The Handicap Principle, or what is known in layman terms as conspicuous consumption, is an important biological hypothesis that explains why the males of some (most?) species have evolved costly status signaling displays. The idea is that a high fitness male demonstrates his high status to females by showing he can afford to waste resources on, for example, showy plumage or sport cars. It is objectively better for the male’s survival to not have heavy plumage that could make escape from predators more difficult, or to save money for future contingencies instead of waste it on an expensive car; yet, males of different species will often acquire these presumable maladaptations or waste resources on nonessentials because sexual selection exerts a force equally as powerful as natural selection.
So goes the theory. In reality, the theory bumps up against a wall.
You can’t get much more handicapped that that, unless you were limbless and genital-less with a concave forehead.
People open to the ideas of evolutionary psychology sometimes forget that nature operates within a system of checks and balances just as free markets and republics (putatively) do. The Handicap Principle helps explain some odd evolved male traits in species, but nature is always ensuring that the evolved handicap never gets too far out of control. Because when that happens, it’s no longer a status signal; it’s a real handicap that will repulse women or get you killed.
Game and the Handicap Principle have a rocky relationship. Handicapping yourself — a la Mystery with his furry hats and Victorian coats — is a great way to signal high status, IF you have compensating alpha male traits. Mystery has those compensating traits; specifically, his height, his grace under pressure, and his renowned game ability to handle the inevitable female shit tests and seamlessly escort women through the stages of seduction.
If, on the other hand, you are short, ugly, nerdy, insecure and without any game at all, dressing like Mystery is apt to backfire. Your calculated self-handicapping will not be a signal of confidence and high status, but an actual handicap that makes your job of getting laid harder than it need be. For you, the appropriate level of self-handicapping would be something along the order of uncommon shiny cufflinks or a gaudy ring. Just enough to incite curiosity in women, but not so much to banish yourself to the realm of weirdos.
Maxim #55: The degree to which you handicap yourself in an effort to signal high status to women should be commensurate with your game expertise and your confidence level.
The more confidently you can pull off showy clothes or an asshole attitude, and the more effortlessly you can deflect the shit you will invariably get from others offended by your ostentation, the more the Handicap Principle will work for you instead of against you.
Keep in mind, as well, that Mystery’s fraught couture is a game tactic in itself, designed to provoke reactions from women that allow Mystery to demonstrate his alpha prowess through his unperturbed handling of those reactions. You should welcome shit tests from women, because that means you have aroused interest in them. Mystery’s garish dress is a short cut to coaxing those much-valued shit tests out of women. But you need unshakeable confidence bordering on delusion to successfully pull it off, which, in my observation of fledgling PUAs, most men practicing the dark art of pickup don’t have in sufficient quantity.
For the average man who has leapt above the fray and grasped that important sex differences in psychology exist and thus interactions with women require a different toolkit than conventional wisdom offers, the Handicap Principle will be most relevant to him during the comfort stage of seducing a woman into bed (or into a longer-term relationship). In CH parlance, this is known as “vulnerability game“, and it is vital, in small doses, as a quasi-handicapping game technique for strengthening emotional connections with women.
Signaling that you possess beta provider potential is a powerful bonding glue to women who are at heart creatures of duality seeking the best of both alpha and beta in men. But since alpha is in rarer supply and harder to acquire, and since beta comes naturally to most men and is easier to acquire, the trick to finding the right balance is to emphasize your alpha while leavening it with droppings of beta. These beta droppings are the equivalent of handicapping yourself with costly displays of provider plumage and emotional vulnerability. They will only work when you have already established your attitudinal alpha male seed-cred.
If you haven’t established that alpha seed-cred, your beta droppings will go over like an elephant’s dung heap, because they won’t be droppings so much as “more of the supplicating same”. This is why women love to feel like they have to struggle to get a man to admit his emotional core, and dislike having men dump a bucket of their emotional core all over them. As women perceive it, the struggle is an irrefutable sign that the man is non-needy, has options with other women, and will give her the challenge she subconsciously craves.