Danger and Play: Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about the sartorial difference between Danger and Play. These are two elements that will contrast in a wardrobe and usually Play will dominate over Danger if you are trying to mix the two.

Today I’m going to talk about how both of these elements are used to ideally dress a man compared to a woman.

Men and women are both benefitted by appearing better through things like clothing, working out, and eating right. However, a man should seek to look better for different reasons than a woman as that improved aesthetic is designed to communicate two entirely different things.

Women dress better to be more visually appealing and more sexual. Men dress better to convey more power and demand more respect.

Think about why certain articles of clothing or things like makeup look great on a woman and are silly on a man. High heels? There’s nothing powerful or dangerous about those from a male perspective. They communicate a daintiness or even a sultriness but never a sense of power. You can’t run, hunt, or fight in a pair of heels.

Your ultimate goal in improving your wardrobe is should not be to improve your visual appeal but your visual power. That’s not to say that visual appeal doesn’t matter, just that it’s not as important as power.

For women visual appeal > visual power

For men visual power > visual appeal

Both men and women will arguably be better off with an element of both, but the priorities are different.

This corresponds with the balance between Danger and Play in that, a man who communicates Danger in his look is really communicating power. However, a masculine man who communicates Play is also communicating power.

The difference between the two is direct communication vs indirect.

We can look at it like this. A man who’s standing with a gun in your face is directly communicating power. His actions are expressly showing you the power he wields and his intentions. However, a man who unflinchingly stares back at the man with the gun in his hand is also communicating power. The only difference is that his communication is more indirect in that it is a refusal to submit to the direct communication of the first man. Both are powerful, both communicate that effectively, but both do so through different means.

Neither method of communication is good or bad. Both are effective depending on the type of man, and this same principle applies to the way men dress. This is why the preppy, Ivy-league student in his bright colors, tight fits, and outlandish cuts can still come across as masculine. If he has the right frame, his clothing will communicate that he refuses to flinch to the Danger of men around him. He can wear loud, attention-seeking clothes because he has the power to effectively handle all the extra attention his clothing will bring. It’s the indirect communication of a dare that makes a Play-based wardrobe still effective in communicating masculinity.

The key to this is having the proper frame. As noted above, women dress well primarily to increase their visual appeal. Gay men will do the same because men are more attracted to visual cues and they are wanting to attract other men through their own visual appeal. This is also why a lot of straight men are uncomfortable with the idea of dressing better. They confuse visual appeal with visual power and immediately think that dressing better equates to them looking gay. But, two men can be built the same, wear the same clothing, and communicate entirely different things through other mannerisms and their overall frame of mind. The clothing is just a tool that can be used to communicate visual appeal, visual power, or a complete lack of both.

Read Part 3

Meet The Author


Tanner is the founder and primary author of Masculine Style. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife and two kids, and helps run Beckett & Robb – a men’s clothing company built around custom suits and shirts.

  • “This is also why a lot of straight men are uncomfortable with the idea of dressing better. They confuse visual appeal with visual power and immediately think that dressing better equates to them looking gay. ”

    great insight.

  • Matt

    Gun comparison made me think of skater Richie Jackson:

    http://skateboarding.transworld.net/files/2009/12/gunfinal-600×600.jpg

    Still having a hard time getting to grips with it though. You mentioned in part 1 that it’s inappropriate to bring Danger to a Play situation, and vice versa. But situations are pretty broad.

    What if I’m going to the gym? What if I’m playing romantic piano (which is both serious and creative)? What if I’m skating (which is both dangerous and playful)?

    Is that something that’s just up to me… to decide if I’m treating it as danger or play.

    • It’s not inappropriate so much as it’s difficult because Play almost always overwhelms Danger. That being said, it’s possible to do in any of the situations you described. The fun is in taking the clothing you own and figuring out the balance yourself.

  • Jid

    I like the way you’ve somehow added much needed depth, wit and intellectual rigour to the discourse on clothes and image