By Emma Russel
The Tower (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)
As Connor Brannagan ’17 sat in the empty library, people began to file in. They questioned him on whether or not they’d see him at the gym that day.
Brannagan said he is a regular at the South weight room and the Neighborhood Club, going to the gym about 5-6 times a week from, and then depending on if he goes to the Neighborhood Club after that, for up to three hours.
Going into the idea of boys caring about their physical appearance, Social worker Doug Roby said that boys feel the same pressures as girls regarding their appearances, acne playing one of the biggest roles.
“With both sexes, at this age, acne can be a significant issue, and that is something that is more of a genetic thing,” Roby said. “Hygiene is part of it. You can have significant acne issues and have awesome hygiene.”
According to Brannagan, boys care about their appearance, just not as much as girls do.
Roby agrees to some extent, concluding that boys do care about appearances, just not about the same things. Roby said for boys, their vanity is more about their “buffness” and how often they workout.
“For guys it’s more physical ‘manliness,’” Roby said. “Number one for, ‘If I’m athletic’ that is for the purpose, but it’s also for the appearance. So it serves two purposes.’”
According to Reuben Simpson ’15, there are the trendsetters and then there are the guys that just don’t care.
“I feel like boys don’t care (about their appearance),” Simpson said. “They’re very nonchalant. I mean you have a few boys that are into how they look. They want to be trend-setters, but then you’ve got guys like me and some athletes who just want to be comfortable with themselves, that don’t really care.”
These pressures come from images of fit men in the windows of stores or throughout all of media. These posters provide the idea of what a guy should ideally look like, when most of the time it is unrealistic. However, Doug Wojciechowski, Executive Creative Director at Embark Digital, said that most companies are now trying to steer away from these idealistic images. For instance, more high end athletic sportswear companies are now shooting for a more authentic look.
“The interesting thing about the high end sportswear companies is that their whole brand identity is about being authentic so, there isn’t retouching going on on the body. Which is really cool, because when I work with the people that I’m shooting I try to work out ways that they look great and that they look like they are proud to be themselves,” he said.
Companies may seem to diabolically plant these idealistic pictures as misleading traps, but Wojciechowski said that it isn’t much like that.
“I think the trends are changing a little bit to include ‘less fit’ bodies,” Wojciechowski said. “In advertising I’ve seen a trend lately, and it’s been a pretty drastic push in that direction, probably as a reaction to the over retouched pictures and too thin of models in general.”
Despite these changes, Roby said that advertising can still promote the idea that boys must look a certain way to do this or that. This often gives a pressure to stay fit or maintain a trendy look.
“In terms of, ‘is that what I need to be to have a girlfriend or to be thought of as a stud’ or, ‘is that how I need to present myself to get into this college, or to get a good job.’” Roby said. “For sure it impacts males. They’re using different things in terms of what they’re advertising, but I think sports are a major thing, because that’s what we like to do.”
For Simpson, though, church and his family play the biggest roles in how he presents himself to the world.
“For me my religion builds me,” he said. “I have good morals for it. You don’t see me going around hurting people. It makes me a good person, and if I didn’t have it, I don’t know where I’d be. (My parents) raised me for so long, and then they have expectations for me, and I want to achieve those.”
The source of pressure for many when on a sports team is they must uphold the idea of what an active person should look like. With Simpson having been the team captain of the varsity football team, and now moving onto college sports, he said he feels pushed to keep working out in order to maintain his strength and appearance.
Simpson said, “The skill pressure with how hard you train. Sometimes you even take time off of your academics and social life, because you’re so pressured and focused on, ‘I got to get this.’ And sometimes the sacrifice part is what separates better athletes from the other athletes.”
Brannagan explained how working out has become one of his main priorities. He went on to say that by pushing the limits in working out it improves him mentally and physically.
Roby said that with the pressure of having to look a certain way in terms of working out, athletes may turn to taking supplements and other unhealthy methods.
“The whole strength thing, that’s dealing with supplements, ‘how can I be better?’ So it’s more enhancement and maybe the pressure is to be the best athlete verses presentation. That has less to do with looks, if that’s what my goal is, because there are a lot of supplements that can cause significant acne problems,” Roby said.
Roby said the pressure from society is all based off of self-confidence. The more you have, the better off you are.
He said, “The key is being comfortable with who you are.”
There are people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who freely wore things like a plain black shirt and jeans because they felt the way they presented themselves should not be the focal point, Wojciechowski said. They wanted people to focus on them following their dreams, not the way they dressed, and by choosing the more important one they achieved their goals, he said.
Wojciechowski’s main point is to choose what is important to you and pursue that.
“The other trend that I particularly like, that I think is really intriguing, and that I feel that sometimes I gravitate toward and that creative people in general gravitate toward is one aspect of wearing black.,” he said. “It’s easy. It’s safe, and you don’t have to think about it. I’m sure people see that, as well, and get inspired by that.”
Wojciechowski also said people need to pick their battles, whether it’s focusing on their outfit choices daily or steering straight towards achieving their goals and dreams.
“It’s being discussed now as almost a technique in life to think about the things in life that are more important to you” Wojciechowski said,“and make that decision once, and then you focus on bigger things.”