Vanity is a word that usually characterizes women who cling to their youth and beauty as her source of value. I do, however, notice that more and more men today are preening themselves just like the females. I have even seen one teenager carrying around a makeup kit in his bag (he was not homosexual). And although not as much as before, I also admit to engaging in vanity as well. So, what is happening to us men?
Did our primal ancestors care as much about their appearance as we do now? I highly doubt it. They didn’t even have mirrors back then to worry about whether they looked good enough or not. Perhaps they had tribal symbols to show off their membership and status, but they were not necessarily there to attract women. Instead, men of the past were pragmatic and focused more on learning and creating a legacy. Being a warrior was more important than being handsome, building a better future was more important than how much attention they were getting, and being virtuous was more important than attracting women. Men focused on being men.
Today, as part of our androgynization process, men are decorating themselves in more ways than they ever had in history. They care about how they dress and with what brand—just like women; they trim their hair with care and style them; they get braces to straighten their teeth; they put on perfumes and deodorants; and many build their muscles for the primary reason of looking good. In our shallow and narcissistic society, looks do matter and men want to signal their value through vanity just as the women do. Because if you don’t dress as well as the others, you might be perceived as being a lesser man. If you don’t look as good as your rival, others will think less of your ability as a leader. Women, too, are increasingly putting higher importance on a man’s appearance rather than his core value as a man when it comes to attraction. Is it any wonder that male vanity is prevalent in today’s world?
I hate to admit it, but I myself worry about my own appearance. I wonder if I’m too short, if my posture is bad, if I have enough muscles, if my hair looks good enough, or if my clothes look attractive. And when I look in the mirror, I also notice that my eyes are uneven, that I am already showing wrinkles and other signs of aging, that the skin on my face is uneven and covered with acne scars, and that the mole on my nose has gone bigger and darker over the years. Am I just being vain and distracted from doing more important things? Or are these legitimate concerns I should try to correct? I can’t help but to feel guilty about being concerned with appearance when other men have gone through life and death struggles. Why am I worrying about my looks like a woman? Why should I care what others think about my looks? But then again, our society has elevated the importance of appearance, so am not just being practical in making myself look presentable?
So what is to be done then?
Depending on your life circumstance and what is important for you at the moment, I think you should take care of your looks without overdoing it.
Be pragmatic without being vain. If women don’t find you attractive because you don’t pretty yourself like a girl, they were not worthwhile to begin with. You should only focus on attracting women who value you for your true worth. Instead of polishing the surface, you should invest more in building your life from the core. You should be strive to be a man for the sake of being a man rather than to gain attention and attraction. It really doesn’t take much to look sharp. So if you actually care about designer clothes, you’re probably doing too much.
I still don’t really know where to draw the line between vanity and pragmatism, but I guess as with most other things I will learn as I go on.