Rather than dive right in to talk about any single one of these items, it occurred to me that it would be worthwhile to talk about all of them at once, to give people a context in which to make decisions about them. How this idea came about was, I was getting ready to go out dancing the other night and a friend was thinking of accompanying me. He IMed me and said, "What's the theme?" (Frequently gay clubs in SL have "theme" parties in which you are encouraged to dress all in green, or as a pirate, or in torn clothes, or whatever, and there's a prize for the people whom the assembled guests think has done the best job of portraying the theme.) "No theme," I IMed back. "So I'm just going as a hunky gay bar slut LOL."
[caption id="attachment_102" align="alignnone" width="300"] Hunky gay bar slut[/caption]
When he saw me, he said it was a convincing representation ;-)
It was only later that I realized I'd said something that might be useful to a newer SL resident, or even someone who's been working on improving their av's look without getting far. When you put your skin, shape, accessories and clothes together, you're doing what I think of as "building a look". The idea is that you want people to look at your av and think, "Oh, he's a ...." Well, in my case, "hunky gay bar slut." I've chosen everything to contribute to making people think of that phrase. My skin and shape are pretty much the same all the time, of course, but my hair is -- well, it makes me look gay. It's longer than straight guys wear their hair, it's a little too well-cut, and the floppy pieces hanging over the eyes are what clever haircutters use to call attention to your eyes by pretending to hide them.
Similarly, the jacket -- well, if a straight guy was going to wear that jacket, he'd be wearing a shirt or a T-shirt under it, or both. He probably wouldn't have decorated it with metal stars and chains, and I guarantee it wouldn't say "FUCKER" in studs on the back. (In fact, there are so many attachments on this jacket, I literally don't have a single attachment point left to do so much as smoke a cigarette.) Wearing the word "FUCKER" on your back, in fact, says "I'm gay, I'm a top, and I don't give a crap what you think about it." The skin-tight jeans with the overly large basket are straight out of Tom of Finland, as are the boots, and topping it off with fingerless leather gloves -- you're either going to a leather bar or you're channeling Michael Jackson.
However, the point is not that I want people to know I'm gay. The point is that I want people to look at my av and be able to make a quick decision about the kind of person that I am, based entirely on what they see. It's not time to be subtle unless you are trying to make a very subtle point; and it's not time to confuse your messages by sending too many different ones. To understand what I mean, try thinking of the picture above with the addition of a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. What does that mean? Intellectual bar slut? I mean, eyeglasses aren't necessary in SL for vision, so you have to be saying something by wearing them. You're looking for quick sex -- with a smart guy? Mixed messages mean people don't know what to think when they look at you and that means you won't be as easy to approach, or avoid. You want people who are looking to meet a hunky bar slut to step right up, and people who are looking for a sensitive intellectual to walk on by. (And the corollary is, if you want people to leave you alone, wear an outfit that's two looks mashed together.)
There are a couple of posts here where I've complimented guys on having a nice outfit. Take a look at those guys and you'll see that they are sending a pretty clear message about what kind of man they are. When you look at them, you should be able to instantly get a phrase in your head that says, "Oh, this guy looks like a ...".
So when you're selecting skin, or hair, or a shape, or clothes, or accessories -- you should build a look and have a phrase in your head that describes it. I was out shopping the other day and saw someone and thought, "Executive at an internet company". (He was kind of sloppy in fitting his accessories, or I might have had material for a "nice outfit" blog post.) A woman I saw made me think "Office bitch." One way to know you're on the right track is if you save what you're wearing as an outfit; you shouldn't have to think about what to call it.
I'll do more posts in the future about how to select skin/hair/shape/clothes that contribute to a look. In the meantime, though, have a look at your go-to outfit and think to yourself, "What phrase would people think when they see that look?" And if it's unclear or muddled, it's time to fine tune what you look like. Some people need to take things off and some people need to add things on ... it's up to you. But start thinking in terms of a coherent look and you're halfway to looking pulled together and, more importantly, like someone that people will want to meet.
And if you see me out looking like a hunky bar slut, don't ask me any difficult trivia questions ;-)