A manly appearance, faultless boots and clothes, and a happy fierceness of manner, will often help a man as much as a great balance at the banker’s.
—William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
When you have considered the things that make up a man’s outward appeal—all things that would, for instance, be apparent in a photograph of him—you are still left with the paradox that the men who are objectively the most attractive are not necessarily the men who are the most appealing. Beautiful men doubtlessly find this unfair and interpret such judgments in terms of feminine perversity.
What is involved, however, is more than a casual whim. Masculine appeal depends a great deal on presence, which unfortunately is very difficult to define. In the theater, one might call it star quality. In politics, it is known as charisma. Among public speakers, it would be called poise. For salesmen, it is a question of having a knack; for singers, it is a matter of soul. Presence is the quality that makes one man get noticed where others, equally handsome and presentable, are ignored. It makes one man memorable while another is quickly forgotten.
Thackeray’s oxymoron “happy fierceness” may seem to be a contradiction in terms, but it is an apt description of one component of presence. One popular song from a number of years ago proclaimed, “It all depends on the way you let
your shoulders ride back.” Presence may, indeed, be somehow related to carriage and movement, but perhaps only to the extent that such kinetic variations convey a sense of confidence in oneself. None of these descriptions really help
to define presence, but you will recognize it when you encounter it. You will be able to sing the Beatles’ lyrics along with Barbra Streisand: “Something in the ways he moves attracts me like no other lover.”