Looking Good

Around the age of ten or eleven, I set out to develop a hairstyle.  I stood in front of the mirror with some hairspray and a comb, and started pushing my hair around until it looked about how I wanted it to.  It was a cool hairstyle, at least when looking straight forward into the mirror.  But as I walked around with it, I would occasionally catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror from a different angle– maybe from a side, or looking a little bit down on the top of my head.  I realized that from those angles, I didn’t like how my hair looked at all.  Sometimes it was even obvious that the hair on the back of my head was sticking out all over.  But I never did anything about that.  At some point along the way I simply concluded that it was unrealistic to expect that one’s hair should look good from all angles, so there must be a tacit understanding that people will always judge the hair of others only when looking straight at their faces.


My son Rex is with me on this one, right Rex?

That was the start of a guiding philosophy for me. Soon, when ironing shirts, I concluded that no one would ever be assessing my appearance from the back.  Thus, I went to junior high school many, many days with a button-up shirt nicely pressed on the collar, sleeves, and front panels, but the entire back section wrinkled as tree bark. Maybe I just thought no one would know who I was from back there, or that someone’s back is not really a part of who they are.  Regardless, I spent most of my youth a polished, crisply preppy kid from up front, and a bedraggled mess from behind.  I think people respected that.  And when I talked to girls, they always got the best looking side.

wrinkled shirt

This might have been what it looked like, though we’ll never know, because no one ever looked at it.

It was also difficult for me to believe that people really expected accessories to contribute to one’s personal presentation.  My choices in things like coats, belts, and shoes were always purely functional.  Yes, I wanted to look good, but only to reasonable people.  And reasonable people evaluate your good looks by waiting for you to take off your coat, standing directly in front of you, and evaluating the color, crispness, and tuck of your shirt, and the lay of your bangs.  Everything else, I believed, was kind of backstage stuff that everyone agreed was not part of the show.

I was also surprised in college to hear Davis apply a specific classification to the kinds of coats worn by me and some of my less-fashionable friends.  He said we all wore coats that were drab, out of style, and formless, as if coats were meant to do anything besides warm the wearer.  What Davis said that day didn’t change my opinion of how things ought to be.  I still believe people should only judge attractiveness based on the equivalent of a cropped, single-angle shot from about the beltline to the forehead.  But since then I have had to concede that on this matter there is a wide gulf between how people believe ought to behave, and how they really do.  Judging me for the look of my shoes.  Or my back.  Or my coat or my hair or my car or my pants.  People can be ridiculous, right?

So now I iron the backs of my shirts, and I polish my shoes, and I even check the back of my hair sometimes, like a good sheep would.  Being enlightened feels more righteous, but it takes a lot of energy, so I’ll join the rest of you in your silly little games.  It still makes me mad though, when ironing takes me twice as long as it did back in junior high.

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14 Responses to Looking Good

  1. Andrea W. says:

    For some reason I find your continued contempt and astonishment with the rules of fashion so funny as well as endearing. I also think it is a rare person who looks back and yearns to think like they did in Jr. High. Oh, and I LOVE that pic. of Rex.

  2. Tyler says:

    I find it absolutely amazing that you knew how to work an iron in junior high! I thought I was a pretty “aesthetically prepared” individual when I was younger as well, but I never more than glimpsed at an iron as an object of curiosity and danger, unless you needed to wax your skis. If this were polled globally, I am cetain that you might be in the elite / in need of psychotherapy category. I totally dig the reminiscing that goes on between you and your brothers. Very funny, and good memories you all have.

  3. Davis says:

    I think we should take this a step further and mandate that people’s perception of what you look like should be determined by what YOU look like to YOURSELF in the mirror.

  4. Christian says:

    When I think of the Skutch (Ryan’s group of friends) at BYU I think of a combination of old Mervyn’s coats with new heavily zoobie gear like braided leather belts with dockers and a button up long-sleeve shirt with buttons under the collar from Eddie Bower that your grandma got yourfor your birthday, topped off with a sensible pair of Mr. Mac tracting shoes left over from the mission.

  5. Wade says:

    “When I think of the Skutch (Ryan’s group of friends) at BYU I think of a killer combination of old Mervyn’s coats with new heavily zoobie gear like braided leather belts with dockers and a button up long-sleeve shirt with buttons under the collar from Eddie Bower that your grandma got your for your birthday, topped off with a sensible pair of Mr. Mac tracting shoes left over from the mission.”

    I’ll take that as a compliment.

  6. Davis says:

    Wade, there’s an invisible asterisk there that says, “With the exception of Wade and Greg, duh.”

  7. Christian says:

    Ok, let’s be honest here. I’ve boiled down my memories and realize I’m basing this all on 1. What Ry dressed like, and 2. Maybe seeing the attire of one other Skutch one time (I’m big on anonymity these days). This isn’t a good blog to read for people who are big on facts.

  8. Ryan says:

    Kook, did our 1998 college dress satisfy your 2004 college fashion standards? No. Did our 1998 college dress satisfy 1998 college fashion standards? Arguably. From the front.

    (And Mervyn’s coats? Yes. Braided belts? Never).

  9. Wade says:

    Where did the rest of your post go, Christian?

  10. Christian says:

    My internet connection is bad.

  11. Massey says:

    So braided belts aside, I actually agree with Kook’s analysis of the Skutch’s fashion sense (or lack thereof) in college. What is really ironic is as bad as we dressed, we all seemed to ridicule Ryan Bell in particular for his poor taste in clothes. I remember all of us, including Norm (yes the same one that wore thick-stripped pink/blue/turquoise and paisley polo shirts) laughing at Bell in his tapered jeans and sock/teva combination. The real irony is that tapered jeans are extremely fashionable now and Erin just told me that the sock/open-toed-shoe look currently is quite trendy. The joke was on us I suppose. Who knew Ryan was just a forward thinker when it came to fashion? He certainly didn’t.

    Also if there is anyone of the all-business-in-the-front and all-party-in-the-back mentality, it is our own Ryan Bell. His mom wouldn’t let him go the mullett route like the rest of us, so he had to compensate somehow.

  12. Kerstin says:

    Davis I would like to challenge you on Wade’s asterisk. I remember with clarity a purple and turquoise ski coat I had to secretly give away after we were married. And also a gold pair of pleated corduroy pants and some elastic-less tube socks that almost caused the demise of our relationship.

  13. Danica says:

    I love thinking about you typing into Google Images: “Picture of the back of a wrinkled shirt.” Great post. I love to pretend people don’t judge me by what I wear too. But I know they probably do. Dude, Mervyns…brings me back.

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