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The Privilege of Slumming It

{This was originally published at Hit Coffee, in May of 2016}

In recent years, the term “neckbeard” has become perjorative short-hand for “undesirable dude.” Not just undesirable in the sexual sense, but in the social as well. When Ricochet’s Jon Gabriel tweeted about seeing a bunch of neckbeards at a comic book shop, it was pretty much assumed what he meant. Male losers. It relates, directly or indirectly, to ungroomed hair growth in the neck area. We can infer from that that this is not someone who takes care of their appearance.

Why the neckbeard? Mostly the process of elimination. Things like traditional stubble, messy hair, and so on have become intentional adornments. Other things, such as obesity or general ugliness, it’s considered untoward to comment on. A neckbeard, though? That’s a deliberate choice. Losing weight is hard, and most of us know at least someone that has struggled with it. But shaving your neck isn’t. If you can’t even do that, then you obviously don’t care about your appearance and contempt cast your way is therefore to some degree earned. So we can, with that one combined word, describe someone’s attitude towards their own appearance. Very handy

I’ve hated neckbeards since before hating neckbeards was cool. I have a very fertile neck, as far as that goes, and I therefore shave it at every opportunity. Regular stubble can be an affectation, but neck hair almost never looks good (and especially not on someone like me that has a thick neck even when I’m thin).

Sometimes, though, a neckbeard isn’t really a neckbeard. Sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes it goes completely unnoticed. When does it go unnoticed? When it’s on this guy.

The Privilege of Slumming ItThat’s Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen, the title character on the TV show Arrow. He doesn’t shave his neck, but people don’t seem to especially notice. I’ve had the conversation on more than one occasion. A friend commented how much she likes Oliver Queen’s beard. I ask whether she means the Van Dyke from the comic or the neckbeard from the TV show. Confusion follows because what neckbeard?

Now, granted, Amell doesn’t have a full neckbeard. But like me he has a fertile neck, and in any given scene the hair on his neck will match the hair on his face, and neither are usually clean. He does the stubble thing, which is hip. He also does the neckbeard thing, which really only works because he looks like Stephen Amell. I suspect that, on the face of a perhaps chubby comic book nerd, thats what Gabriel was looking at in the comic book shop. In short, if you look like that fellow on the left, you can’t pull it off. If you look like the fellow to the right, you can…

The Privilege of Slumming It

One of the reasons that Taidengu is more likely to be criticized than Amell is because it’s more noticeable on account of their respective frames. The smaller your neck, the less noticeable it genuinely is. Which is the case for a lot of things. Though Elizabeth Picciuto informs me that this is no longer as much the case as it once was, thanks to capitalism, it seems that fashion trends for women are geared very heavily towards those that have the best figures. Which is to say trends seem to go specifically towards those outfits that compliment the fewest number of frames. While that’s commercial and this is physical, it is nonetheless a noticeable truth that if you look good in a traditional way you can get away with a lot more than if you’re on the fringe.

This came to mind a day later when Nob Akimoto commented that being able to dress down is a form of privilege. It was, I believe, in reference to Bernie Sanders and the White House Correspondence Dinner. I believe that’s actually quite right, and for a lot of the same reasons that Stephen Amell doesn’t need to worry about shaving the way us mere mortals do.

Amell can afford people criticizing his neck – if they even notice – because he is otherwise so good-looking. Someone like Bernie Sanders can get away with acting low-class because he is a very important person. It’s just an affectation! It’s just Bernie being a man of the people! Which is all fine and good, but these are only assumptions we make because we know that he could wear a tux and doesn’t. Someone else who doesn’t wear a tux, we might make other, less populist, assumptions about.

Sheila Tone made a similar observation about being able to dress her oldest child (then her only child) in ragmuffin attire. She said it years ago, on a site that has since been taken down, but it’s stuck with me all of this time. I can dress Lain however I want. I can get clothes from Goodwill. If she is so inclined, I can let her go out in her underwear. No one will make assumptions about us. No one will call the CPS worried that we can’t afford decent clothes. People might look at her and determine that we are bad parents, I guess, but not in any threatening way. We can chalk it up to eccentricity.

So what does all of this mean? Is Stephen Amell required to shave like us mere mortals? Does Bernie Sanders have to wear a tux? Or do we stop criticizing everyone else? Is that desirable or even possible while trying to maintain cultural standards? Are cultural standards themselves the enemy? Is it desirable or possible to live without them?

The Privilege of Slumming ItWhen I was young and single, I was a sucker for work shirts. You know, Habib shirts, like from on Married With Children. I never found a true Habib shirt, sadly, but I had several with a lot of names, some Anglo and some not. You could get three for five dollars. For a college kid on a limited budget, that was really cool. They were certainly cooler than “1992 Charity Fun Run” shirts for the same price. I can lean on my comparatively limited funds and being truly frugal at the time. I would feel extremely self-conscious wearing them now, though, and not without reason.

There are no broad answers, of course. It goes to the question of the value of social norms, for which everyone has a different answer both broadly and in individual instances as well. When Bernie refuses to wear the tux, is he running interference for those that can’t or is he inadvertently mocking them for a judgment from which he is comparatively immune? Is Stephen Amell being “normal” with his lazy shaving habits, or is he doing with his face what an attractive woman might do with a particular bathing suit: Only I can pull this off. What is the intention, and what is the reception? To what extent do they even think about it? To what extent is it their responsibility? And to what extent is all of this just urinating into the tornado of the inequities of life and society?

Photo Credits:
Taidengu: Taidengu Photo by Thaadd The Privilege of Slumming It
Amell: Stephen Amell Photo by Gage Skidmore The Privilege of Slumming It>
Feature: Photo by andronicusmax The Privilege of Slumming It


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Will Truman is the pseudonym of a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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73 thoughts on “The Privilege of Slumming It

  1. Sheila Tone made a similar observation about being able to dress her oldest child (then her only child) in ragmuffin attire. She said it years ago, on a site that has since been taken down, but it’s stuck with me all of this time. I can dress Lain however I want. I can get clothes from Goodwill. If she is so inclined, I can let her go out in her underwear. No one will make assumptions about us. No one will call the CPS worried that we can’t afford decent clothes. People might look at her and determine that we are bad parents, I guess, but not in any threatening way. We can chalk it up to eccentricity.

    I’d quibble with this assumption somewhat. No, the upper middle class isn’t threatened by this kind of thing the way the working poor are. But it doesn’t take much googling to find episodes where CPS and/or law enforcement involve themselves in the lives of relatively well to do people in response to superficial, classist, and flat out reactionary assumptions. The ‘free range kid’ movement strikes me in part as a response to that phenomenon.

    On the broader issue, the whole ‘neckbeard’ thing and similar internet shorthand is an attempt to categorize and sub-categorize things that don’t actually exist in any coherent or large scale way. Break it down and what you’re left with is the banal observation that rich people can get away with a lot of things poor people often can’t, good looking people can often get away with things ugly people would probably be ridiculed for. If anything is new its that social media has birthed a bunch of new phrases and terms used to cloak observations that would otherwise be obviously classist and/or superficial. Talking trash about the ugly nerds in 2018 makes you sound like an asshole. But the neckbeards, well, we all know those guys deserve it.

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    • It’s not so much that people like me never need to worry about the CPS. It’s that (a) we have to worry about it less and (b) it mostly comes into play with only a subset of the type of behavior that’s more likely to get their attention if you’re not well off. I worry if I leave my daughter in the shopping cart when I use the restroom, but don’t need to worry about our general eccentricities getting their attention.

      The CPS is an extreme case, and Sheila notes it because that was her area of law at the time (defending families from the CPS). It’s more likely to come into play just with general judgments.

      I agree that the general observation – that rich and attractive people get away with things the rest cannot – is rather banal. But I think that (a) it’s something that bears repeating because it’s something that people deny, and (b) its useful to point to particular behaviors as manifestations of the phenomenon, when otherwise they wouldn’t notice it or would deny that it is.

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      • All fair (I wasn’t familiar with the author referenced). One of the most nerve wracking moments I’ve had so far as a parent was running in to pick up my dry cleaning while my son was still sleeping in the car.

        And I agree with the argument for pointing it out. Maybe I was just struggling with the examples. An aspect of online culture I both hate and find confounding is the spread of nebulous terms to express mean spirited yet timeless sentiments in the most self-congratulatory way possible.

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  2. I still remember when my dad told me that fatter people (like him and me) needed to dress slightly better than average because clothes made fat people more “slobbish” looking.

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  3. I don’t think neckbeard is a classist term per se. There are plenty of guys who get called neckbeard but also seem to be it or are well payed computer professional types. They might not look like Arnell but most men don’t.

    I was a late bloomer romantically too. Sometimes it filled me with despair but I don’t think snide remarks about neck beards are the big issue here. A lot of these self-described “incels” do very sexist things. This week I found out that in Red Dead Redemption 2, you can beat up a random NPC/suffragette in very horrible ways apparently. Also a lot of guys are posting videos of their characters do this and saying with pride “look at me put women in their place.”

    So I find it a bit hard sometimes to have sympathy because a chubby guy can’t have a neck beard but Arnell can. I could stand to lose some weight by the way.

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      • That has to do with the “choice” thing, though.

        When a guy with a neckbeard who isn’t, you know, a freaking TV star complains about the way women always snub him, it’s hard not to say, “Dude, spend less time whining and more time getting your act together.”

        Like, yeah, it may be cosmically unfair that some dudes get away with it due to really good bone structure and excellent physical shape, but shaving is pretty easy.

        And yet… and yet… sometimes I sport a neckbeard. I’m not really in the market for dates so that’s not an issue for me at the moment, but usually when it happens with me it’s because I’ve slid into a depressive funk, something which I share a proclivity for with millions of people.

        And a lot of failures to groom, or whatever, are obviously due to that.

        So even there maybe it isn’t 100% fair.

        But then again, if a neckbeard wants a date, he should shave that fucking neckbeard.

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        • My advice to guys is, if they have a neckbeard, they should shave it. Try to control what you can control, fair or not.

          But I do think we should be clear that it is what it is, and it’s not all (or even mostly) about the neckbeard. (And in this, we should avoid making it the Confederate Flag of the incels.)

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          • I am blessed/cursed with a thick fast-growing beard that spans from my cheekbones to low on my neck. Stiff whiskers that stand straight out. Five o’clock shadow by lunch time by the time I graduated high school. Except for occasional experiments when I was young, I just shave it. Switched to an electric razor in my 30s because my skin couldn’t take shaving with a blade every day any more. Am switching back to a blade now because (a) one of the joys of retirement is not shaving every day but (b) the white whiskers are even more unruly and if I don’t shave every day the electric doesn’t catch them all.

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    • A lot of these self-described “incels” do very sexist things.

      Interestingly, in their online forums, incels tend to obsess over aspects of physical attractiveness that are immutable, like height, bone structure, and race, to explain their inability to find partners.[1] Natalie “Contrapoints” Wynn describes the phenomenon[2] as part of a form of “digital self-harm” where people find online communities that they can participate in which well essentially continually hurt their feelings,

      [1] Often “partners” means “partners who meet the standards necessary to flatter my ego and/or raise my social status”. It’s not like incels necessarily never fuck.

      [2] In a YouTube video.

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      • I don’t know who Natalie Wynn is.

        Focusing on immutable traits is a very human thing to do because it helps justify not doing anything.

        Plus the way many people discuss their romantic and sexual preferences is often myopic and less than ideal. I’m a short guy at 5’6”. I generally don’t have a problem with my height but it can feel wounding to hear a woman around 5 or 5’1” say that she only likes dudes that are 5’10” or taller.

        But I am still perplexed by Will’s essay. Abnormally cool and attractive people can get away with much more than Joe or Jane Schmoe seems like a no-brainer and a cliche. I think I am pretty decent in the looks department but I couldn’t get away with a neckbeard.

        The work shirt thing is more interesting because fashion does play on all sorts of things. There is expensive clothing that looks expensive (Saville Row or Italian suiting). There is also expensive clothing meant to look bohemian and “poor” (Golden Goose deluxe brand distressed sneakers)

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        • My point isn’t particularly novel. Like I said to InMD earlier:

          I agree that the general observation – that rich and attractive people get away with things the rest cannot – is rather banal. But I think that (a) it’s something that bears repeating because it’s something that people deny, and (b) its useful to point to particular behaviors as manifestations of the phenomenon, when otherwise they wouldn’t notice it or would deny that it is.

          A lot of people acknowledge this is true and then go right on acting as though it isn’t.

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      • Often “partners” means “partners who meet the standards necessary to flatter my ego and/or raise my social status”. It’s not like incels necessarily never fuck.

        Is this a real thing, or just a feminist caricature of male psychology? Because honestly, I just don’t find unattractive women attractive. It’s why they’re called “unattractive.” It’s not a question of ego or status—I, personally, derive more joy out of being with attractive women.

        It’s possible that I’m just unusually unconcerned with social status, but I think pornography and prostitution back me up here. If it were all about status or ego, then unattractive women wouldn’t be greatly underrepresented in pornography, and especially attractive prostitutes wouldn’t command a premium. You don’t get a social status boost from watching pornography with prettier actresses, yet most men do anyway. And men are inexplicably willing to pay extra money to have sex with more attractive women, even when keeping it a secret from everyone they know. Isn’t that weird? Why would they throw away their money like that?

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          • Not just that they set their standards too high, but that they set their standards too high in a way that pushes them to not bother trying to find partners, and also causes them to write off partners that “aren’t good enough” in some sense. And set standards of male attractiveness that they themselves can’t hope to meet, either.

            In any event it’s not “male psychology”, as much as it seems to be “really depressed person psychology curdled into misogyny”, with a fair dose of survivorship bias.

            And just as a bit of an side, I think everybody who’s been in a sexual relationship understands that the expectation that entering such a relation will fix every problem you had in your life beforehand is bound to be dashed. But that belief is one that is one that underlies so much of the incel worldview.

            It’s a recipe for disappointment.

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            • I think it’s one of the unintended consequences of identity politics, myself. These losers view themselves as victims because even tho they’re (obvs) the type of people attractive women don’t want to have sex with, they view themselves as identical to the guys getting laid in the only property that matters: the desire to f*** attractive women. For a reason which they can’t understand, tho, attractive women have seemingly collectively decided to *discriminate* against them.

              Incels are like Fredos: people to stupid to realize they aren’t smaht.

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              • This spins off my belief of the common misconception that the superficiality of male and female romantic preference is greatly exaggerated. They think hot women should sleep with them because women aren’t supposed to care about looks the way men do.

                One of those areas that gender stereotypes that each side has a reason to be invested in ultimately leads us astray.

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            • This. And it isn’t limited to men. I know a couple women who will complain a lot about how the male:female ratio where they live is stacked against them and so single men won’t even consider them because [insert superficial physical flaw].

              Some of them reach levels of hurt and resentment toward the guys that make me say ‘Whoa, there…’ Others obsess so much over what flaw they think makes them undate-able that the level of insecurity and depression seems more likely to drive potential partners away.

              Same basic psychology at work.

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              • Yep. Bitterness puts people off. But some women also suffer from impossibly high standards just like some guys do.

                I have a dear friend who at 48 has never been in a relationship. She rarely complains about it, but one day she said “There was a really good looking eagle biologist doing a project at the end of the road today. And I wondered, why can’t I find a really good looking eagle biologist?”

                She just wasn’t receptive to anyone who didn’t fall into a really very narrow definition of acceptable.

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                • Yeah. Unrealistic standards do go both ways.

                  Of course, there is a physical attraction part that’s nearly essential to romantic relationships, and each of us has certain things in that respect that are just turns offs, but when you get right down to it most of them are highly individual. That ranges from the quirky and inexplicable (I don’t tend to be attracted to guys, no matter how otherwise well-built or handsome, with little ‘Dutch boy’ noses. I don’t know why. I just tend to find that feature unappealing) to the understandable responses to childhood experience (one of my friends avoids bodybuilder types because her father was abusive and so she feels uneasy with men who are clearly a lot stronger than her).

                  I honestly think in most cases getting to know someone and finding them to be kind/witty/interesting/etc. will over ride considerations of physical features, but you have to not automatically write off anyone who doesn’t meet GQ levels of handsome in order to do that.

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                  • Yes I have a vaguely formed piece on that. On the one hand absolutely preferences are preferences and I’ve definitely got mine (+1 on Nimoy, BTW). At the same time I feel like for some people (ok I mean some men) their monkey brains have gotten too easily bedazzled by supernormal stimuli so that airbrushed, porn-ready bodies are the only acceptable shape females come in and the rest of us are just not trying hard enough. (there is definitely a classist element to female beauty standards as it’s gotten ridiculously expensive and time consuming to keep up with)

                    That some of these guys who seem to buy into those beauty standards fully are also ID’ing as incels is very interesting.

                    But, as with my friend, I do think it’s a two way street and plenty of women have their monkey brains misfiring in the hunt for the really good looking eagle biologist too.

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                • ” And I wondered, why can’t I find a really good looking eagle biologist?””

                  This made me laugh for how precisely it captures the problem.

                  Then I started to think about it and I realized that every single eagle biologist I have ever known (no matter how good looking) basically hates people in anything more than microdoses, hates being indoors, and would be extremely hard to date. Heck, every single raptor biologist I’ve known, save for one who is a) female, b) primarily a creative writer and artist, c) got married before she turned 25 to someone who is totally over the moon about her – I don’t think because of her rarity among raptor biologists, but it probably didn’t hurt.

                  So then I started to laugh again.

                  (I’m sure #notalleaglebiologists…. I’m just sayin’. Should your friend find herself one, she might find him or her rather a letdown.)

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                • Oh, I know some of my standards are unreasonable: the biggest one being someone without ex-drama. I’m nearly 50. If I meet someone who is available, he’s gonna have ex-drama, unless he’s a total unromantic oddball like me, and the chance of that is very small.

                  The thing is: I’m nearly 50, and it would take a lot for me to decide hooking my life to someone else is preferable to continuing to live it alone. And no, short-term relationships are not a thing for me.

                  I try not to complain much about being single but I do admit I *worry* because sometimes I wonder if I’ve edited myself so much out of other people’s lives that if I got sick or injured or something, I’d have no one willing to help me, and I’d be at the mercy of what home-health company had someone available that I could afford…

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                  • Still, if something’s a dealbreaker for you, you shouldn’t compromise. There’s a big difference between looking for a unicorn and avoiding duds.

                    I think you and I must be about the same age, filly, and I will say that there are many days where aloneness is a very, very compelling prospect. Just to not be answerable to anyone for a few hours sounds pretty blissful. But yes you’re right it is a very real concern, in so many ways our culture is set up to be navigated by partners and families that those trying to make it through on their own really do have to take all that into consideration. I hope it will never be an issue for you.

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                    • I hope so, too. I don’t want to be a burden on my friends, all of whom have families of their own.

                      I had long-term care insurance for a while but my university stopped supporting the company I had it through and it’s too expensive for me to continue it on my own.

                      I’m not close to any of my cousins and my brother has his own concerns, so….and also none of them are local.

                      I dunno. Being single and unattached is great when you’re 20 but when you’re nearing 50 and are wondering, “Who can I ask to drive me to a colonoscopy, and drive me home afterward, and sit with me while I’m out of it” and not really knowing who you feel comfortable asking, and wondering if you could just afford a night in the hospital afterward….that’s not so good.

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                        • I don’t know what drug cocktail they use for colonoscopies these days, but what they gave me for an endoscopy a few years back was the ultimate date rape mix. Combination muscle relaxant, hypnotic, and totally screw with your short-term memory. According to my wife, I was completely cooperative with the rude things they did to me — move this way, swallow that, etc. Woke up 30 minutes later and remembered absolutely none of it. From what they told me, some people “wake up” but not really, and continue the same effects for a considerable time.

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                  • I guess it depends what qualifies as “ex drama”?

                    Anyone you meet is certainly likely to have one or more exes. Whether their relationship with their ex is drama, observational comedy, pantomime, etc., will be very individual. Whatever you do, avoid the Greek tragedy situations…

                    I’ve always looked at my mom’s relationship with her first husband as a perfect example of an ongoing successful relationship that included dating, marriage, divorce, each of them remarrying with someone else (his second wife was a colleague and good friend of my mom’s for years, though I’m not sure whether their professional relationship preceded or followed either or both remarriages) and maintained friendship throughout.

                    I think theirs is a sort of character comedy – a mix of beatnik and absent-minded academic archetypes prevailing, with undercurrents of Southern bubba here and there.

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    • This week I found out that in Red Dead Redemption 2, you can beat up a random NPC/suffragette in very horrible ways apparently. Also a lot of guys are posting videos of their characters do this and saying with pride “look at me put women in their place.”

      Citation needed. Not for the claim that there are videos of players beating up the suffragette, but specifically for the claim that they’re saying, “Look at me put women in their place.”

      Because as much as feminists would like you to believe so, this isn’t about “putting women in their place.” It’s about the fight fourth-wave feminists picked with video games and men who play them, in a desperate play for relevance after prior waves accomplished essentially all of feminism’s legitimate goals. As a result, a lot of men (and women!) who play video games take a pretty dim view of fourth-wave feminists. Technically the suffragette NPC is first-wave, but if you watch the video, you can hear her spouting female-supremacist rhetoric, so she makes a decent stand-in for Jezebel-style toxic feminists, not for women in general.

      I haven’t played the game, but apparently, politics aside, this character is extremely annoying because she’s constantly yelling in the background. Note that the same user also posted a video of killing a white supremacist NPC and a bunch of Klansmen.

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  4. A million years ago, a great big beard communicated some variant of “don’t talk to me”. I mean, there were *SOME* small variants… a Santa Beard said “friendly” but a “biker” beard said “don’t talk to me”.

    It doesn’t mean that anymore. I have people come up to me in the grocery store and discuss the events of the day (who *DOES* that?). I have others just say “Nice Beard!” and continue on.

    Lady, I’m just trying to get my ingredients.

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  5. We were hosting a bunch of friends last night and one of the couples had just come from a wedding. The guy was wearing nice shoes, a collared shirt, a blazer and jeans. This couple happens to be very well-off and the guy is a successful businessperson. It’s not like the jeans were a naive mistake. He did it on purpose. So me, being me, we were discussing how the norms of dress have changed just in the last couple of years. He said he only chose jeans because it was an outdoor wedding (what monster does that in November in the midwest?) He also said he knew the couple well-enough to know that they would prefer the guests be a bit more casual. I related to him that I will be wearing basically the same outfit he chose but to a funeral home visitation this afternoon. We both agreed we would never have done either in jeans or without a necktie just a few years ago.

    Earlier this year my company officially made jeans okay for everyday dress for management all the way up to CEO. So the dresscode for this very large Fortune 500 company has now started to evolve in subtle ways. Guys are pushing the envelope with their footwear. Lots of boat shoes and hybrid dress shoes. I do believe the casual attire makes people feel more relaxed. Unfortunately the no-beard policy is still in-effect.

    All of this is to say that this is a very white collar discussion to have. When I see young men sitting in a chair in the front of our building, clearly there for an interview, I immediately judge them by their appearance. I don’t expect a suit, or even a tie, but if they have jeans I feel myself thinking a little less of them until I catch myself doing and scold myself for being ridiculous. My conscious mind knows better, but my subconscious is still stuck in a bad thought-pattern. It’s the ultimate hypocrisy to expect someone not to wear jeans to an interview when that may be the last time they ever have to do so in connection the company. I also think about how I wouldn’t hesitate showing up for an interview with a non-profit dressed down even more than I do for work because I also know that is more accepted in that world.

    The unfortunate reality is that dress is still one of our most-used forms of signaling and probably has been since the first humans stitched some hides together and threw them over their shoulders. At the same time, our challenge is in constantly evaluating our own judgments towards others and what they mean about our own prejudices.

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    • Yeah not wearing a suit often comes across as, “I don’t care enough about this job to pull up a YouTube video on how to tie a tie.”

      Which can be a bad look, figuratively and literally, at a job interview.

      But there is little that has made me feel more ludicrous than showing up in a nice new suit and a semi-competently tied tie to be interviewed by folks who are wearing jeans, t-shirts, sandals, whatever.

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        • Yeah I always wear my Docs no matter what these days.

          I have a strong compulsion not to dress like my peers, for some reason. In college this actually meant going to class in a suit and tie [1], and now that I’m in a business casual environment in corporate America, that means IT casual.[2,3]

          [1] I used to tie ties much better than competently.

          [2] Black jeans or cargo pants, plain black T, Docs. The first day I moved into a new office, one of my new neighbors took one look at me and said, “Finally someone is here to fix the printer!”

          [3] I’m an extrovert, but a very shy one, which is an annoying combination, and this is a good way to get people to want to talk to me. One of the reasons I started smoking back in the day was it always gave an excuse to talk to people, or have them talk to you. Maybe I should grow a beard like .

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        • When I moved to Denver it was to take a job in a giant telecom company’s new technology organization. They had been filling the org chart from the top down and I was among the early non-management staff. Management were suit-and-tie people, I wore my standard jeans, running shoes, and pressed button-down broadcloth dress shirt with sleeves rolled up a couple of turns. I found out later that the department head was unhappy about my attire, but before he spoke to me about it he came looking for me to get a technical question answered me and found me on my back under an equipment bench in the lab area fixing a cabling issue. Word got passed that jeans and a shirt with a collar was acceptable attire for the tech people (unless they were meeting with outside managers above a certain level).

          When I worked for the state legislature, coat-and-tie was mandatory. It wasn’t a problem — I can tie a tie so it’s symmetric (when I see guys with lopsided tie knots I’m always tempted to say, “Can we have a lesson on how to tie a tie properly?”) and if the clothes fit they’re comfortable. Women didn’t have to wear ties, but did have to wear a nice blouse and coat.

          It’s just a costume. If the job’s not worth enough to wear the required costuming, get a different job.

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      • Formal and/or work clothing is also geographic. The West Coast is a lot more casual than the Midwest or Northeast.

        I have worked at law firms on the West Coast where they didn’t care if you wore jeans and a t-shirt. You needed to be court ready though. There are big corporate defense firms on the West Coast that will laugh at anyone who wears beyond that (Hi Quinn Emmanuel)

        On the other hand, some of my defense firms are from the Plains/Midwest and those lawyers will wear suit and tie when conducting deposition in an airport hotel conference room.

        Lots of East Coast firms still think Jeans Friday is a bridge too far.

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    • Ya know, I work from home and am self-employed. So, I often wear jeans, but that is due to spending a chunk of my time doing handy-man activities necessary for keeping up a historic house. Stripping old varnish, rewiring, basic and not so basic plumbing, etc. But suits, when they fit right, are so comfortable! Why would people try to get away from that? Pockets to put things in that are in the right place, a nice light coat, warm fabrics for winter and cool fabrics for summer, getting to look both dignified and dashing. The list goes on.

      I am befuddled.

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      • I work for a logistics company and I’m in the operation for Quality walks several days per week. Our company culture is that if there is something that needs to be done while I am there, I help out for a few minutes. Last week.I spent 30 minutes sweeping an area with a dust mop to prep for a new layout. There’s a lot of rubbing against crates and other things with sharp edges. A suit wouldn’t last 2 days.

        With that said, I have several pairs of synthetic golf pants that pass for khakis and that is my summer attire. I shift to jeans in the fall and wear those until April or so.

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        • Oh, I understand. I spent my time in the trenches of logistics, often running out to the warehouse or dock to ensure a timely process. And I wasn’t specifically thinking of you, but that suits, in general, are comfortable. As long as there are no tasseled loafers involved. They just look silly.

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  6. It’s not that “good looking” or “rich people” can get away with it, it is that “cool people” can get away with it, for certain values of it. Whether that is a neckbeard or bohemian clothing or fashionable hair or any other hip and trendy style. And as those styles filter down from the cool to the rich to the middle-class to the poor, the coolness factor drops proportionally. And thus you have class markers.

    I generally don’t care how I dress. Well, that isn’t quite true. I generally don’t care how others perceive my dressing or style. I buy and wear things that I find comfortable and attractive. Which is mostly work wear; Dickies, Carhartt, Redwings. Unless I am on a business trip, and then I make an attempt to dress appropriately. But as my clients are antique dealers, who have a tendency to dress eccentrically themselves, I am not too worried.

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  7. There’s something I need to tell you all:

    I sport a neckbeard. I’ve had it for a couple of years now. I like how it looks.

    There, I said it.

    I’ve had a beard almost uninterruptedly since grad school (*). That’s more than half my life. Though it’s quite dense and heavy, and it grows really fast, it’s always been a well groomed beard, trimmed two or three times a week to 1/4” (#2 blade).

    Lately, my bead has gone salt and pepper (I wish, there’s lots of salt and not that much pepper) while my head hair it’s still fairly dark (so I tell to myself). But my neck hair still grows very dark. Hence, since about two years ago, the neckbeard, which increases the ratio of pepper to salt dramatically.

    Of course, class allows me to be fairly unconventional in other grooming matters. I rarely use socks (even in winter), and driving shoes (NOT boat shoes, for goodness sake, don’t be a slob) represent a majority of my office footwear. I wear jeans whenever I don’t have meetings, and sometimes when I do have one, with a nice sport jacket on (I have a raspberry colored one, among others).

    All of which, by the way, perhaps makes me a slob in the USA where I live, but it also makes me a well dressed Southern European, which is what I was born.

    (*) Earlier this year, I shaved the beard because I felt the salt and pepper look made me look old. After three months I grew it, and the neckbeard, back (takes a week). A colleague in a video conference told me when he saw it: “I see the beard is back. Very good decision”. My neighbor told me after she saw me “The beard makes you look younger, don’t shave it again”

    Long live the neckbeard

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  8. The entire neckbeard phenomenon might be because women are freer to express their physical attractive preferences for men. In the past, women were heavily socially conditioned to not comment on whether they found a man to be hot or not beyond maybe a man’s height because putting down short men benefited tall men to. Men were free to express their disdain for women they found less than physically perfect. Now women are free to comment and do so.

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    • Yep. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If guys are free to make disparaging comments about a woman who doesn’t shave her legs (or armpits – I can’t tell you what a pain it is to shave those!), then women are free to make the same sort of comments about men who don’t bother shaving their necks/grooming their beards.

      Now personally I like beards and honestly I never would have called what Amell has a ‘neckbeard’ since the beard on his face is nicely trimmed and what’s on his neck is barely more than a bit of scruff. When I think ‘neckbeard’, I think of long and poorly (if at all) trimmed. It’s not a matter of fuzz on a guy’s neck but of a lack of basic grooming.

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      • I wouldn’t call what Amell has in the photo above a ‘beard’ at all, personally. What’s on his face is a bit of scruff, what’s on his neck is slightly shorter scruff. He looks like he decided to grow a beard at some point in the last two weeks, probably in time to have a beard by Christmas unless his facial hair grows really slowly.

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        • Yep. It reminds me of the Miami Vice scruffy look that was popular when I was younger, except that Amell seems to have grown something slightly closer to a mustache and goatee. To me it looks like he had a mustache/goatee and is trying to grow a real beard, but without much success.

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          • Scruff on the face and scruff on the neck generally elicit different reactions, in my experience. Now than a few pictures that come up googling the term could be described as “scruff of the neck” but is described as “neckbeard”

            The Amell picture isn’t the best ones of him. It was just copyright cleared when I needed one. The Wikipedia picture is more scruffy.

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  9. Once a friend of mine, a woman, described some men to me as “sketchy-looking”. This seems related to “neckbeard”, which she never uses. But it feels the same to me. There’s an element of class slur in “neckbeard”, an implication of sexual unfitness which is, to my mind, always inappropriate.

    Obviously, if you are considering whether to have sex with someone (and the way humans are put together, that consideration passes most of our minds on a regular basis), you’re making judgements about their fitness for that activity. Which is fine, and there’s no force on earth that can stop that, I think.

    But then when you actualize it, perhaps with little self-awareness, and form character judgements based on it, I think you’re off the rails a bit. I never call people “neckbeards”, I’ve known too many of them who were great people who had my back. I know a number of men who seem to be considered unsuitable for hetero relationships whom I love dearly. Some of them have neckbeards.

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    • There is a whole thing related to this, which is that none of us like to believe that we are irrational, superficial, or anything like that. Instead of becoming completely rational and deep – which we couldn’t do anyway because it’s impossible – we try to give our feels a rational and non-superficial basis. Which is understandable, but often unfair.

      Perhaps the most obvious example of this is when it comes to fatness. A lot of people try to give it a moral dimension (“It’s about how they feel about themselves, not how they look” or “It’s about health, not how they look”) that in my mind end up actually compounding the injustice by saying not only are they unattractive but they are, in ways more substantive and less superstitious, inferior. (There are some people who are concerned about health. I’m not talking about them. They’re actually not all that easy to distinguish, in my experience.)

      To some extent, I think it’s best to simply acknowledge that the dating world is unfair and take note of the ways we contribute to that unfairness. I mean, try not to be too superficial! But recognize that’s the way of the world. Others don’t owe you what you aren’t willing to give people you find unattractive, and not giving it to you doesn’t make them bad people.

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      • The problem with noting that the dating world is unfair is that nobody really wants to do it or take responsibility for it. How many sex education teachers really want to say to students that some of you will have the time of your life and others will know nothing but misery and loneliness? I gather not that many. People really want to portray romance and sex as these wonderful things open to everybody. They don’t want to be called out when their dazzling images turn out not to be true.

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    • On Facebook, a friend of mine reported that she saw a man in his forties wearing gloves and immediately thought serial killer. Many of the other woman agreed. I pointed out that the gloves might be because he has some injury or skin condition on his hands that he is trying to conceal. My friend conceded that this is plausible and she felt a bit guilty for thinking serial killer. Any man who slightly registers on the creepy scale, even if there might be some good reason for the creepiness, gets castigated. It is seen as appropriate to shun him.

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      • To be fair, ‘creepiness’ is usually a vibe that comes across for more than one reason even if a single thing like gloves is what stands out in a woman’s mind. Given the potential danger from men (that women are repeatedly told *they* are responsible for identifying and avoiding), giving guys who seem ‘creepy’ a wide berth is basically a survival instinct.

        Like a lot of instincts it can be wrong, but for woman who has had a friend/relative/acquaintance who was assaulted (which would be 99% of us) following your gut on that falls into ‘better safe than sorry’.

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          • You don’t need to like it. After all, how likely are you to be assaulted by a date or by just a random woman?

            But if it makes you feel any better, women don’t like it either. Most of us would greatly prefer to not have to always err on the side of caution. It would be great to feel safe enough to give the guy with gloves and slightly off vibe a chance, but that’s not the reality we live in.

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            • Its an emotional thing. I am not what you would call generically attractive to women. I don’t fit any of the common molds of men presented as desirable in media aimed at women. I’m not the clean cut All American Boy type, I’m not the bad boy, and I’m most definitely not the man in uniform. It seems my choices are to be desexualized or be a creep. Its kind of alienating.

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              • It’s alienating for women (and femmes of all sorts) to have to categorize men into safe and unsafe categories as well. I disagree with your evaluation of what the categories are, but regardless, treating so many people as a possible “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is quite exhausting and enmiserating for the people doing it, not just the people who are being treated that way even though they aren’t wolves.

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              • Maybe focus less on the idea that you have to be in some defined media-approved category to have any hope of having a relationship?

                Look, I understand. There are plenty of women who feel the same way, because frankly very few of us fit what is considered ‘generically attractive’ in terms of what’s presented in the media aimed at men. I mean, I’m not the Girl Next Door or the Sex Kitten or the Perky Cheerleader. I’m a geeky math/science nerd who loves martial arts – literally the polar opposite of everything that was considered feminine and desirable especially when I was younger (and now I’m over 50, so basically invisible to men). Add to that that the one category I truly fit is ‘plain and tall’ and one would expect that I’d be heading to a lifetime alone.

                But I’m not.

                Why? Because I met and fell in love with a guy who is not the clean cut All American Boy type, not the bad boy, and definitely not the man in uniform. (Now I personally think he’s handsome, but he looks a bit like Leonard Nimoy so that may be my tween geek-girl crush on Mr Spock coming into play ;) ). However the important part is that he’s a fellow somewhat geeky engineer who by some miracle liked the idea of woman who can discuss scifi books and tech ideas, and didn’t care that I look nothing like a supermodel and have almost no domestic talent.

                Look around you. I know a lot of married couples in my little suburb. Most of them are pretty unremarkable looking folks, and were pretty average looking even in their wedding photos. Generically attractive to the opposite sex these folks are not. And yet they found each other, fell in love and have happy lives together. There is *a lot* of ground between what’s presented in the media as attractive vs desexualized or creep, and it’s the ground where most people actually connect.

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              • I know dozens of people who are nowhere near that type and all have been or are in some form of relationship very recently. Hell, I highly doubt most of the people on this site fall into these three camps and most of the people here are in relationships, unless Tod Kelly and Jaybird are secretly leather jacket wearing tough guys or looked like Chris Pine or whomever as 20-somethings.

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              • There are lots of women out there like me who prefer nerdish guys or geeks or blue collar guys or hipsters or country boys or any number of less prominent archetypes than the Big Three. I don’t like bad boys or men in uniform or All American boys at all – I’d take literally any other archetype over any of those things. Like, they actively put me off in many cases.

                I don’t think you have to be desexualized if you don’t fit a mold. U just have to find the people who like the thing that you are and roll with that.

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  10. I don’t get the whole beard thing these days. Sure, grow one if you can, but keep it trimmed. If it’s not full get rid of it, because it looks like hell.

    I work for a wedding photography company, and the way some grooms look is just appalling. It’s like personal hygiene has gone out of style.

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    • I once saw a photo of a friend of mines father from back in the seventies. Crimany, the amount of hair, on his head, face, bursting out of his shirt. Appalling the lack of grooming those kids had!

      Harrumph! and Double Harrumph!

      (My point is that youth culture is often at odds with those who have gone before. If you look at men’s hair on the back of the head, you can see a major difference between, for lack of better terms, baby boomers and gen-x. The BB’s tend to leave the back full, over the collar if you will. Gen-x men tend to have the back trimmed up with a set of clippers. Neither is wrong, just a reflection of the period’s culture.

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      • The Baby Boomers were rebelling from the long period of time when men really didn’t have much choice in how they wore their hair. From around the late 19th century to the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan, there was a variety of the same haircut on nearly all men.

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      • Oh, I’m definitely not anti-beard. I’m actually kind of fascinated by how the House of David look has taken over baseball. But, c’mon guys, don’t think that your scraggly, patchy facial hair is attractive. It just isn’t.

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