A Good Look = Money and Success

In our society, attractiveness has become a measure of our professional success. Businessmen are now increasingly paying more attention to their skin care and to their look. The cosmetic sector confirms this new trend with innovative beauty solutions.

In the 19th century, Cesare Lombroso postulated that criminals represented a reversion to a primitive or subhuman type of man characterized by physical features reminiscent of apes, lower primates, and early man. These characteristics were to some extent preserved, he said, in modern “savages”. Nowadays, physiological traits are no longer studied. Lombroso’s theories are outdated. All that remains is the emotional factor of beauty against ugliness. Today, diversity is a value. In this article we investigate why many people want to be beautiful.

Society has become more image-driven and it seems that beauty confers substantial concrete benefits on individuals. Attractiveness is an important determinant of popularity, persuasiveness in a disagreement, attributes of ability and competency, influence over other people, marital success and happiness, and successful affairs. Beauty affects not only perceived abilities but also actual interaction, so that attractive people are more successful at wielding influence to get what they want in the workplace, in business as well as in private relationships. It seems that building a nice and assertive image is mandatory in order to build a managerial career that is dependent on someone else’s decisions. Substance and intelligence are not enough to give you sought-after quality. In the workplace, being good-looking and youthful are more  often placed in high esteem, while in the past it was solely age and experience that counted. According to Gaia Del Torre, an Italian work psychologist, “The way we look influences the way we are perceived by others and it does have implications also on our idea of ourselves. Worldwide, attractive people are assumed to be more extroverted, happier, more harmonized and at peace with life and with the people who share their lives. Today, more than ever, both men and women use physical attractiveness as a measure of how good another person is, and this can have obvious implications on a job interview or on a professional relationship.”

We live in an era of equal opportunity, where legislation protects employees from discrimination on the basis of disability, sex and race. But another form of prejudice affecting our career seems to exist. Indeed, it seems that physical appearance such as attractiveness, height and weight, affects the jobs we do and the money we earn. A landmark study by Hamermesh and Biddle (1994) analyzed three national survey data sets (two for the United States and one for Canada) that included interviewers’ assessment of respondents’ look as well as information on occupation and earnings. Among men and women, over half were rated as average, between one-quarter and one-third were rated as above average, and 1 in 10 were rated as above average in looks. They found that plain people earn less than average-looking people, who earn less than good-looking men and women. The beauty premium ranged from 1% to a maximum of 13% (for women), while the penalty for plain looks ranged between 1% and 10%.

Berry Harper in 2000 investigated a sample of 11,000 people aged 33, examining the effects of looks, height and obesity on hourly pay and employment. It emerged that: attractive people earn more than unattractive people, with a penalty for unattractiveness around -15% for men and -11% for women. The beauty premium and penalty were not explained by differences in intelligence, social class or self-confidence. Instead, part of the economic benefits were due to attractiveness. Similar results are reported from equivalent studies in other countries on the effects of good looks in occupations that involve a lot of social interaction, such as lawyers and managers.

A new report published in the European Sociological Review by Professor Catherine Hakim(2010), a sociologist at the London School of Economics, finds that “Erotic capital” is the implicit but powerful commodity that can count just as much as educational qualifications in the labour market, politics, media or the arts. According to the British sociologist, an attractive appearance and social style can boost your success at work, and hence boost your earnings by 10% to 15%. The interesting point, is that if you are not born with a high Erotic Capital you can learn to have it. People are becoming aware that appearance, social skills, presentation, sexual competence and liveliness are important factors in order to succeed in the service-based society where we live. That doesn’t mean that ugly people never get roles, but that attractive people tend to have a bigger choice of roles to play. To support her theory Ms Hakim maintains that from the last British research on consumption it appears that British men spend an average of £25.22 a month on grooming products. Ms Hakim states that “When the credit crunch hit, and people began to lose their jobs, newspapers were full of stories about men having plastic surgery and buying new ties in order to look their best in a competitive job market. It’s not enough for men to be the bread-winners, they are expected to be  attractive and well-groomed too.” Men in Western Europe work out in gyms to maintain an attractive body, spend more on fashionable clothes and toiletries and display more varied hairstyles. The english footballer David Beckham is a prime example, reputedly earning more from modelling and advertising contracts than from his profession as an athlete. It is assumed that looking smarter and being more presentable is becoming an essential part of life and that it wll become increasingly difficult to do without.

Men are no longer ashamed to enter into a perfumery. Taking care of themselves now has a whole new meaning, a new way of being in the world, beyond the prejudices and the stereotypes of previous generations. We have experienced a kind of legitimacy and today men have acquired a passport for perfumery, without the fear of discrediting their identity. Men have realized that in social life, at work and in relationships, a pleasant and nice look, more carefully and deliberately chosen, seems to have a strong importance. According to research conducted by L’Oréal (2007), the first beauty product most bought by the “new men” was a hydration product for the face or body (75% of the men interviewed declared using it), followed by a tonic (31%) and by an anti-fatigue product. According to Shiseido, the male approach to skin care is more functional than ritual and it is more than anything related to shaving and to the prevention of some negative aspects of the skin, such as redness, irritation and flaking. Businessmen prefer to use beauty products that help fight aging, and avoiding dark circles under the eyes, eye bags, and sagging skin. It is generally assumed that a career oriented, competitive man should look healthy, sharp, clean, well cared for and rested. Indeed, good grooming is tied to a good lifestyle and for this reason men are paying more attention to themselves. According to Dr Tom Mammone, executive director  of Clinique Research & Development, men are usually looking for skin care products that are effective, multi-purpose, easy to use and practical to carry with them. Despite research that shows there is growing awareness among men regarding grooming and their skin needs, according to Richard Sawyer, spokesperson and international education director of LabSeries, men still need more education on which skincare and grooming products to choose and how to use them.

In our society men are increasingly blaming a lack of time. Our professional life is becoming more and more competitive and time has become scarce. But nowadays, businessmen are starting to invest in their personal care. And in the last few years we have seen an increase in the number of Spas and Beauty Centers and in the  demand for treatments by men. The latest frontier of pleasure is the opening of Beauty Centers in the terminals of the most important International Airports. The first beauty chain store that opened a Beauty Center allowing people to relax between flights was NH Hotels, which opened the Elysium Travel Spa and the Elysium Beauty Spa at Terminal 4 of the Barajas Airport in Madrid. There the first question that you hear is “How much time do you have?” Indeed the range of treatments varies depending on the time you have available, going from an express massage of 25 minutes to a deep massage of two hours. While traveling from one side of the world to the other, businessmen can find a huge and diverse number of beauty treatments, passing from alpine saunas made of fire and stones, to aromatherapy treatments to be completed on the plane with an aloe box and some coconut balms, to some typical asiatic treatments including: chakra balance, yoga and foot massage.

According to CosmeticVacations, a medical tourism company based in Brazil, the most required surgeries demanded by the male population are liposuction, liposculpture, facial procedures such as rhinoplasty, face lift, eyebrow lift, wrinkle filler and dental procedure. Ethos Spa, Skin and Laser Center in Summit, NJ  states that the most common procedures considered by managers are laser hair removal, botox to soften the wrinkles and dermal filler to decrease the deep folds such as the nasolabial folds, melmental fold. The Italian surgeon Luca Piovano says that he has seen a great increase in the requests for plastic surgery. Politicians, freelance workers, actors, and people from show business ask for surgery in their attempt to look more presentable and youthful.

According to Dr. Tom Mammone, beauty is endlessly fascinating and difficult to define because it is so utterly personal and different for every beholder. “In the eyes of Clinique” he states, “beauty is ageless, timeless and achievable by everyone by having an appropriate skin care regimen that includes daily cleaning, exfoliating and moisturizing as a base and adding products that relate to specific skin care concerns such as acne, skin sensitivity, aging etc.”

Tell me who you are…and I’ll dress you!
Italian personal shoppers Barbara Boeris and Giorgio Guidone of Timeline suggest “Always appear clean-shaven and tidy, with your hair always recently washed… possibly without taking a bath in the aftershave! Never wear shoes of a lighter color than your suit (it is permitted to wear some testa di moro footwear with a blue suit). Cufflinks are recommended with an elegant look and a shirt with cuffs. It is absolutely forbidden to wear white, short or terry socks.”

[W      apetogentleman.com     clinique.com     cosmeticvacations.com     labseries.com    lorenzomagri.it     lse.ac.uk     lucapiovano.it     museounito.it]

Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Summer 2010