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"Don't Be Square"
By Sandy Dumont
The Image Architect

Artists learn to lead the eye exactly where they want it. And not only that, they lead it in a manner that is pleasing, not demanding. For example, picture a country cottage in a wooded setting. It has a straight, diagonal path leading to the door. Now that's one way to lead the eye to go to the cottage! However, straight lines can appear rigid and severe. A professional artist would know that the painting would be more effective and pleasing to the eye if the path were winding, with perhaps two or three crooks in the path.  

Artists always improve upon Mother Nature. But don't get alarmed. You need look no farther than your own garden to realize that Mother Nature isn't always perfect. Sometimes she makes little boo boos. If you have a garden with blooming flowers, chances are, you had to pull out Mother Nature's weeds in order to have a pleasing sight!  

"Lines" are powerful, not only in paintings, but in all of life. As you have learned, straight lines suggest rigidity. Squares, on the other hand, contain many sharp edges and can suggest not only sharpness but stumbling blocks as well. The eye must stop abruptly and continue in another direction when examining a square. Circles and other lines with circularity suggest ease and fullness. The eye flows over circular lines. People who doodle in circular movements are more fluid and easygoing than those who draw rigid, angular lines.

Square-tipped fingernails have been in fashion lately. Long nails that are perfectly manicured are meant to suggest refinement and femininity, but square-tipped nails subtly contradict this message. The sharp edges of the nails subtly and subliminally suggest a certain sharpness. Nails that are rounded are much more pleasing to the eye. Lastly, the "hardness" of square nails is further augmented with the use of too-dark nail polish that nearly looks black. The overall effect can actually be quite scary.

We can extend this idea of square lines being "hard" to the human face. A square jaw in a man is admired. It suggests strength of character and body. One of the first changes with young boys at puberty is with the shape of the jaw line. It changes from the soft roundness of a boy to the angularity of a man. Girls at puberty do not experience this kind of dramatic change. Instead, they shed their "baby fat" appearance and emerge as a young woman with a "chiseled" face. A hard, square jaw line on a woman is said to need camouflage, but the same jaw line on a man is admired.  

Every now and then shoe designers bring back the square-toed shoe for both men and women. As you may have guessed, it is not a good idea. However, in the fashion industry, change is all about a new fashion trend replacing an "old" one. Increased sales, rather than looking better, is the motivation most often. Most of us don't want to wear dated styles, so we throw out the old and get the new. Unfortunately, women's feet look clumsy and larger in square-toed shoes. And chunky, square heels are nearly as bad. Especially the ones that are tapered in reverse and are larger at the bottom. They also suggest a certain clumsiness. Men's shoes don't fare any better. Neither toes nor feet are square, and square-toed shoes simply look clumsy. When it comes to shoes, don't be square!

But what about the popular shoes with pointed toes? They do not make the feet look clumsy, only longer. Interestingly enough, they only cause the feet to be judged "big" when they are worn in flat-heeled versions. The long line is broken with high heels, and the feet do not appear "big." Feet that are very wide are judged to be "big." Traditionally, wide feet were associated with shoeless peasants and slim feet with more refined people who wore shoes.  

Everything is relative when it comes to lines. If you have a too-round face or a few extra pounds you would like to camouflage, you can add angular lines to suggest less fullness or roundness. A jacket or top with a V-neck would be better than one with a round neckline, for example. On the other hand, if you have a pointy chin, you want to steer clear of a V-neck blouse or jacket.  

And for the male readers of Tidewater Women, think about the choice of patterns that you choose for your ties. Some can be quite jarring. Small round polka dots are much more pleasing than lots of little square blocks, for example. Don't be square!

Sandy Dumont is Executive Director of the Impression Strategies Institute and is a pioneer in the field of image psychology and impression management. She has been an image consultant for 30 years.  Visit her website to receive a free e-book and five-part Image Course:


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