Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

How offbeat looks polarize audiences, win out over conventional beauty, and attract the right men.


When you hear the word unconventional beauty, who comes to mind? You might think a group of women who weren’t considered beautiful until they found success in a profession that celebrates distinctiveness – fashion models like Sabina Karlsson, Lara Stone, and Lily Cole, perhaps?

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

Lindsey Wixson has become a bona-fide supermodel, despite having slightly offbeat looks

Modeling celebrates Kate Moss’s waif-like figure, Lindsey Wixson and Lara Stone’s gapped-tooth smiles, the darkness of Alek Wek, the circular face of Lily Cole, the alien-like androgyny of Tilda Swinton and Cierra Skye, Sabina Karlsson’s abundance of freckles, or Kelly Mittendorf’s hooded, deep-set eyes. The list goes on and on.

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

Top model Sabina Karlsson is not your typical beauty, and that makes some men find her even more attractive than conventionally “hot” or “perfect-looking” models.

Most would agree that they are striking; is that because of their unusual physical features or their confidence in the face of a society that dictates that all women should look like Barbie — or both, perhaps?

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

Top left clockwise: Lily Cole, Alek Wek, Tilda Swinton, Lara Stone, and Kate Moss.

How about Beth Ditto and Adele? Though they don’t fit with current trends, they are the very essence of classic beauty. The most ancient depictions of goddesses, such as the Venus of Willendorf, are very voluptuous. Despite that, they definitely don’t fit the modern archetypes of skinny, Barbie-esque beauty.

Aside from their full figure, which is unfortunately not in mainstream vogue, everything about them is would be considered beautiful by today’s narrow standards. They’ve got glowing skin, lovely hair, healthy smile, great personality, amazing talent and –perhaps most importantly– an abundance of confidence.

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

Beth Ditto is far from Barbie standards… but men fall at her feet.

There are two urban definitions of unconventional beauty — and they are contradictory. On the positive side, it suggests that even though a woman does not have the classically attractive look of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, or Angelina Jolie, her beauty still charms and captivates the viewers in a rather inimitable way.

On the flip side, being called an unconventional beauty is an in-your-face way of saying that the woman is not really beautiful at all (in that person’s not-so-humble opinion, anyway). The thought, however, that you call a woman unconventionally beautiful instead of simply calling her ugly is a paradox. For when someone don’t like the way a person looks, they would usually be expected to avoid giving her the description “beautiful” altogether.

And therein lies the key…

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional BeautyInterestingly, an analysis of data obtained from the dating website OKCupid showed that unconventionally beautiful women receive more messages than women who are “generically beautiful” or fit the standard definition of beauty.

Essentially, if some men think a woman is unattractive, those men who think she is beautiful will be much more powerfully attracted to her, and much more inclined to reach out to her.

The trait that turns a few off will strongly entice others. In other words, a woman gets a better response from men as men become less consistent in their opinions of her.

The study proved what many already knew — that unconventional beauty provokes strong, polarized reactions.

As for the traditionally ‘pretty’ women, many men found them attractive, but not as passionately or as strongly. It was more of a “yeah, sure” lukewarm reaction as opposed to “good God she’s stunning”.

The study also showed:
Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

“But our advice can apply to anyone. Browsing OkCupid, I see so many photos that are clearly designed to minimize some supposedly unattractive trait–the close-cropped picture of a person who’s probably overweight is the classic example. We now have mathematical evidence that minimizing your “flaws” is the opposite of what you should do. If you’re a little chubby, play it up. If you have a big nose, play it up. If you have a weird snaggletooth, play it up: statistically, the guys who don’t like it can only help you, and the ones who do like it will be all the more excited.”

So, what does the significance of unconventional beauty mean for you? Does it enable you to turn whatever you perceive as a negative into a positive?

It should, yes! That trait that makes you look in the mirror and sigh might be your greatest asset, if you wear it confidently.

The study’s takeaway is clear: To attract men, focus on whatever you are insecure about—and emphasize it. If you turn your ‘flaw’ into an asset and wear it with confidence, it’ll turn off some men, but it’ll also attract men who feel very strongly that you’re an unparalleled beauty.

So instead of trying to mask those “flaws,” emphasize them! For example, if you have a mole on your face, instead of trying to cover it up, highlight it! (Remember: Cindy Crawford almost had her famous mole removed.) Embracing their own unique beauty is the secret behind the success of unusual looking models, actresses, and others whose careers depend on their looks. It’s part of what makes them so compelling.

In my view, what this boils down to is simply: this is how to attract the right men. Men who recognize that you are displaying your unconditional self-love and respect, visually. Men who think that a woman who genuinely loves herself is the most attractive trait of all.

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

Dita Von Teese is a great example of a woman whose slightly offbeat beauty makes men go wild

But self-love is an uphill battle in today’s society.

Let’s acknowledge that the beauty standard differs from culture to culture. While there are certain ratios of face and body that research shows make a person more attractive, those ratios vary considerably around the world.

However, in America there is consensus within the media, and every single person on this planet knows what American culture sees as beautiful: Caucasian. Super thin. Large eyes. Large lips. Small nose. Large breasts. It’s a very narrow definition and its intention is to make you feel that if you don’t fit that description (which relatively few do) that you are (for lack of a better word), well, doomed.

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

This ad featuring conventional beauty Diane Kruger is intended to provoke you into making a purchase out of insecurity

It makes sense for advertisers and the media to make the ideal “beauty” as unreachable as possible. This way, 99% of women will feel that they can’t live up to that standard… unless, maybe, if they buy this productThis is why the beauty industry is the sprawling leviathan that it is, and almost every person in America has done something to make themselves fit the standard, from wearing concealer all the way to getting a nose job.

But it’s all bullsh*t!

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

As models like Cierra Skye and Varya Shutova prove — everyone can be an unconventional beauty, so long as they are confident

In the end, there is little purpose in trying to pinpoint the definition of “unconventional beauty.” Someone who is unconventionally beautiful is attractive through their defiance of standards, not in spite of them.

What is beauty, anyway, when a trait that is ugly to one person will seem beautiful to another?

Why Men Obsess Over Unconventional Beauty

Urbanette contributor, Rebecca Ariane Givens, moonlights as one of the world’s most seen models due to her unconventional beauty and the confidence which shines through in her photos

What’s universally attractive is the attitude behind the façade. A woman who shows off her gapped teeth or alien face or full figure with confidence will be noticed in a positive light. She might not meet the standards set for her by magazines or Hollywood, but she doesn’t need to: she sets her own standards for herself. And confidence will always be beautiful.

How would you feel if you were called an unconventional beauty?

Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 159 Comments

  1. Avatar of Clare Grant

    Clare Grant

    How can you allow a comment as disrespectful as the one which uses the most obscene word in the English language to remain on this site?
    But the problem lies with the person who posted it in the first place.
    How can anyone think this is an acceptable and proportionate response to this utterly blameless and thought provoking article?

  2. Avatar of Jessika Mashburn

    Jessika Mashburn

    This is the first thing I’ve ever read that actually convinced me that it is okay for me to be a little “ugly”
    I cannot thank you enough for this, it’s changed everything

  3. Avatar of Jim Parler

    I wouldn’t say that men ‘obsess’ over unconventional beauty myself, however I can only base that on my personal experiences and the people that I’ve gotten to know in my life. I’ve found that the larger percentage of people in my life are into ‘the normal’ beauty (should such a thing exist). For example, when you look at a model like Helen Diaz (who my friend raves over), she is somebody who hasn’t had cosmetics, tattoos, etc. and from what I’ve found, most guys like ‘normal’ (again, should that work exist). Everybody is entitled to their own interests I guess! 🙂

  4. Avatar of Barbara Jimenez

    Barbara Jimenez

    The attractiveness that you are speaking of is based on what our eyes see and I stick to this saying: “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.”

  5. Avatar of Patty Aguilar

    Patty Aguilar

    Whatever the archetypes of beauty are now, we should learn to love who we are. Be comfortable in our own skin.

  6. Avatar of Edna Stumpf

    Edna Stumpf

    We should stop with that who’s more beautiful than who. I can’t really say that we’re all equal because obviously we’re not, but we’re beautiful in our own way.

  7. Avatar of Janna Conner

    Agreed, turning a perceived negative into a positive and wearing it with confidence is the key!

  8. Avatar of Daisy


    I prefer the type of beauty you’re describing, which I consider true beauty, rather than someone who just looks like a mold of everyone else. Being unique is sexy.

    • Avatar of Samuel Duffy

      Samuel Duffy

      Don’t be a delusional f**king cunt — which is what you are. There’s a difference between being an unusual beauty and being plain ugly, which is what 99 percent of these women are.

    • Avatar of Maryann Smith

      Maryann Smith

      I 100% agree! ♥

  9. Avatar of Paula Hickel

    Original beauty…that’s my term for’s complicated, yet simple, right?! Excellent article with great study results to back the info!

  10. Avatar of Anna

    I must be the odd one out… I don’t really care what others think of my beauty, or lack thereof. I dress for me. Appearance isn’t the primary factor that attracts me to anyone. I very much prefer to get to know a person first, and it’s their personality, cliche as that might be, that provides the attraction.

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