Against Effortlessness

Nancy Friedman
7 min readMay 2, 2023
Effortlessness everywhere

A beauty brand promises an “effortless” “no-makeup” look. Just follow these eleven steps.

A wardrobe consultant reveals the secret of “effortless” style: “time, experimentation, and practice.”

A bestselling author’s latest book, Effortless, will teach you how to “make it easier to do what matters most” in 336 pages and dozens of self-improvement exercises.

The “Effortlessly Elegant Gown” has a fitted bodice and a full, floor-length skirt. It’s made of 100 percent silk, must be dry cleaned, and costs $1,850.

Effort is unwelcome, effortless is everywhere. Here’s Goop to tell you how to achieve effortless-looking hair: “Hair styling tools aren’t dead: They’re all still there, just being use for less-polished purposes.” Here’s Lands’ End with some bossy commandments for “how to look effortlessly chic”: “Embrace the classics. Master the layers. Don’t be too matchy. Choose a neutral color palette.” Here’s Vogue with “seven quintessential steps to nail an effortless, your-skin-but-better makeup look.” (Seven steps and, by the way, twelve products. And, of course, practice.)

If you suspect that all this effortlessness requires a lot of actual effort, you’re not wrong. The hard truth is that effortless is a shibboleth, one of those magical selling words, like free and youthful and act now, that shrewd marketers…



Nancy Friedman

Writer, name developer, brand consultant, idea-ist, ex-journalist. @fritinancy on Mastodon, Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, and elsewhere.