The Social Cost of Looking Badly

There is a social cost to lack of style. In fact, social psychologists have studied this. In the book “Survival of the Prettiest”, author Nancy Etcoff recites a study of possible discrimination via favors or lack of favors to beautiful men and women in the office. The results?

  1. Attractive men got minor statistical significance in social favors.
  2. Attractive women had significant advantages in social favors.
  3. Unattractive to normal men experienced no major difference.
  4. However, unattractive women experienced a strong NEGATIVE correlation and at times negative experiences to looking poorly.

How is that fair? Well, Etcoff, a Harvard professor concludes: if anything, a woman who dresses up to at least the “average” is better off… because the negative effects of looking badly (discrimination) is higher in proportion than the benefits of looking good.

From this study we start to question also the assumption that style increases one’s physical appearance and thus, fate in society? Could this be possible?

Let’s take Fashion by City and compare and contrast the effects of this on a macro level:

paris street fashion
paris street fashion
Minnesota street fashion
Minnesota street fashion

The difference is significant, isn’t it? If good fashion sense by a large majority of people is a plus, then cities with stronger style has a higher aesthetic value. What are some other perceived “costs” to bad style?

The Perceived Costs

  1. One may feel less self esteem
  2. A lot of people dress the same. They may lack identity of who they really are
  3. They may feel uninspired
  4. Common, boring life?
  5. Even when people die – they are dressed in their best self in a suit. Shouldn’t we dress well everyday we are alive?
  6. Attracting girls by looking your best – there’s no second chance to make a first impression
  7. Creating charisma and charm through your looks to everyone and anyone

Devil’s advocate – what are the costs of over-emphasis on style?

  1. Too much appearance based value and no intrinsic value. Warren Buffet still dresses the same, and still comes across and authentic and is considered a living legend.
  2. Vanity – only focusing on appearance gives one a sense of vanity and quite frankly, an inflated “I’m better than you” ego.
  3. Like the modeling world – judging a book by its cover leads you astray to the quality content that sometimes resides in great books.

Balance of Style and Enjoying Life

At the end of the day, remember – Style a tool box – take it out when you need it, put it away when you don’t.


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