Today I’d like to cover a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time now. It’s a topic that pops into my mind every time I read on a forum, reddit and other platforms something like this:
“I dress well, but…”
“I have good style, but…”
“I was nicely dressed, but…”
Usually followed by “… I still struggle with attraction”, “… it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference”, “… I don’t get complimented often”, etc. and then they go on to claim that “your image doesn’t really matter”.
I have to admit, despite being a naturally easy-going person this tends to trigger me in a bad way.
But while those statements usually arise due to a lack of understanding on the topic, they do point to an important question – Why?
Why some men seem to experience a small to none connection between their image and how the world perceives and treats them while others enjoy complete transformations not only in how much better women react to them and how much easier dating and meeting those pretty ladies becomes but also in their own self-perception.
With this article series I would like to address one of the key factors in this equation – the different stages of image mastery.
Because even though I applaud everyone who takes their first steps to improving their image – we all start somewhere – we need to understand that getting a haircut that doesn’t suck, buying a new buttoned shirt that fits quite well or learning to pick a pair shoes that doesn’t clash with the rest of your outfit is just scratching the surface, it’s an equivalent of going from being obese to having an average weight/body composition.
Sure, after going from obese to average you will hear people telling you how much better you look now and you’ll feel better in general but that’s nothing compared to having a lean and muscular physique, where women go “yummm…” the moment you take your shirt off.
So the goal with this article series is two-fold:
- Help you identify where in your image development process you are
- Point you in the right direction and give you some tips on taking your style to the next level
We’ll talk about the 5 stages of image mastery, from being completely and utterly garbage at it to being able to create a sexy image for yourself that is congruent with your personality and your romantic goals.
Why 5 stages?
Because that’s how many different stages I can distinguish from my own journey and even though I suspect there is one or two more further down the road, I can’t describe and address things that are, at this point, beyond me and that I haven’t experienced personally.
And yes, this is based on my own path towards style mastery and becoming an attractive, sexy man. As I went from comments like “hey you, a boy or a girl…” to “well of course its easy for you, just look at yourself…”. From getting literally looked passed through and ignored to getting complimented by beautiful women, random messages on online dating sites, booty calls and semi-regularly approached in bars.
Because this is a massive topic, I decided to split each stage into a separate article so that we can discuss them in depth without leaving you overwhelmed in the process.
But before we start, I’d like to show you some of the ups and downs I had while figuring this out myself.
Yes, show, not tell.
A Decade Long Journey In Image Mastery
Below you’ll find a decade long collection of photos from various stages in my image and style development. I’d like to note that what you see below is just a fraction of different styles and images I experimented with over the years but because I never really liked getting photographed, a lot of these looks were not captured in a shareable format.
(I also cropped them to fit the collage to keep the privacy of other people in some of those photos)
If you have a keen eye you might notice that the timeline for these photos is all over the place. There are two reasons for this:
- When I was starting out and learning about the subject there weren’t really any good resources to learn from. There were way fewer blogs on the topic of men’s style and grooming and even those that existed mostly focused on dressing professionally and appropriately, not to maximize attractiveness and sex appeal. This meant that I mostly had to figure this out on my own and that included a lot of experimentation. The downside of experimentation is that it doesn’t always work out as expected…
- Your style and image skills are like a muscle and if you don’t exercise them and let them atrophy, your looks will suffer. During the years I went through multiple stages where I consciously or unconsciously let myself go and in turn the results were less than stellar. Don’t worry, as I learned later in life there are things we can do to prevent ourselves reverting back to our older, less attractive selves and we’ll cover them in the latter articles in the series.
You might be wondering if you’ll need to dedicate 1/10th of a century to get attractive too and the answer is No. I’ve built SSfJ to help guys get to results quickly and even if you just read an occasional article here, it will save you years of trial and error.
And on that note, let’s get to the first stage of image mastery.
Stage 1 – The Basement Dweller
This was my starting point,
I had no grooming skills and self-hygiene was an annoying waste of time that I could be spend leveling my multiple characters online. I would often let my hair grow out to unacceptable levels where they literally covered my eyes, while being greasy because I rarely washed them. Those infrequent times when I did go to a hairdresser, I’d just tell them to get it shorter. As expected, because I lacked a consistent grooming routine I also struggled with acne a lot.
When it comes to clothes, it was even worse, as I had a couple of jumpers with big prints that I thought “looked cool” and I would wear them for weeks on end. Occasionally I would go shopping for clothes with mom and she would buy me whatever was trending among teens that year but I couldn’t really be bothered or cared what I wore in general – I mean, who cares about clothes as long as I feel comfortable in them, right?!
I probably won’t surprise anyone that I didn’t have a girlfriend or even kissed a girl during those years.
The worst thing about being a basement dweller is that you are genuinely ignorant and don’t realize how bad it is and what you’re missing out on.
Common mindsets among The Basement Dwellers:
The mindset of a typical basement dweller usually falls into one of two categories:
- How I look shouldn’t matter
- It’s just the way I am
The first shows a severe lack of social intelligence and savvy, which is unsurprising given that most (but not all) basement dwellers also tend to be socially awkward and lack interpersonal skills.
The latter indicates a fixed negative body image and points to a victim’s mentality, feeling powerless in his ability to affect and makes changes in his life.
In practice it looks something like this:
“She should be attracted because of who I am, not because of how I look and I just need to find the right girl”
Let me guess: that girl is pretty and cool, and intelligent, and will treat you respectfully, right? But what are you bringing to the table? Love? Treat her better than any man would?
Fair enough, but if you really want to give this “right girl” all that you can, why wouldn’t you offer the most attractive version of yourself? Why would you want to make it so difficult for her to be physically attracted to you?
Why wouldn’t you give her the satisfaction of presenting you to her friends/family without fearing social repercussions and instead have her friends in private comment how good of a catch your right girl found.
Because it requires more than just empty words and you would need to put your money where your mouth is?
Just something to think about.
“Looks don’t matter…”
It’s one of those feel-good cliches that’s been pushed by companies selling magic beans in a form of “just learn this one technique and get any girl…” and coming of age romantic comedies (yuck!).
Even though most of us can come up with one or two examples where a basement dweller gets laid because of game/money/status, if we’d look at the big picture (research, studies) we would see that our appearance is one of the biggest factors that determine how successful our dating life is (ref: Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined by Gordon Patzer Ph.D.)
In other words, for every guy in this stage of his image mastery that defied the odds because of other qualities, there are dozens of basement dwellers who quite likely never experience what it means to create their ideal romantic life.
Yes, I’m aware how cruel this sounds and yet the question is – why would anyone choose to play with those odds?
“I just need game…”
Technically, yes, it is possible to still get laid especially if you’re lucky in the gene lottery and are quite handsome naturally. The problem here is that its like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. Why be so adamant about making it difficult for yourself.
“I’ll get it handled later, when…”
Even though I personally had all the beliefs noted here, this one was especially big one for me.
In my young mind I was about to become the most badass coder the world has ever seen, get wealthy beyond belief and then I’ll just “buy” good looks. This belief is so deceptive because it almost makes sense, except it doesn’t.
First, improving your looks is much, much easier than getting rich. Second, when I got some life experience in college, experienced female affection and it turned out I don’t need to be scared of them and lock myself out until I became wealthy, I realized that I don’t even want to be a programmer, it was only an escape strategy I constructed due to limited experience in the real world.
(Not to say that being a software developer is a bad career path haha On the contrary, it’s fucking awesome! Just not for me.)
“I’m just ugly…”
No, you’re probably not.
Yes, most of us (including me) haven’t been lucky enough in the gene lottery to have model-like good looks. Instead, we have certain strengths and we have weaknesses. The thing is that your effort here matters way more than your natural looks and as long as you do your honest best when it comes to grooming and image, you can become physically attractive.
Case in point:
“I just wear what I feel comfortable in…”
That’s also fair.
After all, its your right to dress how you want as long as you realize that people will make a lot of assumptions and will treat you differently based on this decision (that’s their right), which can include that a lot women won’t find you physically attractive.
You can get all defensive and call them shallow or other less polite adjectives or accept that’s how the world works and learn to play the game.
And this is something we all need to accept regardless in which stage of image mastery we find yourself. For example, if I rocked some of my edgier looks to a job interview in a bank I should accept that my chances are slim to none regardless of my qualifications and that’s perfectly fair too.
Biggest mistakes made
Essentially everything that relates to grooming, style and self-cultivation in general.
To be more specific, let’s cover the worst ones:
- Non-existent grooming routine. Washing up, styling their hair, even brushing their teeth is something that’s “preferred but not essential” and in turn they often suffer from various skin conditions, their hair looks like shit and I won’t even mention the smell of wearing the same clothes for multiple days combined with lack of showering…
- Wearing clothes that stink, are dirty, creased or damaged. It doesn’t matter how good the fit is if your t-shirt is stained or has holes in it.
- Piss poor posture and/or physique. Even though I’ve seen basement dwellers who are in a pretty good shape, there’s a noticeable correlation between lack of self-care in terms or image and lack of regular exercise. When you combine the two, terrible posture is almost guaranteed.
Typical reactions they get
At best, a man in this stage of his image mastery can expect to get into the friend-zone but even then, they often won’t be invited to events outside of those that almost exclusively include mutual friends.
The reason here is that being with someone obviously lacking social savvy is a social risk and unless you’re an absolute blast to hang out with, most women (and men) won’t take this risk.
If a guy in this stage tries to get out of the friend-zone, he should prepare himself to hear “I just don’t see you that way…” A LOT.
And that’s the “at best” version.
At worst, I’ve seen guys get mocked behind their backs and being referred to as “physically repulsive”. This can go as far as people, both men and women, actively avoiding spending time with a man like that.
The few cases I’ve seen guys from this miserable stage get into romantic relationships, it was exclusively with low self-esteem, unattractive, often mentally disturbed women.
I’m sure there are “success stories” of men in this stage having successful romantic relationships with wonderful women but personally I have never seen it happen.
How to get to the next stage
The good thing about being at the bottom is that the only way is up and the best thing about being at this stage is how easy it is to get to the next one.
Getting to the next stage will benefit literally every aspect of your social life, not just dealing with women.
- Create a basic grooming routine. Start with the mornings and as soon as you get it down include an evening routine as well. Your routine should include washing yourself up, brushing your teeth, cleaning and moisturizing your skin, styling your hair. Make it a top priority every morning. You can improve your routine later, just start with those few basic steps first and make it a habit.
- Clean shave regularly. When you have no grooming skills growing facial hair becomes a very risky business as instead of an image of a sexy, rugged man, you’re more likely to end up being what internet lovely refers to as a “neckbeard”. How often depends on how quickly your facial hair grows and it will vary from daily to every couple of days.
- Make it a point to never leave the house wearing a stained/creased/sweaty/damaged garments. Don’t worry about the style, the fit or anything else, we’ll get there later.
- Find a new hairstylist (look for the best rated ones in your area), schedule an appointment and when you’re there ask them to recommend something. Again, it’s that simple, you don’t need to worry about choosing a hairstyle based on your image or your facial features, just ask for their recommendation and go with whatever they advise you.
- Start exercising. Anything goes as long as it forces you to move and do it regularly. You don’t need to hit the gym, even going for a walk on a daily basis will do. Make it easy and choose something you will personally enjoy.
- BONUS POINTS – Find help. Once you got the points above covered and they became a habit you can jump-start your progress and even skip a stage or two by getting help from others: ask a stylish friend to go shopping with you, consult with a pro, actively read men’s style and grooming blogs like this one (or one of the other amazing websites on men’s style) or check out Nerdy To Sexy as it was designed to get you to at least Stage 3 and on the fast-track to Stage 4.
I know that this might sound overly simplistic to some but I’ve been there and still have a few friends from when I studied computer science who fall into this category. If we don’t have someone to take us by hand and stride through the steps, the next best strategy is to take it easy and slow.
The goal with going from Stage One to Stage Two is not to become instantly sexy, its to stop being physically repulsive.
And no, I’m not exaggerating. The benefit of having good looking female friends is that when you’re out in town and there are a few drinks involved they start discussing guys and being referred to as “physically repulsive” is surprisingly common and almost exclusively reserved to guys who are in this stage.
The worst thing is that most “Basement Dwellers” are simply not aware how bad they are in this area of their life and chances are will never find this article on their own (unless they finally hit rock bottom, usually after a soul-crushing social situation), so if you have a friend who you think falls into this category, be a good friend and share some tough love with him before the reality slaps him in the face so hard that it will shatter his self-esteem for years to come (at least I wish someone would have done this to me when I was younger…)
The Basement Dweller is not a pretty stage of image mastery to find yourself in and if you’re at this point – get out of it and start NOW!
That said, given that you are reading this article I don’t expect many of you to fall into this category. If that’s the case, even though you probably haven’t learned much in this article, I hope it at least gave you a sense of appreciation to where you are because of how much worse it could be.
One thing I would like to ask you – if, like myself, you’ve been a basement dweller but got out and progressed in your image mastery journey, please take a moment to share your story in the comments below.
In the next article of this series we’ll talk about the second stage, “The (Not So) Average Joe“, that I consider to be the awkward teenage phase of image mastery and if you experience a lot of ups and downs in terms of feedback and results you’re getting, maybe that’s where you are right now.
Before we finish there’s one more thing I want to talk about,
As most of you know, in the last six months I’ve been working on a new course “The Wow! Factor” and its been my primary focus to build you the ultimate course on men’s style on looking attractive and meeting women.
During this time I’ve been “leaking” parts of the program to get your feedback and as I’ll be moving to the next stage in the course’s development I would like to hear what topic from the course you would like me to leak next.
Update: with your help and feedback, the The Wow! Factor has been launched and it rocks! You can check out the course here.