To shave, or not to shave?

Every November, I grow a moustache for Movember – the annual event to raise money awareness for men’s health.

I’ve found, probably as a fact of getting old, my moustache gets better every year; better in the sense of being fuller and more well covered.

This year, I opted for a ‘Trucker’.

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Toward the end of the month – in an impulsive moment, I thought ‘Ah hah! You know what would suit this look? – An earring!’. I went out and bought a thick earing to put my ear that I’d had pierced and stretched more than ten years ago.

The resulting look was this:

 

Now – charming smile aside, this look is a bit non-conformist and provocative. It has a theme of villainy (a pirate was most common term used), which was part of the fun of doing it in the first place.

When I was younger, I very much did do the ‘non-conforming expression of personal identity’ thing. Here’s an example:

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Since then – my philosophy has more been ‘Having a neutral look opens more doors’.

A non-conforming look can serve as a useful social signal to others with your values; there’s an easy visual identifier, you know that those are ‘your people’.

But this can exclude you from other people who you might otherwise get on well with, when they have to instantly deal with the discomfort, or their ingrained biases,  caused by your unconventional appearance. If a man looking like a pirate knocked on your door asking for directions, the first thing you might think is that he’s actually casing your place for gold and plunder.

Also – a non-conventional dress sense is a fairly superficial expression of values; while it’s probably safe to reason that someone with facial piercings and tattoos is more likely to be gay friendly and otherwise tolerant – a better gauge on this kind of thing would be actually having a conversation with them.

Here’s what I’m currently looking like:

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This image demonstrates the concern I have – my look is a bit scary.

There’s another reason to consider shaving, or not. Comfort.

The moustache is uncomfortable at times, and I find myself stroking it a bit.

Shaving can also be uncomfortable too; I’m not the best at shaving and I often give myself razor burn. I’m typically most comfortable about three days after shaving with a bit of stubble. A few days after that it starts getting itchy and uncomfortable.

But I what I’ve found, is that even though there are good reasons to shave – there’s an perhaps egotistical resistance to it. I’m aware that a big part of my reason to shave is social conformity – and conceding to social conformity feels like a weakness.

I ended up shaving. Here’s what I look like now.

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The earring is still there. I need to go to someone with a pair of reversible pliers to take it out.

I am considering still having an earring, but a smaller one. One that says ‘a bit original and interested in design, but not outrageous’.

If I were a girl, how would I dress?

As a fun thought experiment, I sometimes wonder what I’d be like if I were a girl.

Firstly, I imagine that if I were a girl I’d have big boobs, but this is probably more  a projection of my own preferences, and my own assessment of my attractiveness, than any serious consideration of my genetic make up.

One way we can assess both male and female dress sense would be to put it on a scale of ‘low effort’ to ‘high effort’. Here we can fairly objectively define effort as some kind of function of time and money – time including time spent grooming and applying making, time spent picking out clothes, observing fashion (for example watching fashion shows), spent shopping and talking to friends about fashion or clothing choices, and money including money spent on clothing, grooming products and make up, or haircuts.

Here we could fit all people on this scale, and for both men and women, it would fit some kind of bell shaped standard distribution.

The men’s bell curve would be lower down the scale than the women’s, as well as being  narrower than the women’s.

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If we generalise and consider what the general grooming and dress habits of what we imagine the average man to be like, it would be something like:

  • Shave 2-5 times a week using disposable razor and aerosol shaving cream from the super market.
  • Shampoos hair 1-2 times a week.
  • Hair cut 4-10 times a year at $20 a pop.
  • Combs hair in the morning, perhaps applies product.
  • Buys clothes four times a year, from mid-low end stores.

There are some deviations on this average, that we would still consider the guy to be a ‘fairly average’ guy.

For example he perhaps:

  • Applies cologne every day.
  • Uses moisturisers and face creams.
  • Uses double edge/speciality shaving gear.
  • Has his hair coloured.
  • Doesn’t shave and has a beard.
  • Shaves his legs.
  • Waxes his chest.
  • Buys expensive suits.

The ‘average woman’ on the other hand has a much broader range what we’d consider normal grooming activity.

Now I should offer the immediate caveat here that my not being woman means I could be totally wrong about frequency of some of these activities.

For example she perhaps:

  • Shampoos her hair 2-5 times a week.
  • Applies make up everyday or not at all.
  • Plucks her eyebrows not at all/fortnightly/sees a beautician to have them threaded.
  • Shaves her legs 2-3 times a week.
  • Shaves her armpits 2-3 time a week.
  • Has her hair cut/done 4-6 times a year at $100-200 a pop
  • Owns sensible shoes, or several pairs of $300 shoes
  • Buys clothes from op shops, or regularly spends $150+ on dresses, etc.

The important thing to highlight here, is that women are more likely to spend both more money, and more time on grooming.

At the same time there’s a wider range of what’s socially conventional in terms of female grooming habits.

For example, a woman can, or can not, wear eye makeup and lipstick, and remain in the realm of ‘socially conventional’. Whereas a guy using those grooming techniques makes him socially unconventional.

There’s also a wider range of clothing woman can wear – for example in an office women can wear dresses, skirt and blouse, a pant suit, pants and a blouse, pants and a skivvy and these are all conventional office attire. The shoes can be high heeled, flat, open, closed or boots.

The wider range of acceptable office attire might lead to more time being spent on a wardrobe and choosing outfits.

Men’s office attire is a lot more limited – it tends to be black or grey pants, and collared long sleeve or short sleeve shirt, and perhaps a tie. The shoes tend to be black dress shoes, or sneakers can be acceptable depending on the office. Unless it’s a very casual office, open shoes are out.

There seems to be a higher minimum standard of grooming for women, for them to remain in the socially acceptable range. For example, while I know plenty of women who don’t shave their underarms, this is seen as socially unconventional and will draw remarks. The same goes for shaving legs.

The best analogy for men – would be beards – which are seen as a little unconventional, though have been very popular in the last decade, and a more seen as a matter of preference than social convention.

So if we were to transmute my current grooming habits to a woman’s – it makes sense that there would be corresponding increase in the effort spent on grooming.

There are specific questions to ask – Would I wear eye make up? Would I spend $200 on a hair cut?

Regarding eye make up – I imagine I would! Given that I notice other woman’s eye make up already, and generally think it looks attractive and fun, I imagine if I would probably experiment with it.

On the other hand, it does seem like a lot of effort, often it seems that I don’t have enough time in the morning anyway – I’m not sure I’d have the inclination to do it every morning.