Would we be more honest with one another if we walked around naked or just look weird with our makeup and hair styles and body sculpting?

statueWhere 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.

I’d Tip My Wig to You, But I Haven’t Got a Wig

eliseMore and more people seem to be wearing hairpieces or wigs. Or maybe more and more people are wearing poorly made wigs. Walking out of a building today, I spotted a man with an obvious hairpiece. The piece was longish, all the same length (like a Dutch boy bob), and dark; but I spotted gray hair underneath where the hairpiece tilted a bit. I know other people with wigs obvious to the passerby. These folks must feel the accessory improves their looks.

But I wonder why someone would go to the trouble of buying a hairpiece that’s ill-shaped, poorly fitted, and whose color is at odds with the hard-earned traceries of time on the their faces.

Must be the wide-spread belief that gray or white hair makes you look older. Are wig-wearers so fearful of growing old—or looking old—that they’ll do anything to avoid it? Then why not dye it? Eleven percent of men and 55% of women color their hair, and you can be sure they’re not choosing gray.

Another option for changing styles are hair extensions, favored by public figures like Britney Spears, and not infrequently bedraggled or limp, and their close cousins, hair weaves. These usually are selected for the “beauty” they supposedly convey on the wearer.

Of course, there are lots of reasons to wear wigs that seem more legitimate than mere appearance: religious, health, diseases. But still the wearers are wearing wigs because they can’t or won’t tolerate nature’s dictates.

I have sufficient reason to participate. A young friend of mine guessed my age to be greater than my older sister’s, partly because my hair’s gray. But excuse me from the group. If I were really intent on fighting time, I’d do something about my hair; but I’m too lazy and too cheap and too devoted to simple comfort.

Not that there’s anything wrong with wearing artificial locks or coloring hair. Humanity has been doing it for millennia. If you have an inclination in that direction, go for it. However, I come down on the side of Chris Rock, whose documentary film “Good Hair” is a close look at black culture and the influence of society on young African-American girls. Natural hair is popularly believed to be unattractive, but Chris feels, and I agree, that natural hair tends to be a healthier, easier, more self-confident choice.

Plus, unlike wigs, natural hair won’t slip down over your forehead.