Embracing Sweat As A Deliberate Aesthetic

Sweating is dumb and I hate it. Controversial opinion, I know, but I gotta speak my mind.

I don’t mind sweating when I’m supposed to be sweating, like, say, at the gym; I never feel as though I’m the sweatiest person at the end of a spinning class, but sometimes at the end of a long walk with friends on a hot summer day I’ll look around and wonder if I’m just a little ~dewier~ than everyone else. I sweat more on my face than any other part of my body (although I still do perspire quite a bit under my arms and down my back, thanks for nothing, pituitary glands) so it could just be I think I sweat more because my sweat is more visible, or at least less easily hidden, but it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that sweating is dumb and I hate it.

However, in the spirit of positive thinking and all that shit, this summer I am trying to deliberately cultivate a look around sweat. I’m going to work with the sweat. Whether I like it or not.


When I was a student, David LaChapelle was just coming down from the peak of his hold on fashion editorials. The supernaturally sweaty sheen he preferred on men and women, the kind of sweat that was supposed to signify sexual availability if not actual sexual arousal, was still very on-trend for art directors and photographers. Our fashion editorial and film kits were always supposed to contain a little bottle of spray-on “sweat” that we mixed ourselves: two parts glycerin, one part water, if I remember correctly, shaken vigorously and generously spritzed on arms and legs gave a sweaty sheen when rubbed in, or beaded like real droplets of sweat on a forehead if you needed to convey stress or anxiety or exertion. Water dried, oil absorbed, but this glycerin mixture was always juuust right.


But I’m not aiming for Gisele looking like she just stepped out of a vat of baby oil. It’s not Britney Spears in the “I’m A Slave 4 U” video, although that is certainly an aesthetic I would contemplate for August. I’m aiming for Amber Valletta in a Prada ad from the 1990s, or maybe this Amber Valletta cover of i-D magazine; to be real I am aiming to be Amber Valletta at literally all times but right now I’m looking at the kind of sweat that seems to be emanating from inside you and reflecting light back all at once. Observe:


The key here is the slight gloss on the skin, eyelids, and lips; a shine that says you’re flushed and blood is circulating, but it’s a sign of health and exuberance, not over-exertion or exhaustion.

I also don’t mind a white t-shirt slightly damp with sweat, if we’re being honest! Here’s Kate Moss embodying the look I have in mind:


I think the key items to this look include: a good highlighter for your cheekbones, a slightly slippery lip gloss, and a complete disregard for wintertime values like matte skin and a comfortable internal body temperature.

What bodily functions are you making peace with this summer? Tell me!!