By the time I was in college, I was finally becoming aware of how much the way I look and present myself can affect my results with women. With a couple of successes under my belt I felt as if I stumbled onto a magic bullet, a fix all. I know it sounds silly, but when you’re young and go from having no success to some success, it’s kind of a big deal and it’s easy to get cocky.

I had also found a really skilled hairstylist that would make sure my hair was cut in a stylish and flattering manner, and who even taught me how I should style it on a daily basis – I did that religiously. She also insisted that I booked an appointment to have my eyebrows fixed and trimmed, and very reluctantly, I agreed.

Note: Until that point, despite my caveman-ish monobrow, I was convinced that having one’s eyebrows fixed is just for women and looks “gay” (oh, how wrong I was!).

On top of that, I had a couple of outfits that a close friend who studied fashion design picked out for me which worked wonderfully, and helped me stand out in a positive, attractive light among my computer science classmates.

For the first time in my life I had this realization that dealing with women and creating attraction doesn’t need to be difficult. Despite all my other flaws of social awkwardness and anxieties, shyness and lack of confidence in general, I could still get the girl! Well, sort of.

I remember being in a bar, alone on the dance-floor and still scared shitless to approach. I accidentally made eye contact with a cute girl. Actually, she was more than cute, by my standards at the time she was properly hot.

Having already consumed a couple of beers, I didn’t lower my gaze immediately and we locked eyes for a second or two. Then with my new found cockiness, I did something that was way beyond my reality at the time – I raised my hand and signaled her to come over.


We spent the rest of the night bar hoping together and once the morning light came up we exchanged contact details and parted ways.

Yeah, I was still utterly clueless about dating, women and escalating the interaction, and still not at the point where I would find myself in situations where women would do all the work (that came later 🙂 ).

But not all was sunshine and puppies,

Looking back, I still knew jack-shit about style or image and despite shopping at the cheapest stores I would spend big chunks of my budget on clothes that I could never wear, but thought “looked cool” when I bought them.

And when the outfits my fashion designer friend helped me with wore out, I tried to replicate them with little to no success.

When it came to women, well, every high moment I had was usually followed by extended periods of dry spells and very little feminine affection.

Also, now that I have a wider range of experiences with style and women under my belt, I realize that those early successes that made me feel like a superhuman when I moved beyond being a “basement dweller” to the next stage, was just a scratch on the surface. I simply stopped shooting myself in the foot when it came to appearance and let the natural dynamics between men and women play out.

All in all, I was still in Stage Two of Image Mastery – I was your (not so) average Joe.

Your (Not So) Average Joe

Sexy Style for Joe - Stage Two of Image Mastery: The (Not So) Average Joe

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the outfits from my early years in college. But these two looks from my past depicts the stage two of image mastery quite well. Can you spot the problems with these outfits? 🙂

This stage is marked by the departure from the neglect and indifference of your image seen with the “basement dweller,” and an arrival at the desire to improve WITH action taken to do so. Even though they probably still lack the skills to execute their ideas, the fact that (not so) Average Joes are putting in enough effort to make a drastic change is critically important and a great step in the right direction. I sometimes call this stage the “awkward teenage phase” of image because this is when things can get a little messy as guys are experimenting for the first time how to improve their looks.

This experimentation often leads to a rollercoaster of ups and downs in terms of results. Sometimes things click and you notice a significant increase in the attention you get from women and other times you feel like a loser that no woman would ever find attractive.

Because you haven’t developed the skills and understanding yet your image and feedback feels random and inconsistent (note: if the Joe can maintain his resolve – greatness awaits him).

Now, there are two types of guys in stage two of Image Mastery:

1. The Not So Average Joes

If like me, you first stumbled upon fashion advice from a dating site, forum or subreddit, you want your image to be more sexual as opposed to what’s deemed as “normal” and socially approved.

You read tips like, “skip underwear and go commando, always have 3+ buttons open on a shirt and go for brighter, bolder colors and designs to avoid looking like everyone else AT ALL COSTS.” Too bad no one on those platforms talk about executing your outfits well, so  unfortunately many guys end up looking like a walking punch-line… This often leads to some backlash from other guys and women in the form of shitty jokes and negative comments.

In other words, being “not so average” doesn’t make you any better or worse than other guys at this stage in their image mastery, just different and (likely) quite a bit more flashy than most other guys.

2. The Average Joes

On the other hand, if you’re naturally risk averse, your Stage 2 might be too far on the safe side, where you end up dressing like everyone else to avoid standing out.

You buy a pair of new jeans or khakis, maybe add a buttoned shirt (often guys at this stage fall into the “going out shirt” trap) and think that since you just spent a size-able chunk of money and got new clothes that you’re now “well-dressed” – I mean hey, that store’s consultant said you looked good!

And then of course they end up getting results like everyone else (which are crap) and stand there wondering “is this it? That’s what all the fuss was about? I don’t think anything has changed…”

It’s essentially doing the same thing as the men who expect to get laid just because they took their date to an expensive restaurant – sorry buddy, life doesn’t work like that.

Common Mindsets Among The (Not So) Average Joes

“I just need to get that piece of clothing…”

Most guys at this stage have a sort of magic pill syndrome where they think all they need to get is “a shirt”, “a jacket”, “a bracelet”, “a scarf” and then they will look freaking amazing. That’s rarely the case, there’s more to the puzzle than that.

Guys from the first category – Not So Average Joes – usually think “I need to accessorize!”, “I need a flashy red leather jacket!” and ignore the fundamentals like fit, how that item will work within his overall image and with the rest of the outfit, and other design features – “big ass flashy logo on the back? Who care’s as long as it’s a red leather jacket! I read so on the forums…”

While guys from the second category – Average Joes – focus mostly on price, brands and newness – “I paid 400$ for that blazer and it’s from Hugo Boss, of course I dress well!”

The problem here is that the first group often ends up looking like nerdy wannabes who just don’t get it, while the second group is left there standing, mind-boggled why women seem to swarm and compliment that guy in a H&M blazer for 40$

“I don’t know what hairstyle I should get…”

Similar to the first mindset mistake. Again, many times it’s based on an excessive obsession with individual aspects of your image, instead of the big picture. A good understanding of the whole will naturally lead you to a narrowed selection of options, but we’ll talk about this in latter stages.

“I don’t want to look like…”

Finish this thought with any popular stereotype like “gay”, “metrosexual”, “douche”, “hipster”, “frat dude”, “boring banker”, etc., etc. Because guys at this stage have very little understanding about the makings of an image in a deeper sense, they tend to over-generalize certain aspects of it and resort to artificial stereotypes pushed by their social circle and environment.

It’s very similar to what you might see on fitness forums like “I don’t want to do strength training because I don’t want to get bulky like a body builder” and you can’t help but cringe because you know that it takes years of dedicated effort to achieve that result anyway.

So just like doing a few sessions of strength training won’t get you buff and muscular, getting a fitted blazer alone won’t make you over-dressed, and trading those unflattering loose jeans for a tighter pair that will make you look taller and be more flattering on most physiques, won’t make you look “gay”.

“Everyone dresses like that here…”

It is true that if you live far outside the sometimes fierce competition of fashionable cities, you can get away with a lot more while having a terrible image. The threshold is set so low that essentially anyone that has basic grooming down will be considered at least “average”. That said, its up to you whether you want to look at it as a permission to do the bare minimum or an opportunity to lift yourself into a league of your own by putting just a little bit more effort in than the others.

“I need to look cool…”

Ah, one of the most evasive social characteristics in modern times, “being cool”.

The irony is that guys who make looking cool their prime focus will never get there. Though I must say that it’s very entertaining to see them try – over-the-top affliction T-shirts or flashy “going out” shirts, elaborate and overcomplicated jeans, too much product in their hair (and probably on their skin), goofy meaningless tattoos – attention grabbing in all the wrong ways.

It’s one of the reasons why online dating photos in which guys think they “look cool” perform significantly worse than those expressing genuine emotion and that look “real”.

What men at this stage don’t understand is that their image needs to have an aura of effortlessness, a no-big-deal kind of thing. And yes, a raw sexual edgy image can appear more effortless than a pair of khakis and a polo shirt – it’s all about the environment, demographics and execution – congruence with yourself and the outside world.

“That one girl said she liked my shoes and I dress nice, therefore I don’t need to worry about this anymore…”

Getting positive feedback from women (and guys) is a good indication that we’re on the right track, but we need to be smart about how we interpret it.

The first rule is that Actions > Words!

Getting her phone number shoved into your back pocket or getting flooded with messages while online dating says a lot more about where you are in your image mastery journey compared to a “nice shirt” comment from a coworker.

That’s not to say that getting complimented on your clothes is useless – not at all – it is still positive feedback!

But if you’re only getting a few compliments here and there which never leads to anything, and if you have trouble with escalating the interaction, that compliment is pretty much the equivalent of “Ohh… you’re such a nice guy! I’m sure you’ll find a great girl one day (just not me…)”

If this is where you find yourself, don’t get discouraged, we’ll get you to the next level and beyond!

Biggest Mistakes & Pitfalls

  1. Inability to execute the image they want to create – most of the problems guys experience at Stage 2 revolve around simply not being able to execute what they envision in their minds. Something that sounds awesome in their heads ends up looking “meh” in the real world. They look at style as a mathematical formula – “blazer + buttoned shirt + jeans = well dressed” – but they can’t seem to realize that looking great is an elaborate function rather than basic arithmetics. Cuts, fit, colors, patterns and nuanced design features play a huge role in how good you really look.
  2. Putting too much focus on particular pieces of clothing – tunnel-focusing on a single item to buy or ruminating over things like “what haircut I should get?” is very much like focusing on a single exercise when you’re trying to build a sexy physique. Yes, choosing the right exercise matters, but only in the context of your whole workout routine and diet. It’s the same with individual items of clothing and aspects of grooming like a haircut or a facial hair style.
  3. Lack of focus on the fundamentals like fit and color coordination – how you wear a piece of clothing nearly always matters more than what you wear. And how you wear something boils down to the cut, the fit and how the colors and patterns play out within the context of the rest of your outfit.
  4. Getting too attached to their favorite items of clothing – I was extremely guilty of this. Every time I would find a piece of clothing that gets positive feedback from women, or one that I just really, really like I would wear it obsessively, on every occasion I can get. Unsurprisingly, this means that these favorite clothes would get worn out quickly: they shrunk, lost color, got damaged, etc. And even though I intellectually knew that I shouldn’t wear a tee that has shrunk and now is obviously too small for me, I keep telling myself “just one more time” and as a desperate guy in a toxic relationship, I refused to accept that it’s time to move on. It’s crucial that you get rid of your worn out clothes or at least put them in a separate stack that says “for doing dirty chores at home”.
  5. Sense of entitlement for showing effort – I briefly mentioned this earlier, but often guys at this stage feel like just because they spent a few hours shopping, women should show gratitude and appreciate their effort. Well, sorry buddy, just like you get paid for results at work, not effort, for dating and image it’s the end result that matter, not how much time or money you spent on it. The good news here is that once you get better (or get help), you can get the same results in a week as the guys who spent years of effort trying to figure it out and a ton of money on trial and error.

Typical Reactions (Not So) Average Joes Get

When it comes to the second stage of Image Mastery there isn’t such a thing as a “typical” reaction, because the only thing that you can count on is that they are going to be all over the place, for better or for worse.

That said,

There is a vague pattern to all that randomness that you might experience when you qualify as a (not so) average Joe:

  • Your natural looks – physique, facial features, skin composition, height, etc. – will play a much more significant role in determining the feedback you get here than at any other stage. In many ways, stage two begins once you stop letting yourself go into basement oblivion, so if you’re naturally very good looking (or invested enough time and effort into developing your physique), you might notice a significant improvement in your dealings with women: suddenly they start initiating conversations, flake less and even escalate interactions. The down side here is that if you haven’t been lucky in the gene lottery or you have yet to pay your dues in the gym developing a sexy physique, the results might feel underwhelming in general with only small glimpses of what the future stages might hold for you. With that in mind, the following two points will assume that you fall somewhere in the middle.
  • The Not So Average Joes will experience ecstatic highs and crushing lows. When you focus on dressing in a sexual manner and want to stand out from the crowd in a unique way, you’re bound to be polarizing, which means that some women will respond to you well, while others deem you as “definitely not their type”. That’s perfectly fine and even preferable in the long run, but when your execution (fit, colors, cuts) is underwhelming – and that’s the main problem in Stage Two – polarization can be extreme and not in a good way. If you remember our outfit experiment, where we surveyed women to rate my attractiveness on a one to ten scale, with the shitty outfit that would qualify as a casual Stage Two look, the highest rating I got was 8 but the lowest was a 2!Imagine a woman that you would rate as a 2, on a 1 to 10 scale in terms of attractiveness (not so pretty, eh? 🙂 ), and now realize that that’s how a woman will see you when you’re not her type while in Stage Two of your image mastery. Now consider how likely it is that you’ll be able to sleep with her, if she finds you THAT unattractive? On the other hand, when the execution is solid, the lowest score I got was a 7, which is a pretty decent result considering that I was not her type.
  • The Average Joes can expect steadier results but its highly unlikely that you be able to punch above your natural looks. Chances are that at this point you’ll start getting better results with women of average attractiveness: you’ll still need to put in a lot of effort given that you’ll be playing in the same league as at least 80+% of other guys but with a little persistence you should be able to sleep around a bit or find a girlfriend, whichever you prefer. The downside is that because you essentially present yourself like every other guy you’ll rarely be “her dream type”, something that can make things a lot easier and with more attractive women.

How To Get To The Next Stage

From a practical, actionable point of view, what you can and should do to get to the next stage boils down to:

  • Focus on fundamentals of style and execution – learn the guidelines for how different items of clothing should fit you, and pay attention to this whenever you get dressed. Avoid elaborate outfits that have a lot of different colors (we’ll get there in time). For now focus on building outfits around neutral colors and adding one non-neutral color to the mix.

Recommended reading: Nerdy To Sexy and/or Everything You Need To Know About Fit, Sexy Fit

  • Think in outfits, not individual items of clothing – one of the easiest ways to learn how to “think in outfits” is to model (copy) them. Check out our Style Inspiration articles, Instagram and Pinterest page and you’ll find more potential outfits than you could wear in a lifetime. That said, I would start with the more basic ones and build up from there. This could also be interpreted as “shop in outfits” instead of picking single pieces with no consideration of your existing wardrobe.

Recommended reading: SSfJ Instagram page and our Pinterest page

  • Choose a hairstyle and facial hair style that complements your natural features – instead of obsessing over what haircut or facial hairstyle to get, do a quick self-analysis on your natural features (I wrote more about this in GirlsChase’s grooming series). Based on the results, google “men’s hairstyles” or go here and look for hairstyles in your preferred length that fit within the parameters of your analysis. Choose 2 – 3 hairstyles that you like most and take them to your awesome hairdresser (you should look diligently for one) and ask which ones you’d be able to pull off. Don’t overcomplicate this, the specific haircut doesn’t matter as much as whether or not it suits your features. We can worry about how it affects your image in the latter stages.

Recommended reading: Sexy Man’s Grooming Guide, Part 3: Choosing a Hairstyle

  • BONUS POINTS: Even though when going from Stage Two to Stage Three we shouldn’t overcomplicate things by adding to the table things like image, personal brand, positioning and target demographics (i.e. the type of women you’re attracted to the most), you might want to start thinking about your image in general terms – what qualities would like to convey about yourself? Where do you spend your free time and meet women? Don’t worry about taking any action on this just yet – we’ll get there – just spend some time reflecting.

Recommended watching: How To Find Your Perfect Image. Leak from “The Wow! Factor” course (Update: the full course is now available here)

If you’re at stage, you’re already on the right path and taking it to the next level is about taking away some of the randomness, being conscious and deliberate about why you wear certain items and outfits, and avoiding basic mistakes.

I promise, the results will be worth the extra effort!

Finishing Thoughts

This was the second article in our “5 Stages of Image Mastery” series. If you missed the first stage, you can check it out here: 5 Stages Of Image Mastery Part 1: Basement Dweller

Next week, we’ll take a breather from this article series and I’ll share an amazing piece from Will, who created the Sharp Image guide. This time he’ll talk about racial stereotypes and how we can break them to our advantage using style and clothes.

Afterwards, we’ll get back to discussing Stage Three of Image Mastery: The Well Dressed Man and what happens when we introduce stability and consistency to the way we dress.

In the meantime, I’m creating the last pieces of the puzzle to “The Wow! Factor” and it will be the first course that will take you by the hand straight to the Image Mastery Stage of the Sexy Man – it’s incredibly exciting to know that I’ll be able to share it with you soon!

Update: The Wow! Factor has been completed, launched and available for your pleasure, you can check it out here: The Wow! Factor course.