Where would Donald Trump be without his side-swept hairstyle? Would he still project that indefinable air of power, wealth and ruthlessness? What if we glimpsed sight of him without his expensive business suit? Without any clothes at all? How would people respond to him?
Because appearance has such a pervasive effect on our judgments about people, I wonder if nudity would level the playing field, and the mechanic down the street, unclothed, would be able to persuade us to invest in his financial schemes? Could toplessness level the playing field between the sexes, as per the “free the nipple” movement. Or would we then simply swap one exterior criterion for another equally erroneous, cozying up to the man or woman with the better physical fitness?
Physical appearance can be terribly misleading–think of the gorgeous guy who turns out to be a wife beater or the perfect model as shallow as a wading pool. Still studies show correlations between attractiveness and popularity, job status, income level, promotional opportunities on the job, sentences for crimes, and dates to the prom. Physical appearance includes points like fashion sense, hair, makeup, and a person’s sensitivity to cultural trends.
What’s considered “attractive” varies with year, social class, age, and, I hope, native intelligence and taste. Conformity can never be over-rated. If we look too weird, out of place, others don’t find us attractive.
Take a gander at any major slick magazine, Hollywood event, or television news personalities. The people, especially the women, look nearly identical. With a few notable exceptions, such as Jared Leto or Lady Gaga, who choose to look different simply to be different, hair styles and make up could be from a mold. The long flowing curls, the heavily shadowed eyes and butterfly eyelashes, the fluid yet molded clothing.
I may be especially sensitive to appearance because l’m unusually short, even for a woman. Years of experience in conversations conducted literally over my head taught me to level the playing field of height by engaging in discussions only when seated. Other factors observed or experienced–pricey clothing, disabilities, accents, and a multitude of others–got me considering the “naturalist” angle. Why should a plain Jane’s idea for an invention be less salable than the same concept when pitched by a thin blonde model?
Granted, nudity would be an extreme solution to obtain equality. But dedicated nudists swear the practice makes people focus, so to speak, on personalities and character traits. It strips away the superficial. It would enable us to concentrate on ideas, not subtle cues to status.
I’ve now convinced myself this is a bad idea. We’d just substitute good looks and excellent builds for other physical trappings. Plus we’d never surrender makeup and haircuts, or the ability to sculpt our bodies through surgery. The biggest challenge, however, would be where to carry our mobile phones, tablets, tissues, keys, and condoms.