How My RBF Impacts My Style

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Sarah G. Schmidt's home


For most of us, the face we are born with is the face we have for life. I was born with a serious face. What does a serious face look like? Well my version of it manifests like so: strong brow bones with angular brows; sharp, defined nose and jaw line; and maybe the most influential feature, my down-turned slim lipped mouth. Likely if I had any one of these features one its own it may not have such a severe effect. But I do. More simply put, I am in possession of a resting bitch face (RBF).

Urban Dictionary defines a RBF as:

a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to.  

That’s totally me.

“What does a RBF have to do with fashion and style?” you may wonder. For me it’s a few things. Please see the exhibits below.

RBF Exhibit A

I’d like to introduce you to my passport photo.

The combination of the 'no smile' passport photography policy, my dark hair at the time, and the not so flattering lighting makes for a very somber looking face. I have often joked that I look more ‘mugshot’ than ‘snapshot’ in the photo. Many customs officials double take my picture and me standing at the booth. So far they accept that it’s me, they are just taken aback. This happens so much that my go-to joke is, “Different hairstyle but same, serious face.” Sometimes I get a chuckle, other times I hear them simply yell, “Next!”

RBF Exhibit B

Have you been walking through a mall and the central kiosks salesperson selling perfume or hair straighteners ever asked you to try? They say something like, “Sweetheart, try this mineral makeup, you’ll look divine.” Key to good old sales they tend to be firm, yet harmless in their pursuit to help you transform with the purchase of their product. The thing for this RBF’er is they never ask me. They really don't. They let me walk on by.

I know this because if I’m alone or with a male, they don’t ask me to try their mineral makeup. However, if I’m with a girlfriend or female client, they’ll ask her to try. My conclusion is that my natural facial expression is too stern looking for sales staff.

RBF Exhibit C

In my career I have project managed a lot of events. Musical concerts, brand launches, corporate events, styling projects, and weddings to name a few. Over the years I have had many men (no women) come up to me and ask me to smile. When I narrow my eyes and cock my head to the side they add, “You look prettier when you smile.” This has happened so much that I have a question ready. Now I ask, “Why do I need to look pretty?”

What I find interesting is that some men seem to think I 'must' look pretty. I should always look pleasant or pleasing. I’ve also heard criticism towards other women for their natural smiling face as being too cheerful or too cute. As if a cute female is not professional or serious enough. I’m too stern, others too cute. Bah.

(PS. Who the f*c% asked you? Is there a playbook for women’s faces that is on the bestseller’s list? Apparently it’s another lose, lose double standard. Please note that I have yet to hear criticisms towards men in my life on the state of their expressionless face and how that may please or displease colleagues.)

Looping back to style, all of these examples are exacerbated because of my personal taste. I tend to wear bold prints, sharp lines and a lot of black and white amongst the colour. It's loud and on purpose. One dear graphic designer friend described my style as aggressive. When I asked him why he thought so, he said that it was a mixture of my clothes, hair and makeup, and how I carry myself.  In other words, he summed up my personal style. That all together my look is intense. I smiled (even I can't keep a straight face on that comment). I chose to take his observation as a compliment.

Should I choose to wear a softer colour palette or more traditionally feminine silhouette perhaps I would seem less severe. Certainly I could try and smile more. But I’d like to share a secret between you and me. I like it. I like to make people question or, at the bare minimum, pique their curiosity. I like when they say to themselves, “Why is she wearing that? That's odd. I can't figure her out.” I tend to smirk more than full on smile. That’s what my RBF prefers. 

While a more subdued, lady-like look works for other people, it doesn’t feel ‘right’ to me. I wear my RBF as a badge of honour. I insist that "RBF" is now a positive label. Plus, my face is my face. RBF and all.

Any RBF’s out there?