This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice ( Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.

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In The Appearance of Power: How Masculinity is Expressed Through Aesthetics, Tanner Guzy delivers a strong foundation for masculine appearance and how men can present their appearance in the best way possible.

What immediately appealed to me was how this book treats appearance as a tool. “Power has an appearance and appearance has power,” Tanner writes in the first chapter. “The ultimate goal of your appearance is to use aesthetics as one of many means to help accomplish your desired ends.” We associate dressing well with trying to impress the opposite sex–and it is absolutely vital for that–but appearance plays a role in every kind of communication we undertake–in the workplace, at school, at the restaurant, during worship, etc. Our appearance frames who we are to the world around us and to ourselves, and thus it should be considered in the goals we undertake.

To dress “well” therefore means to dress in a way that communicates ourselves in the most helpful way possible. This is a concept I have applied to religious architecture–it’s not about making a building pretty but about facilitating a religious experience through the aesthetics and architectural function. It is setting the stage for an experience. Clothing fits in to the same kind of design program.

For men, it’s all about looking powerful. Tanner explains everything you need to consider in a man’s visual appearance: social status, physical prowess, in-group devotion, etc. There is a lot more to consider when it comes to power than physical strength. If appearance of power were all about giving an impression of physical strength, soldiers’ uniforms would look more like superhero outfits that emphasize muscles. Soldier’s uniforms utilize patches and medals to signal a man’s accomplishments. They use crisp straight lines to emphasize the care taken to be precise in judgement. They are uniform to everyone else’s uniform to indicate oneness of purpose and brotherhood. The cleanness of the uniform suggests the soldier’s commitment to the brotherhood. The soldier’s uniform thus communicates masculinity better than the gaudy get-ups in superhero movies because they consider multiple subtle indicators of strength.

Few of us are handed uniforms in life and we all have to design an appearance that communicates the best about ourselves. Visual style is something that is lost on most men (not because of the brains we are born with but because we are socially conditioned not to care.) The typical college engineering student doesn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it; but the college geek could gain a sense of style, and should, because it would improve his means of accomplishing his goals. How to you design an appearance that suits your individual character?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my 20’s singledom when I finally realized the importance of dressing well. I was vacationing in Chicago, and as I poked through the stores on Michigan Avenue I decided to buy some jeans from the large H&M store. I hesitated because they were more expensive than any clothing item I’d ever bought before. But I found they fit better than anything I’d ever worn in my life, they felt nice to the skin, the material seemed durable, and they were comfortable. Immediately upon purchase, I started getting compliments from girls. “Nice pants!” I thought they were joking at first, but something about a proper pair of pants greatly stood out from what I had worn before and impressed those who have an eye for aesthetics. This reaction from women was the first indicator to me why clothing style matters.

My next expensive item of purchase was from Walmart. Walmart? Well hey, when something looks good it looks good–it doesn’t matter what store it’s in. I discovered a nice pair of brown shoe. I knew brown matched with blue and figured they would go nicely with the jeans. Immediately I started getting compliments on my shoes as well as my jeans.

Such finds are rare. Fine clothes are much more likely to be found at stores more expensive than Walmart or H&M. But I found that what matters the most is that the clothes fit, how they match with whatever else you are wearing, and that they matched your personality and visual character. Before I knew it my style and appearance completely changed. I started applying my new-found fashion design to other areas of life–how I dress for work, how I dress at church, when hanging out with friends, etc. I was able to use my broad artistic background to come up with a scheme of fashion for myself, but as I recently read “Appearance Of Power” I discovered many important considerations of style that I never knew about. Even if you have a good sense of male fashion, I recommend studying this book to make your foundation solid.

I found that my style influenced my entire environment. Priests of the ancient temple wore clothing with the same dimensions and styles as the temple. They treated clothing as a part of the temple structure itself, a kind of personal extension of the architecture to each individual. Human proportions informed the design of clothing, and that informed the design of the temple structure, and the building thus directed human experience. This means the masculine appearance of strength is not only something that directs what clothes we wear, but what our homes look like and our entire built environment. When a man’s appearance is fully considered he will be truly “in his element,” like a king sitting in his throne room. A king sitting in a metropolitan subway station looks a lot different than a king sitting in a castle. Likewise, an individual’s appearance needs to suit the life, home, and community he has built for himself.

Tanner explains the logic of visual design clearly and effectively. I wish he would have included illustrations and diagrams, as I am a visual learner, but he breaks down the ideas well and explains them thoroughly enough that illustrations aren’t needed, and someone without an artistic background will get it. I also wish Tanner would devote entire books to each archetype–he divides men’s personalities into three main groups and gives an overview for how to style for each one. But Tanner’s website provides a lot more information about the archetypes and where to go from there.

I appreciate that this book will not give you a specific blueprint for how to dress but it will teach you the fundamentals for how to make your own blueprint and take charge of your life. It’s one of those books that opens a corner of the universe most don’t even know exists. It has helped give me direction for how to present myself, and it is integral currently as I consider plans for the coming decades of my life. Right now I am pondering how I will make my visual appearance part of my religious identity, my religious community, and my goals as a family man. For anyone thinking about becoming part of a community, planning for a future, or improving their impression with others, I recommend giving this book a close read.

Categories: Apologetics