, “Dress like the man you wanna become.” And through embodied cognition, we can get some of that benefits, but sometimes there’s that disconnect, or is that cognitive dissonance. I’m wearing these clothes that are supposed to exude power. I’m wearing a suit or whatever, but I feel like they don’t … I don’t feel … Like I feel inauthentic in them. How do you keep that from happening or does … is that just gonna happen naturally?
Tanner Guzy: No. I think it is gonna happen naturally and I think one of the biggest things that men can do is recognize that that’s a feature and not a bug, because what it should do is force you to recognize that not only are you seeing yourself differently, you’re feeling a little bit of dissonance. But other people are also seeing you and therefore treating you differently, and so you have to improve your actions and improve all of these other variables about you in order to be able to rise up to this new projection of yourself. Otherwise, you’re either gonna maintain that dissonance or it’s gonna drive you so crazy that you’re gonna fall back down to what your standard was before.
So the first thing is to recognize that that’s a good thing and you want a little bit of that dissonance there because it’s … it demonstrates that there’s growth. But the second thing is you also wanna treat it kinda weightlifting principle of progressive overload. You know my … If my one rep max on a deadlift is 315 and my goal is to get it up to 500, I can’t go in tomorrow and try and lift 500 pounds. It’s not gonna do me any good. And if I try and do that day after day after day, I’ll never see any progress and I’m gonna give up and I’m never gonna try again. But if I go in and I try to get two reps at 315 and then try and gradually improve and increase what my rep max is and then my one rep max and go into this idea of progressive overload, then yes there’s still this dissonance. It’s uncomfortable, it’s physically uncomfortable and even mentally a little bit challenging to try and lift more weight every time. But I can get to that point where what was once my one rep max or what was once my default now becomes something that I’m warming up with, and I’m getting closer and closer to that goal.
Now obviously with weightlifting, that’s very measurable and quantifiable because you’re using units of measurement that are as simple as pounds or kilos. With clothing that’s more difficult, but it’s still a doable process.
Brett McKay: And the other thing where this idea of dressing like the man you wanna become, the other thing you hear is like, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” And like guys hear that and they’re working middle management where you wear khakis and a button down, and they start wearing a suit and that backfires on them. What goes on there? Why is that … Why would that backfire on you whenever like … Yeah, there’s a whole halo effect going on. Why … What’s going on there?
Tanner Guzy: Well the big problem with that is that most guys when we think about style, we get caught in the trap of thinking that in order to improve it, we need to be more formal. And that’s why even as we’ve gone through this, you’ve mentioned suits quite a few times, most guys when they find out what I do, they think, “Oh, well Tanner will just dress me in a suit.” Because that’s what we think, is a suit is the best way to have style or the best way to dress well. But really what I do with my coaching clients who are in positions like that is I would say, “Let’s take the same polo and khakis and we make sure that we get the fit dialed in. We make sure that we get it so that the colors are flattering on you. We make sure that we get it so that there’s more texture that’s visually interesting. We make sure that the collar sits properly.”
And so you’re taking the same uniforms as guys who are in middle management and from somebody who is not versed in style, they don’t necessarily quantify a difference, but they can see that it looks better on you because of all these other things. And so you still get all these benefits of it communicating more discipline, communicating more self respect. You get all of that enclothed cognition that works for you and you get a lot of the halo effect that comes with it, even though technically you’re still wearing the same articles of clothing. They’re just better versions of them.
Brett McKay: All right. I think that’s a good point, dressing well doesn’t mean dressing formally.
Tanner Guzy: Not at all.
Brett McKay: I think that’s a novice mistake a lot of guys make. Okay. So let’s get back to this idea of status hierarchies ’cause this … I mean we’ve been kinda talking about this a bit. Right? If you’re middle management, there’s an expectation you dress a certain way. If you’re in a biker gang, there’s an expectation you dress a certain way and I would … I feel like style was probably easier 50, 60 years ago because again-
Tanner Guzy: Oh, 100%.
Brett McKay: Right. It was just the suit, like you’d wear a suit. You’d go to Brooks Brothers, you’d get a suit and there you go, and as we said … mentioned in the counter culture, like all these different status hierarchies were established. So you could … You can gain status in a biker gang or with an outdoor crew or with mountain climbers or with weight lifters, and they all have their codes of how you should dress and present yourself. And you can have different … like variance … We’ve written about this in our series about status, like you can have high status at work, but low status somewhere else, or high status somewhere and low status somewhere else. So I mean with all these different status groups with differing ideas of how you should present yourself, like how do you balance that with trying to show your allegiance to that ’cause it makes you feel good, but while presenting yourself to the general public? Right? You know what I’m saying?
Tanner Guzy: Yes.
Brett McKay: Like you have to think about … So what’s your approach to that?
Tanner Guzy: So the two things that I do to help guys be able to balance this is one, work with them to help them understand which of the tribes or the subcultures that they belong to are the ones from which they most derive their identity. For a lot of guys, that’s what they do at work, but for some of us it’s our hobbies or we may come from a more strict religious culture or our family culture’s something else. But if you can prioritize where those different tribes are as far as how much your identity comes from them, then it helps you to be able to prioritize what you’re wearing and how that exudes itself within the general public versus within that tribe itself. So for example, for me like I dress differently at the gym than I do when I’m out with my buddies or when I’m working with a client. And part of that is because I don’t identify primarily as someone who’s a guy who goes to the gym. That’s not my main identity. I have plenty of friends and plenty of clients who do identify most strongly as a bro or a power lifter or a cross fitter or something else. And so they need to be able to take elements of that and put it into their every day wear as opposed to having it just be what’s within the gym, because that’s where their identity strongly comes from.
I think another way to kind of have that go hand in hand is you also need to recognize how much does your identity actually want to be congruent with society in general or how much you want to rebel against it. For me, I was into the being next in the punk rock scene and all that stuff when I was in high school and it was very much a benefit that the way that I dressed to fit in with those tribes, was a giant middle finger to everybody else. So I didn’t want to have there … I didn’t want there to be any kind of bleed or overlap. I wanted it to be a rejection of anybody who wasn’t part of my tribe. So you need to factor in those things and the other variable to consider is this idea of location, because it’s very easy for most men to wrap our heads around the idea that, “I don’t wear the same thing when I’m going swimming that I do when I’m going in for jury duty or a court date or something else.” Right? The function is very different but what we can see very easily from a function perspective, we often have a very difficult time being able to understand from a communication perspective or what it is that our clothing communicates.
And so I can dress very much like a surfer when I’m at the beach, especially if I belong to that tribe and not have to worry about bringing that identity in with me when I’m sitting on a jury or when I’m going in for a loan, or I’m doing my … a presentation on stage or anything else. And so being able to again take the morality and the identity out of it and be location specific, with what you’re wearing and being able to recognize that how you blend things is dependent on what you’re overall tribes are and how important they are, those are usually the best ways to tackle that.
Brett McKay: But also, there’s sort of a conversation you need to have or a dialogue you need to have yourself about this idea of conformity and individuality. So like you might align yourself with a particular tribe and they dress a certain way, but you might wanna differ in a little way. So how do you balance that conforming with the tribe and your own … expressing yourself individually?
Tanner Guzy: That’s where the idea of tribe versus personal taste, those two are so important because you’re absolutely right. Most of us the vast majority of us don’t wanna look like we’re just a drone or a lemming for any tribe, regardless of how much we may identify with that group or that subculture. And so rather than taking it to the extreme of, “I have to create new things or pull out new identities, a lot of times it’s just taking … If you look at it from just a purely tribal perspective, if all I do is dress according to my gym scene, my preferred way of exercising, then I’m a very one dimensional character. But if I pull in things from not only that, but what my philosophical beliefs are and the music that I listen to and the things I do for a living, and what my family heritage is and where my roots come from, and all these other things. And you can recognize styles or appearance related cues that come those things and you blend them all together, then you still will look like you fit in with not only one tribe, but many of those tribes. But you also still get your own personal taste because nobody is going to have the same blend of all of those different cultures and sub-cultures that you do.
Brett McKay: Got you. Well let’s talk about … sort of the title of your book, the appearance of power, and it’s all about how masculinity is conveyed through clothing or aesthetics. So what are those masculine attributes that you think men may be consciously or sub consciously try to convey with their style?
Tanner Guzy: I’m a big subscriber to Jack Donovan’s tactical virtues of masculinity. I love the amoral approach to that as well. So those are courage, strength, mastery and honor, and in the book I actually go through and I outline a chapter on those tactical virtues and give historical examples of how different men in different cultures have demonstrated those things through our clothing. And some of those are easier to do than others, especially when we look at the physical versions of them. It doesn’t matter what tribe you belong to, at what point in history you’ve lived. If you have a guy who shows up and he’s wearing a necklace full of human ears and it’s from the people that he’s conquered over the last how many years, you’re gonna recognize there’s some strength and some courage there and you’re gonna have a visceral response to it. Right?
But when we do things that are in a modern civilized culture and especially when we start looking at things that maybe it’s not physical courage, but it’s social courage, or it’s moral courage. And you can look at guys who are willing to take social risks and so they wear things that are a little bit more trendsetting as opposed to conservative or safe. And one of the reasons we chafe against that is because it shines a light on the fact that we don’t have the same social courage as a lot of these other guys do, or you can look at demonstrations of things like mastery. One of the examples I give is I have brother who is a very good snowboarder and he can dress like the pros because he is one of them when he’s up on the mountain. But I’m not good enough to dress like those guys and so if I were to, then I would be very quickly called out as a poser and recognize that I’m projecting something that is not actually congruent what my skillset is because I haven’t developed the mastery to earn the right to dress in a way that the high status masters of that sport have.
And so we’ve certainly seen modern examples of this. It’s just a matter of figuring out how that’s actually communicated through the people in your life who matter to you.
Brett McKay: So the book’s called ‘The Appearance of Power’. How do you define power? ‘Cause I think when people hear that, they think goose stepping, boot jacking, whatever. So what’s your approach to power?
Tanner Guzy: I would say power is simply the ability to effect change and that can be on a personal level, that can be on a macro level. I don’t necessarily believe in the idea of every man in order to be powerful has to be able to conquer and/or save the world by himself. But I do think that you should live intentionally and to the greatest extent that you can live life on your own terms and there’s a huge amount of power in that.
Brett McKay: Well so let’s talk about concrete tactics you can use in like today’s modern world. You said like the guy in tribal whatever New Guinea, would wear the ears of the people he killed to display his power. What can guys do today to display these traits you’ve been talking about?
Tanner Guzy: So there are a few things that work kinda generally across the board because as much as we’re not a homogenous society anymore, there’s still things that kind of transcend at separate cultures. And so even things like understanding what it is that can make your body look bigger and what it is that can help your body get the right proportions and so those are things like your shoulders being wider than your waist or that you wanna have certain aesthetic proportions that work out that way. And so understanding things about your body that may be out of proportion, like for example I’ve got … my arms are gorilla long. Like they’re way too long for me and so I’ve had to have sleeves shortened in a way and have my jackets lengthened in a way that it helps to offset that kind of stuff. Or even recognizing what kind of colors work well on you so you can know when you look healthy versus when you’re wearing the wrong colors and you end up looking a little bit sallow or sickly. Or being able to recognize within even just your work environment, what are the differences between those who are at the top of the food chain.
How do they dress compared to how the guys who are middle management, compared to guys who are at the bottom of the ladder dress and what are ways that you can identify with that and start to incorporate that yourself. And again, that doesn’t work in a totally . . . context. Somebody who works in Silicon Valley for Facebook, showing up in a suit every day isn’t gonna do you any good. But being able to wear … maybe it’s a T-shirt and jeans like everybody else is doing, but instead of it being some really crappy baby boomer, like orthopedic sneakers, you’ve got a good pair of vintage New Balance sneakers or some old school Nike’s. And your jeans are a good dark wash that more demonstrates kind of this idea of discipline and versatility, and the fit is nice, that it actually makes your arms look a bit bigger and it makes your shoulders look broader. And so again, you can take the same T-shirt, jeans and sneakers that everybody else is doing, but wear it in a way that it makes you look bigger and it makes you look more disciplined, therefore like you have more self mastery.
Brett McKay: Right. So yeah, we’ve talked about this on the site. One of the things that men and women find attractive in men, is the broad shoulders, the narrow waist for that taper. And that’s why … I mean I know like dressing up doesn’t mean necessarily wearing a suit, but like that’s what’s so powerful about suits-
Tanner Guzy: Yep.
Brett McKay: ‘Cause the way they’re cut-
Tanner Guzy: Yep.
Brett McKay: They give you that nice taper look.
Tanner Guzy: And the one thing that most men need to balance out with that, especially because when most guys, they start getting into style, it’s really easy to get into the pure scientific stuff, of the idea of proportions and colors and fit and those variables. And yes, those are hugely important, but those are always overridden by what’s being communicated and expressed through your clothing. And so for example, you’ll have somebody who will say, “Well I have light skin and light hair, and so wearing a really high contrast outfit like a dark suit with a white shirt doesn’t look good on me.” That may be true but if you’re going to a black tie event, you don’t show up wearing a really light tuxedo because the context of the environment, and what’s being communicated within that environment overrides the purely aesthetic value of you needing to have something on that’s lighter contrast than a black tux and a white shirt.
Brett McKay: Yeah. And I think an interesting point too to make, is that yeah, you don’t necessarily have to wear a suit-
Tanner Guzy: No.
Brett McKay: To get … You can wear just a blazer or just a very informal casual jacket and get the same effect.
Tanner Guzy: Oh, yeah. Or even … I mean my daily wear is usually a pair of jeans with a Henley and then I’ll wear some sort of a jacket, whether that’s a field jacket or a leather jacket or something else, and then some classic sneakers. And because of how everything fits, because of how well it works, because of the fact that I’ve got the enclothed cognition that comes with it, therefore my body language, my posture, my confidence and all those other variables are with it. I still look better than 99% of guys who show up wearing a crappy suit.
Brett McKay: Right. Right. Right. Well okay. So we’ve been talking about how clothing or the way we dress is gonna depend on our tribe and by tribe we mean here like the groups you belong to at work, with your personal life, et cetera. But actually there’s an element of personal style and in the book, you lay out that basically men’s style, the personal preferences that guys have can fall into three archetypes. Can you tell me a bit about those archetypes?
Tanner Guzy: Yes, absolutely. So the three archetypes I found are such a huge benefit because as soon as you kind of realize that it’s not just a suit, it can feel a little bit overwhelming ’cause, “Okay then. What does good style look like and what does it look like for me?” And so the archetypes are a really good way to be able to recognize how you fit within the world and then start moving in that direction as far as how you dress. So the way that it’s broken down is the archetypes are rugged, refined and rakish. And so the rugged archetype is typified by men who primarily interact with the world through physical methods. And so that’s guys who are really big into nature, they may be blue collar workers, they fighters or other guys who very much engage with the world tangibly and physically. The refined archetype are men who engage more through the idea of network and finances and traditionally hierarchies and status, and those kinds of things. These are the kinda guys who really like to play by the rules. They enjoy the idea of civilization and they thrive in being able understand rules and then play according to them.
And then the third archetype is rakish and those are men who very much understand the rules, but they thrive by breaking them. They’re rebels to their class. And so those are guys who are more often than not … It’s bikers or rock stars or all these other variables where they like to be out, kind of on the fringes of society or reject society in general. And so if you can get an idea of where you fit within those, then it helps you start to get an idea of what your style should actually be other than just, “I have to dress more formally if I want to look better than I do now.”
Brett McKay: But is a man like wholly one archetype or can they be a mix?
Tanner Guzy: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. In fact, it is very, very rare that you don’t get elements of all three and so it’s being able to understand … And that’s really where a lot of the power comes from because again, going back to this idea of being a one dimensional character. If all you do is dress according to a stereotypically rugged archetype or refined or anything else, then you do come across as very one dimensional. And you don’t feel authentic in what you’re wearing because you’re really leaning into one component of your lift, but you’re neglecting the others. But if you can understand which of them is your primary, which is your secondary, which is your tertiary, what the ratio of all three of those are, and then be able to develop your style according to that, then you become more visually interesting. You feel more authentic and then you’re able to get all of those benefits of that halo effect and enclothed cognition even more.
Brett McKay: Well so let’s talk about how these archetypes can guide your style decisions. So let’s say you’re … you kind of identify with these rugged archetypes. So you’re kind of an outdoorsy guy. So like what kind of clothes … Like if you were to go to the store, you’re online shopping, like what kinda stuff would you pick out?
Tanner Guzy: Well … And that’s where in enough itself, that is not a full approach and that’s why tribes are so important. Because for example, if you fit into the rugged archetype and you are somebody who is out in west coast and you kind of enjoy hiking in the redwoods and you’re more like a tech rugged guy versus a cowboy versus somebody who’s a survivalist versus somebody who’s into the TactiCool stuff of military wear. All of those fit within that same rugged archetype, but they’re very different tribes. And so being able to understand what kind of clothing you should wear, the archetype is a great place to start, but you do need to dive in deeper into tribes in order to be able to better understand how that archetype manifests itself through you.
Brett McKay: Okay. So let’s talk about like … It sounds like there’s sort of a hierarchy of style decisions. So do you start off with archetype and then move to tribe, and then what’s the final one?
Tanner Guzy: So this is outlined in the book. So you start off with your body because that … those rules of aesthetics apply everywhere, all the time, it doesn’t matter if civilization or anything else. From there you go to archetype, upon that you build with tribe. From there you pepper in ideas of your own personal tastes and how you combine your tribes and then flesh that out with the last two steps which are location, because you should dress differently at the gym when you do when you’re at work. And the final one is effort because you don’t want to be putting in more effort than what you’re actually getting out in results, and that’s different for every man.
Brett McKay: So, yeah. Speaking of effort, what’s your take on idea of sprezzatura, right? Where it’s like your style should look effortless. Do you think that’s actually a thing or do you think that’s not?
Tanner Guzy: I do and I think that that ties really well back into this idea of the tactical virtues and especially mastery. Because especially where you get into circles where style is something that matters and you start to really be able to see the world through this lens, you recognize that it is a skillset. And there are people who are good at dressing well and there are people who try to, but are really not good at dressing well. And this idea of sprezzatura or this kind of effortless mastery is huge because you’re able to demonstrate that you are so good that it’s effortless, or that you have so much going for you that you can afford to make a “mistake” and have it actually contribute to your style as opposed to work against it. And so one of the reasons why it is so valued is because it’s a very modern way to demonstrate that tactical virtue of mastery.
Brett McKay: So how do you … I mean when you sit down with a client or say there’s a guy who’s listening to this, how do they figure out like what their personal aesthetic is, what their archetype is? I mean is it like a series of questions or is it just a matter of like you look at a picture of a guy dressed a certain way and you’re like, “Yeah, I relate to that.” Is that kind of what it is?
Tanner Guzy: It’s kind of a mix of both and one of the things that I offer for anybody who’s interested, you can go take a free quiz on my site, where it’ll actually tell you which is your primary archetype, so you can get started from there. But really developing true style is a matter of being both proactive and reactive, where you want an idea of what your archetypes are, you want to be able to understand and be able to actually quantify and break down what the aesthetic communication is within your tribes. And then when you do find things that you like, it’s being able to look at it and go, “Okay. I really like this jacket. I think that looks really cool. I saw that on somebody’s Instagram feed. Okay. So I know that it works from a personal taste perspective. Does that work with my tribes or does it least … it just not work negatively within my tribe? Okay, we’re good there. Does it work as far as what my archetypes are? Okay, we’re good with that. Is the coloring good for my body? Awesome. And then I don’t really … From an effort perspective, I don’t mind that I have a bunch of things that I can only where once, or I really want things to be super versatile and if I’m a super versatile guy, then does it work with all the things that I have in my closet?”
If you can check all of those things off, then awesome you found a great piece. Go buy that jacket. But if you can’t, if something falls through the cracks, then you have to look at it and go, “Okay. Does it matter that that fell through the cracks? Should I abandon this? Should I find another way to be able to do it?” And so it’s a combination of both being proactive and responsive to what you see around you.
Brett McKay: And … I mean what’s your … So we’ve been talking about archetypes. So how do you think guys develop like their own … like individual taste for … Or no, individual take on style? I mean is it something that’s in you? Or like does it … I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m trying to ask you here. But it’s like some guys, they seem like they’re able to like just pick out things that display their individuality and make it work seamlessly. While there’s other guys who just like, “I can’t do that.” So is that a skill, like developing your personal preferences and taste a skill?
Tanner Guzy: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean it’s a skillset just like anything else and you have people who have a natural propensity for art or expression. And so these guys may be able to best demonstrate that through their clothing, whereas other guys are better able to demonstrate that through the way that they speak or the music that they write or any other thing. But it’s definitely a skillset and so the best way to develop it and get good at it is to continue to practice. And that’s why I’ve written the book and introduced this framework, so that it takes a lot of the muddiness and a lot of the guess work out of what the practice should actually be and what it should look like. Because unlike art, unlike music, unlike so many of the other things that people choose to engage in, you have to get dressed every day. You can’t just pretend that it doesn’t matter. You can’t just bury your head in the sand. You’re going to deal with the consequences of how you present yourself to the world and so you might as well actually turn it into a skillset that’s working for you, as opposed to a liability that’s working against you.
Brett McKay: So one thing that I’ve noticed over the years of writing The Art of Manliness, when there’s guys who are like, “I’m ready to change my life.” The first thing they do is go to like changing the way they dress. Do you think that should be the first thing guys do or are there other things you think guys should focus on first?
Tanner Guzy: I think that it’s one of the first things. If you are the kind of person who needs kind of an easy win, because it is an easy win. You can go out and buy new clothes within a day and if you know what it is that you’re looking for, then that’s an awesome way and it’s a very easy way for you to feel like, “Okay. I’ve made some progress, I’m actually becoming a better version of myself.” Because unlike trying to improve your relationships or your finances or your own self talk or even your physique, those are all things that are way more important than the way you dress. And I wanna make sure I iterate that style is by no means like a primary thing that a man needs to improve, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not impactful. All those other things are way more important but they also take more time. And so if you’re the kinda person that needs some little wins to get your victories going and to be able to maintain that momentum, then style is absolutely a great thing to do.
Now that said, there are some costs that come with that because improving your relationships, your own self talk, your mindset, improving your finances, those are things that can be done very privately. And so as you go through the learning curve, as you make mistakes, as you have small victories, nobody else is going to see you. But if you start off with your style, that’s a very visible thing. And so if you’re not able to be able to deal with a lot of the consequences, both negative and positive that come from doing this, then I would say you wanna wait until you’re further along in some of your other self development or self optimization before you start changing the way that you dress.
Brett McKay: So it can be a great tool to kick start if you’re kind of in a funk?
Tanner Guzy: Yes.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Man I love like What Not To Wear on TLC.
Tanner Guzy: No, never saw … I mean I know what you’re talking about.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Tanner Guzy: But I never sat through any of those. Yeah.
Brett McKay: My wife is a big fan, so every time when she’s watching, I’d sometimes watch. Like it was amazing to see like the transformation, just like wearing better clothes like had on people. Like they got-
Tanner Guzy: It’s huge.
Brett McKay: They got new jobs, they mended a relationship that was bad, they started losing weight. I mean I think … Yeah. People downplay it but it can be incredibly powerful.
Tanner Guzy: Yep, ’cause it is. It’s an easy win and it’s one that’s very public and so other people see you as somebody who’s making other gains in other areas. So again, that halo effect. You may not have lost as much weight, but people will believe you that you’re actually serious about losing weight because they can see demonstrably that you were serious about improving another component of your life.
Brett McKay: Tanner, this has a been a great conversation. We had a whole conversation about men’s style without talking about how to match ties to suits.
Tanner Guzy: I love it.
Brett McKay: Which is-
Tanner Guzy: That’s the way to do it, right?
Brett McKay: Right. Well where can people go to learn more about your work?
Tanner Guzy: So my main site is masculine-style.com. You can find stuff there. You can also take the archetype quiz there. I’m most active when it comes to social media on Twitter and Instagram, and both of those are @tannerguzy, and then you can pick up ‘The Appearance of Power’ on Amazon, on Audible. You can check it all out through there.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well Tanner Guzy, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Tanner Guzy: Thanks Brett. It’s been a blast.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Tanner Guzy. He’s the author of the book ‘The Appearance of Power’. It’s available on amazon.com. You can also find more information about his work at masculine-style.com. Also, check out our show notes at aom.is/appearanceofpower where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com, and if you enjoy the podcast, I’d appreciate it if you give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. Helps out a lot. As always, thank you for your continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.