Second Life scammers and their tactics: A Virtual Bloke special post

Is it too good to be true? You bet it is…

If you’ve been active in any Second Life group—especially one for mesh heads or mesh bodies—for any length of time then you’ve probably seen people saying things like this:

  • I received an item earlier from “giftcatwa” that said it was an update. I didn’t think anything of it and accepted the item, thinking there was an update to my head. However, I just looked back the account “giftcatwa”, that sent it to, was just created today. Is this fake? and should I be worried thats I accepted the object?
  • just got a item from “catwaOffer” is this a real catwa bot? “CatwaOffer has given you this object: CATWA HEAD (gift)”
  • i just got this [16:31] Second Life: catwaupdate has given you this object: Re-delivery CATWA HEAD update
  • I need to tell some one about this its called catwagifts tried to tap into my lindens it says catwagifts Resident
  • hello, what happened when i got the item from eventcatwa in my inventory but not opened…so just delete or maybe save my linden to a friends?
  • Hi everybody, a question. I just received an object called CATWA HEAD Update from an avi called CatwaHeadStore… is this a scam?
  • is that latest CatwaHeadUpdate really from Catwa?

All of those came in to the Catwa support group over the long Easter weekend last year. Other groups for mesh heads and bodies were also being hit by these fake names, and they all had something in common: THEY’RE SCAMS.

These scams come in fits and starts—usually when school is out, or during public holidays, or times when you might expect sales and gifts, such as Black Friday—so I thought that I’d highlight some of them here as a kind of ‘buyer beware’.

For tips and tricks on how to check for legitimacy, and how to report scammers, read through to the end of the post.

Scam #1: The ‘update’

The first kind of scam you might encounter is the one that’s an ‘update’ to your mesh head or body. This is a bit of a screwy one, since many creators do just send their updates out of the blue. It’ll usually happen the second that you wear their item, or when you log in wearing that item. For example: in the past few days Signature updated their Gianni body to include a Bakes on Mesh version, and when I logged in while wearing that body the update was immediately sent to me.

Since I’m a CSR for Catwa, I can tell you here and now: For your security Catwa doesn’t send any updates out automatically. You have to manually update at one of the store’s redelivery terminals. (You can bookmark the webpage to save you from having to visit the store each time.) Any gifts must be collected in person from the store. If in any doubt, always check the profile of the person who gave you the item. Chances are it’s a one day-old throwaway account. CATWA CLIP is the owner of Catwa store.

However, there’s one thing to look out for when rezzing or wearing these updates to unpack them, and that’s the debit warning box. It looks like this in the stock Second Life viewer:

And like this in the Firestorm viewer:

I’ve used a legitimate vendor there, which I would expect to request permission to debit my account. But if you ever see that YELLOW text pop up, READ IT. No update or mesh head or body ‘gift’ will ever ask for permission to access your L$ balance.

Also, if you’re being offered an ‘update’ to a mesh head or body that you don’t even own? Yeah, ditch that bitch.

Scam #2: The ‘free gift’

This one crops up a lot. You’re out minding your own business, shopping or clubbing, or exploring, when all of a sudden some account with a name vaguely related to a mesh head or body store offers you a ‘free gift’. It’s usually a ‘Bento mesh head’, or a ‘free mesh body’.

Guess what? The only ‘gift’ in that is for the person giving it to you, if you rez the object and grant it debit permissions. Delete it with extreme prejudice.

Scam #3: The limited time (today only!) ‘discount’ mesh head or body, only buyable from a vendor in a sandbox (or after joining a group that costs L$)

This one is fairly recent, and it often starts at the creator’s actual store. Someone posing as a manager, an assistant, or a customer service representative (CSR) will approach you in a professional manner (sometimes in person, sometimes in IM), asking if you need any help. They will then tell you that there is a limited time discount on all the items you’re considering (mesh head or mesh body), but it’s “not at the mainstore”. They’ll then offer to teleport you to a specific vendor where you can take advantage of this amazing offer.

That vendor will—more often than not—be in a sandbox. Suspicious yet? Here’s an anonymised chat log that was reported to the Catwa group recently of just such an ‘offer’:

Scammer: Hi, how may i help you today?
Customer: just looking for a new head
Scammer: oh okay
Scammer: remember today they are only 4500 instead of 5k today only
Customer: omg i didnt know that
Customer: i love the bento one
Customer: [head name]
Scammer: okay, I’ll tp you to one in a sec
Customer: i am there
Scammer: its not here at the mainstore
Scammer: one sec
Customer: im trying [head name] on here at the main store
Scammer: do you wanna buy the [head name] head for the 4500?
Customer: i think so
Scammer: okay, I’ll tp you to a terminal
Customer: thank you

Luckily, in that case, the customer became suspicious and contacted one of the genuine CSRs. They didn’t fall for it, but it was close. And I’ve seen ‘offers’ that are ‘better’ than that. Here’s another. This one was hanging around at the Catwa store, with a full-body alpha on, and an ‘Assistant’ group tag, sending IMs to everyone in the store. This scam was a little different, because people were being told that—if they joined a specific group (for a fee, of course)—they could get deep discounts on mesh heads and bodies:

Customer: is it true that there are some discount on head 3599 instead of 5k
Customer: [14:46] Scammer: well remember when you buy through the group you will get the head for only 3599 instead of 5k
Skell Dagger: No that’s not true, [Customer].
Customer: this person has send me this IM pretend that but send me another group so was asking if this is true or a scam
Customer: oh thank you very much

When challenged, the scammer bit back, and then blocked me. Wonder why?

Scam #4: The unmissable Marketplace-only offer, at marketplace.altervista.org

It’ll be something similar to that URL: a clickable link to an absolutely unmissable offer on the Second Life Marketplace. It’ll be pasted in a group by a perfectly trustworthy-looking account (usually several years old) but just HOLD YOUR HORSES THERE. Look at that link more closely. Does that look like an official Second Life web address to you?

Thought not. That’s ’cause it ain’t. It’s a phishing attempt, and if you click it then you’ll find that—oh dear—you appear not to be logged into Marketplace. Enter your Second Life login credentials, though, and your name will be the next one to start spamming groups with those links…

Scam #5: The skimmer

Always ALWAYS ALWAYS pay close attention when purchasing anything, especially if it’s something expensive like a mesh head or body. There is a very pernicious and nasty kind of scam—known as ‘skimming’—where an avatar will stand close to a vendor while wearing an invisible ‘payable’ object. You’ll think you’re paying L$5000 to the vendor for that lovely Bento mesh head that you’ve got your heart set on, but—once the money’s left your account—no mesh head arrives in your inventory. You’ve just paid that skimmer the money instead.

Sometimes lag can cause the name on the ‘pay’ box of vendors not to show up. If that ever happens, cancel the purchase and try again. Keep trying until you see the name of the person you’re paying. It’ll be a clickable link, so—if you’re not sure who owns the store—click the link. It will take you to the profile of the person you’re about to pay. Do you see their store listed there, together with info about how to contact them, etc, as you might expect from a creator in Second Life? Or is it some rando’s account?

Scam #6: “Having trouble buying? Give me the money and I’ll buy it as a gift for you”

This can happen as a run-on from the skimmer, only in this case the skimmer’s invisible object is blocking you from paying, so that nothing happens. They then ‘helpfully’ offer to purchase the item as a gift for you, if you pay them the money.

Think you’re gonna get that gift? Ha! Nope.

Scam #7: “I only need a few more store credits to buy the XYZ add-on. If you give me the money to buy the item you want I can get it as a gift for you, and I’ll get the credits I need.”

Um, no. They’ll get the credits and your money, and you’ll get a big fat nothing.

Scam #8: “Want to buy a gift certificate from me? I just broke up with my gf/bf and it was going to be a gift for them”

No. Just no. Even if that is an actual gift card item, there’ll be no money left on it. And you don’t want someone else’s sloppy seconds gift card, right?

Scam #9: You’re struggling to get your avatar sorted out, and someone offers to do it all for you if you allow them access to your account

This is a huge risk, and it’s recommended that you do not do this. Here’s what Linden Lab have to say about allowing someone else to have access to your account by giving them your login details:

You are solely responsible for all activities conducted through your Account whether or not you authorize the activity (except to the extent that activities occur because someone gains access to our system without using your identifiers and password).

You are solely responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your password and for restricting access to your Internet Device. You are solely responsible for any harm resulting from your disclosure, or authorization of the disclosure, of your password or from any person’s use of your password to gain access to your Account or Account Name. You will immediately notify us of any unauthorized use of your Account, password or username, or any other breach of security related to the Service. At no time should you respond to an online request for a password other than in connection with the log-on process to the Service. Your disclosure of your password to any other person is at your own risk.

We will not be liable for any loss or damage (of any kind and under any legal theory) to you or any third party arising from your inability or failure for any reason to comply with any of the foregoing obligations.

Your password and its confidentiality are what protects your inworld content, your account, and any information associated with your account.

Scam #10: “hey nice avatar…im new to this game and saved 238 of those linden things from a contest and camping…im trying to get this skin/shape combo for 700…i feel bad for asking but can you please lend me 462 so i can get it?…if not thats fine too…just seems nobody wants to help me out”

Oh bless. It’s kevin1234, or is he tony756 today? Maybe chris833, or jason761? He’s become something of a ‘pet’ to us at Catwa, but he’s an annoying pet nonetheless. Don’t fall for it. He’s got a damn sight more than 238 of ‘those linden things’ in his pocket.

So how can you beat the scammers?

By being vigilant. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it seem too good to be true? A Bento mesh head (usual price L$5000) completely free and out of the blue, without having to join the store’s group and no group notices of an offer? Suuure…
  • Did you just request a redelivery before that ‘update’ came through? Or did you just add the mesh body or head that the update is for (or log in wearing it)?
  • Does that Marketplace link look legit? The real Marketplace link is: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/
  • Is the avatar giving you that ‘update’ or ‘gift’ a brand new, one day-old account?
  • Are you being asked to join a group that costs L$, just to get a ‘special discount’ on a mesh head or body? Or are you being offered a teleport elsewhere—somewhere other than the mainstore—to pay for a ‘special offer’ item?
  • Is the person offering the ‘discount’ or ‘special offer’ an actual CSR or manager for the store? Look up the store owner’s profile, and you’ll always see their managers and CSRs listed there, if they have any—either in the main ‘about’ section of their profile or somewhere in their picks section. Not seeing the ‘assistant’ tag-wearing person who’s making this unmissable offer listed there? Get the hell outta Dodge, pal.
  • If you accepted the item, simply delete it. If you rezzed or wore it to unpack it then—as long as you didn’t click ‘allow access’ on that yellow debit warning popup—you can just delete it.
  • If you did click ‘allow access’ to the debit warning popup, change your password immediately at the Second Life website, and then file a support ticket here. If your money is taken, then Linden Lab can usually manage to get it back to you after an investigation.
  • Abuse report the avatar who gave you the scam item. How you do this varies from viewer to viewer, but you can usually get to it via their profile. File the AR as ‘fraud’ and explain what happened.

Stay safe out there, my sartorial darlings.

Get Baked – A Quick Beginners’ Guide to Using Bakes on Mesh

The long-awaited Bakes on Mesh has just finally been released into the main Linden Lab viewer, and a lot of people are asking a lot of questions about it. Mesh head and body groups are being inundated with queries about it, and—as a CSR for a major mesh head brand myself—I decided to spend the weekend testing it out.

Before I get started, please note the date of this post: 1st September 2019. Bakes on Mesh has only just been released, support for it (in the form of new system layer clothing, skins, makeup etc) is still very very sparse indeed, and I fully expect a lot more support to be forthcoming. Also, this post will be written primarily with male avatars in mind, as my blog is about menswear and style for men in Second Life, but these basics should cover any questions you ladies might have, too. (Although please bear in mind that I’m new to this, too, and what I’ve written below is only what I’ve discovered this weekend while using it, and summarised as best I can.)

This post will be peppered with various links, so I’ll summarise them all at the end.

Update: Since linking to this post on the official forums, some of the below words have been amended after correction by those more experienced than myself in the matter. Since I believe in visible corrections, rather than just erasing what is wrong and ‘covering it up’, I’ve just struck through my own words and added the revision, with attribution and a link to the post wherein the corrections were made.

Before you begin

First you need to determine if your mesh head and/or body natively support Bakes on Mesh (BoM). To do this, redeliver the items, or check the creators’ group notices and/or other social media such as blogs, Facebook, and Flickr. (Please don’t ask in the support groups, as they’re all getting inundated with questions about BoM! The creator will let you know when an update is ready.)

Some creators are updating their existing products and including additional BoM-compatible versions. Other creators are using scripting to add a BoM layer to their existing products. Others will not be backdating their current products, but instead offering BoM-compatibility going forward in new products.

However, in ALL CASES—as long as they have Omega support—you can still use BoM on any creator’s products right now, without waiting for updates! More on that in a bit.

If your head or body’s creator has installed native BoM support into their items then—when you wear them using a viewer that does not support BoM— you will look something like Skell does below:

This is how to tell if your mesh body and/or head natively support BoM, but you MUST check this in a non-BoM viewer. This is also how everyone else who is not using a BoM viewer will see you!

If you don’t see that, then you’re going to need the workaround that I mentioned a little while ago, and that is in the form of a new Omega HUD, which can be purchased here on Marketplace for L$125. It’s unisex and works for both male and female avatars.

You will also need the Omega relay or installer for your current mesh body parts. Go to the Omega Systems Marketplace store (or their inworld store) and search for the brand. If yours is an installer, you’ll need to click it once to install Omega compatibility into your mesh body part. If it’s a relay, you’ll need to wear it any time you want to use an Omega applier (in the case of this post, you’ll only need to wear a relay initially, while setting up BoM).

Next, you will—of course—need a BoM-compatible viewer. At the time of writing this post Firestorm doesn’t yet have it (although the beta branch does) so I used the stock Linden viewer (and boy, was I reminded why I never normally use that one…)

OK, ready to go ahead?

Quick checklist before we begin:

  • your mesh head and body are natively BoM-compatible, OR
  • you have (and are wearing) the Omega BoM HUD, plus the relevant Omega installer/relay HUDs for your mesh head and body, AND
  • you’re using a BoM-compatible viewer

Let’s get started :-)

First up, are you seeing red? Take off your body- and head-hiding alpha layers. You don’t need them with BoM.

Not my most fashionable look, I’ll admit…

If your mesh head and/or body offer native BoM support then your underlying system layers will already have baked onto those mesh body parts. Whatever system skin you’re wearing will now show up on your mesh avatar. Now is the time when you realise that—for all this time—you’ve been hiding some ancient monstrosity under your mesh! To get rid of that all you need to do is change your system skin. Simple as that.

Used below: Signature ‘Gianni’ body and Catwa ‘Daniel’ head. The ‘Baked Skin’ HUD is the Omega BoM HUD. This is a quick tour through some of my old system skins (yes, I kept a lot of my old ones, and I had some really odd and wonderful ones. I left the first bake to show in the video, so you can see how long it takes to bake down onto the mesh, but after that I skipped the actual bake and just showed the skins once baked.

System skin testing

If nothing has changed, because your mesh head and body don’t offer native BoM support then you need to add the Omega BoM HUD that you’ve puchased. Make sure that you’re also wearing the Omega relays for your mesh head and body (or have installed Omega into them). Click the Omega BoM HUD, and—after a second or so—your underlying system skin will bake onto your mesh body parts. (Keep that Omega BoM HUD on for a while as you dig through your system layers and try them on; sometimes you might need to give it another click to rebake everything again.)

Yeah, I’ll let you laugh. Just this once :p

And that’s the basics. You’re now using BoM! Be aware, though—as mentioned before—anyone not using a BoM-compatible viewer will see you with those strange coloured text blocks all over you. SL is going to look very weird for a bit (at least until all viewers have BoM compatibility and everyone has switched to those viewers), but then it looked weird for a while after Bento (‘melting faces’ for those not using Bento viewers), and after mesh was introduced (big blocky shapes for those not using mesh viewers).

So what next?

Now the fun starts. Those of us who are SL packrats will be unpacking our old system skins, hairbases, tattoos, and makeup and trying it all on. Not all of it will work, and a lot of it will look (un)surprisingly awful. Old system textures—no matter what size they were uploaded in—always ended up at 512px, and mesh avatars are capable of 1024px. That delicate tattoo that you used to love may well look disappointingly blurry.

Revision from Theresa Tennyson: “Skins, tattoos, etc. that had their textures uploaded at 1024×1024 will display at full resolution on mesh bodies (and currently on the system body, for that matter.) A skin is just like an applier – it’s a texture delivery system. The reason they used to display at 512 x 512 was that was the maximum resolution of the bakes provided by the baking service; however, that’s now been changed to 1024 x 1024.”

You might find that skins from one particular creator work better than those from another creator. For me, the ones that looked consistently good—about 90% of the time—were my old Tableau Vivant skins.

However, be aware that—because these are old system skins and weren’t created specifically for mesh topography—there may be small imperfections. Nipples might not sit in the correct location, or—as below—you may see little patches of odd colour:

Those of us who don’t have system layers to dig through, keep an eye on your favourite creators. Many of them—such as makeup creators, in particular—have been adding BoM layers in their products for a while now.

Some little details you need to know

Old system skins were designed and mapped to the original, pre-mesh avatar. That avatar had clunky fingers, and… well… paddles for feet. Those finger and toe textures are not going to map prettily onto your mesh hands and feet.

What I expect will happen for future system skins is that either creators will map them correctly for mesh bodies (but they might need to be body-specific in that case, or they might be like Omega body appliers are now) or they will include hand and feet appliers.

But what can you do about older skins? Those of us who are ancient enough to remember when prim nails came about might have a tintable nail-hiding system glove that we can use. And—as I just searched on Marketplace—someone has already created a new one! So pick up this fingernail cover layer if you want to use old system skins. Just add the glove layer, edit it, and tint it as close to your skintone as you can. (There’s also a sock layer from the same creator here.)

Guess what I’m doing below? I’ve layered my favourite old system tattoo hairbase (with those long Midge Ure-style sideburns) together with my Stealthic applier hairbase. So glad to have those sidies back!

Layering and how it works

This is more for the newer residents of SL: the ones who never used system layers. Something very important that you need to know is that depending on which layers they are, system layers sometimes stack in the order they were added.

Some layers stack as their names suggest: tattoo will always go beneath underwear; underwear will always go beneath clothing.

Revision from Theresa Tennyson: “Tattoos, etc. do stack in the order they’re worn in, but if you go to “Edit My Appearance” and click on a tattoo, etc. in the list of the items you’re wearing arrows will appear – clicking on those arrows will move that item up or down in the stack, and when you save what you’re wearing as an outfit that order will be remembered.”

(Y’know, I’ve spent 12 years in SL and every day is still a lesson to me. I had no idea about moving stacked layers like that…)

However, in the case of makeup—for example—the layers will stack in the order you added them. If you’re going to wear three different eyeshadows then you’ll get an entirely different look if you add them in 1, 2, 3 order than you would if you add them in 3, 2, 1 order.

But, oh… you can stack. Boy, can you stack. See this below? EIGHT sets of makeup. And not an alpha glitch in sight.

And—as mentioned on that image—if I changed my head to a different one, the bake would immediately go onto that (assuming I’d already got BoM sorted out on it, either natively or via the Omega BoM HUD). No more re-applying! And no more trying to remember which applier HUD you used, because you’ll still be wearing the layers!

Here’s a quick video showing those eight system tattoo makeup layers going on one by one:

OK, Skell, this is fucking AMAZEBALLS. Surely there’s got to be some cons to weigh against those pros?

Yeah, there are some.

  • You’re going to look ridiculous to others not using a BoM-compatible viewer, until all viewers have caught up. Give it about a year.
  • Your inventory will—I’m afraid to say—probably explode. You know that 30-colour applier HUD you’ve got for XYZ thing? For BoM that will turn into 30 separate items. So a 30-shade lipstick HUD will become 30 individual lipstick tattoos. Get organising and filing that inventory now
  • You may or may not be able to use appliers and other things such as materials/specular shine on your mesh body/head. This depends on the body part’s creator. BoM as it stands right now does not have materials support at all (although Linden Lab have it on their radar as a possbility for the future). Some mesh body parts will keep an ‘onion skin’ layer for adding shine, some may not change the ‘onion skins’ at all, and some will remove all but the single base BoM layer (therefore you won’t be able to add any shine whatsoever). Revision from Theresa Tennyson: “Materials don’t need to go on a “layer” – they can go directly onto the base mesh. It’s possible to have the visible “diffuse” texture of a mesh face set by BOM and the specular and normal maps set by appliers on the same face.”
  • Some of your favourite stuff will not update. Many creators have a huge back catalogue of items, and it would be a hell of a lot of work to expect them to update it all to include BoM layers.
  • If your mesh body updates to remove alpha cuts from its HUD, you’ll need to use alpha layers (which will hopefully be included with your clothing) to mask sections of your mesh body beneath mesh clothing. While there will no doubt be some ready-made sets of alpha layers available on Marketplace (from years ago) not all of them will work for more specific use cases.

And finally…

As someone who works in support inworld for a major mesh brand, I have one small plea: Please don’t ask continually in creators’ support groups for “when will your products be updated to BoM?” As mentioned, updating to BoM involves more than a simple flick of a switch. Linden Lab had it in the works for well over a year (closer to two, in fact), and then released it very suddenly: one weeks’ notice, and BOOM – it was live on the grid and in the viewer. In our support group we are literally being asked every ten minutes or so when BoM updates will be coming. Your favourite creator will let you know when their updates are ready. And you can, of course, already use BoM on all Omega-supported products using the method outlined above. No need to wait for updates!

Have some pretties, with eight makeup layers. Link summary will be at the bottom of the post.

Link summary

Legacy

“So you abandon us for eight months, and then you come back to write nice things about something you always bitched about in the past? WTF, Skell?!”

Yeah, this is going to be a difficult post to write, and—from the second I made the purchase decision for this—I was thinking OK, now how the hell am I going to justify this?

But, y’know, I’ve not shied away from eating my words in the past, and I won’t do so now. So, my sartorial darlings, here—from one of the biggest and most vocal critics of The Mesh Project— comes a review of the new Legacy body by The Shops.

Let’s get the cons out of the way first, because oh boy there are many, and I almost gave up on this body in frustration before I managed to even see it. But I’m nothing if not a stubborn fucker, and if I set my mind to doing something I’ll damn well do it.

We start with the demoing experience, which is… an experience. Quite literally.

While ladies can pick up a demo of the female Legacy body from either Marketplace or the Catwa store, gents don’t have those options. There is no male body demo on Marketplace, and none at the Catwa store (and I happen to know that Catwa did ask, but—for whatever reason—there is no male demo of the body outside of the mainstore at the moment).

ETA: The male demo is now on their Marketplace store at last.

Shopping at The Shops has always been a bit of an eye-gouging, all-white ordeal, but it now takes hold of your camera and teleports you all over the bloody place. First of all, you have to accept an experience, before you select either the male or female body. You’re then teleported back and forth until you land in the demo room. So click that ‘Try’ on the wall in front of you, and see what happens.

If you’re using a pre-animesh viewer you’ll receive an error message telling you that your viewer isn’t capable of running a specific, required runtime script. At least, that’s the error I was getting when I visited while using the pre-animesh Firestorm viewer. So backup and update your viewer and try again.

Did I mention that you need to remove all attachments before you try the demo? I took off everything but my head, and still all that I saw was the white demo rings around Skell’s body. Nothing else rezzed, so I teleported home and then back. And, of course, then had to go through the whole experience-related rigmarole again. Clicked the ‘Try’ link again, and glory be, finally the body rezzed.

And within two minutes, after a good cam around myself, I’d made up my mind. Because this body, my darlings, is fucking gorgeous.

I’ve been forced to give up my Slink body because hardly anyone is creating for it anymore. And I still missed the slenderness it gave me, the lean swimmer’s torso and broad shoulders that I had with it. I switched to Signature Gianni—mostly because that and Belleza Jake are the main bodies being created for by the majority of designers these days—but, despite working for ages to slim down the body to something more approaching my taste, those bulgy deltoids still caught my eye. And Jake and I have never quite seen eye-to-eye, despite my trying to get along with him, so…

I was wearing my skinnied-down Gianni shape when I demo’d the Legacy body, and it was nigh on perfect even with that. I’m wearing it in these shots, but I’ll probably tweak the shoulders just a little.

It also comes with nine starter shapes to play around with. If you’re wearing a Bento head you should always be wearing a shape that’s created for that head, but try those shapes anyway, and—if you like any of them— write down all the slider numbers on the Body, Torso, and Legs tabs, then transfer them to your mesh head shape.

Yes, there are some issues. I’ve not been playing around with this much, but I’ve noticed a couple of issues, as follows:

  • Tiny cracks just above the armpits and above the edges of the lower abdominals when above 1000m height inworld. The creators are already aware of this, according to their blog, and it’s being investigated.
  • The ‘camera’ icon on the main ‘Edit’ HUD can seriously fuck up your main camera view. My camera was completely screwed until I realised I must have clicked that setting while testing the HUD. It took several relogs and a lot of messing around with debug settings before my camera was under my control again and pointing in the way I wanted it to.

The body comes with a very generous HUD. Multiple skins, tons of nail polish options (yes, even for the guys; nice to have black polish on both finger and toenails from the very start).

The alpha section of the HUD is tricky to work with, as the cuts aren’t marked on it, and some of them are fucking tiny and wafer-thin. You have some major cut lines visible, but have to guess where you’re clicking. But the selection of cuts is pretty good. Between those and the deformers you should be able to get most clothing to work.

Ah yes, those deformers. Those can’t be demo’d, so you’ll only get them when you purchase the body. I didn’t really need them with the Gianni clothing I was wearing (jeans by Riot and a shirt by Mossu), but decided to try them anyway. I don’t know how they work, but it appears that they rez another upper or lower (depending which you selected) body over the top of your actual body, then… reshape it? It’s hard to explain, but what I saw was the glitchy flickering of another skinned body appearing over the main Legacy body for a few seconds until the deform worked. This doesn’t seem to affect your avatar complexity, though; the body is surprisingly low-CI, and script usage is a minimal 64kb.

One thing I really loved was the alpha export option. Get your alpha cuts all set up, then click ‘export’ on the HUD. You’ll get a popup asking you to enter a name for the export, so do that (I named mine after the outfit I was wearing). Click OK and a second later a box will rez in front of you (named whatever you just called it). Take it into inventory, and add it to your outfit folder. Next time you wear that outfit the alpha cuts will be automatically set. (The alpha HUD is tiny and invisible, but it appears you do have to keep wearing it, so that’s one HUD slot you’ll lose. Unless I was just being hit by lag, because when I detached the alpha HUD the body was reset.)

The body comes with a basic set of clothing: chinos, a sweater (slim and loose versions) and shoes, in several colours, as well as a pair of black briefs (featured in this post).

I’ve found three creators who have thus far made male skin appliers for Legacy: Birth, Stray Dog, and Vendetta. I’ve been wearing Birth’s gorgeous body appliers (in tone 01) and their Dakota head applier for Catwa throughout this post. Below is an image of that, plus two quick shots of tone 04 in both the Stray Dog and Vendetta skins:

Update: Clef de Peau now also have Legacy body appliers for men (in their ‘tight’ set only at the moment; this is the toned body applier). Currently out at the July round of Kustom 9, they should go into the CdP mainstore after the event ends.

Update: Not Found also now have legacy body appliers for men.

The neck fit against my Catwa ‘Skell’ head was damn near perfect, which was a pleasant surprise.

So yeah. Those were some crunchy, tasty words. This is a new team of people, and they’ve got rid of many of the things that irritated the hell out of me regarding The Mesh Project, so I decided to give them a chance again. I’m glad that I did. Yes, the body is much more expensive than any other one out there (L$5,000) but if you’re feeling flush and willing to give it a go I’ve at least given you a few guidelines above for things to take care of (updating your viewer and removing attachments) before you demo it.

Further information

Credits

Skin: Birth – Dakota (tone 01)
Hair: Stealthic – Like Lust
Facial hair applier: CDC Creations – Beard 46 tintable (Catwa, Omega, Signature)
Eye appliers: S0NG – Nobu Eyes (Catwa)
Piercings: Artificial Hallucination – Loke Rigged Ear Piercings (Catwa)
Head: Catwa – Skell*

*review copy

Catwa ‘Dude’ male Bento mesh head

“I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. That, or His Dudeness … Duder … or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”

Just a quickie today, since I have some good news for you virtual blokes out there (and for the virtual ladies with virtual male alts).

I hope you’ll be able to log into Second Life on Friday 23rd November, my sartorial darlings, because Catwa Clip has a real treat for you. Her new male Bento head—named Dude—will be released on that day, and from 00:01hrs SL Time to 23:59hrs SL Time on that day only it will be half price.  That’s a Catwa Bento head for just L$2,500 instead of L$5,000. Buy from the inworld store and you also get store credit to put against future purchases.

UPDATE: The half price offer is now over.

Here’s my quick take on ‘Dude’, with a few tweaks of the shape to personalise him:

Dude has a lower lip to die for, and at half price for Black Friday 2018 he’s a steal.

IMPORTANT: Be aware that this head has some tweaks made to the rigged eyes to make them sit further forward in the head, so your old Catwa bento shapes will not look their best on it. (Try ’em and you’ll see what I mean.) Make sure you begin with the included starter shape, which you can then edit to suit you. I have Skell’s body numbers written down in a file, so every shape that I get has those changed immediately, before I begin work on the face.

Here’s the ad image for Dude:

Image by Catwa Clip

You can pick him up from the Catwa store starting this Friday 23rd November. The limited time half price offer on this head runs from 00:01hrs SL Time on Friday 23rd November until 23:59hrs SL Time on the same day. After that the head will return to its full L$5,000 price. Remember: the times are for Second Life Time, not your local timezone, so check the time in your viewer!

UPDATE: The half price offer is now over.

If Dude is your first Catwa Bento head, check out my Noob Dude – Beginner’s Guide to Catwa Bento Mesh Heads for the Second Life Male Avatar post, to get you set up and started :-)

Credits for my image

Head: Catwa – Dude* (Bento)
Skin applier: Birth – Miller (T1)
Hair: VoltHair – Enzo (B&W)
Shirt: Contraption – Scholar’s Bound Waistcoat
Ears: L’Etre – Olympe Mesh Ears
Facial Hair: CDC Creations – Beard 46 Tintable
Eye appliers: Avi-Glam – Elysian Eyes (fjord)
Brow appliers: Identity Body Shop – Thick Brows
Eyeshadow: Zibska – Noir Pack 13

*review copy

Bitch, please: Enough with the fucking SWEATPANTS already!

OK, my sartorial darlings, this one has been brewing for fucking months, and you know it’s going to be a doozie because I’ve already sworn twice within the space of 19 words. Expect more as this post proceeds. Let’s ease on those bitch heels and strut the runway of frustration again…

What am I bitchin’ about today?

FUCKING SWEATPANTS

*seethes quietly while he gets his blood pressure under control*

Look, I get it. I really do. The F/W18 Paris Fashion Week did  feature sportswear—specifically sweatpants and sweatshirts—fairly heavily. Believe me, I follow this shit and I saw it. It was the laziest goddamn ‘fashion design’ I think I’ve ever seen. And, unfortunately, many of SL’s menswear designers have ignored all the other amazing stuff that came out in those collections, and zeroed in on the sportswear like fucking mosquitoes with blinders on.

I’ve suffered in silence (okay, almost silence) for several months now. But the new Men’s Dept collection, released just yesterday, is the final fucking straw for me. It contains the following:

  • five lots of sweatpants
  • two lots of sweatshirts
  • two lots of sneakers
  • three lots of sportswear (basketball shirts/tops/shorts)

And that’s not counting the spaces taken up by the ten lots of decor items (including one backdrop and two skyboxes).

ONE collection. FIVE lots of sweatpants. Are you taking the fucking piss, people? Have we jettisoned back to 2007 and those heady days of ‘gangsta’ puffer jackets? Can we expect the enormous blinging $$ belt buckles and gold chains next?

It’s getting harder and harder to find NON-sportswear clothing items these days. More and more often I find myself coming away from the six (yes, SIX) monthly menswear events with just skins, hair, and other accessories lately. It’s damn near impossible to put together decent looks and blog posts without re-using older items time and again. I’m lucky if—from all those six events—I can find three or four clothing items I can work with. I’m even luckier if those clothing items actually work together.

Designers: did you even see  the Balmain F/W collection? Did you see all of this amazing stuff?

And that was just ONE collection. Balmain, Dior Homme, McQueen: all brought amazing design to the runways.

And what does SL give us?

*deep breath and all together now*

FUCKING SWEATPANTS.

*sighs*

Yes, I’m fuming, but I’m also so, SO disappointed. Designers who once made amazing, innovative (but, crucially, wearable) clothing now release mostly sweatpants and sweatshirts. Footwear designers who once brought out incredible boots and shoes now mostly release sneakers. And don’t even get me started on the whole “only rigging for Gianni and Jake” that goes on these days.

It’s depressing. Truly depressing.

First world problems, yeah, but bloody hell,  people. I’m more than willing to put in hours  of effort to put looks together and publicise your creations, but I’m getting so damn disheartened with the menswear scene in SL lately. Have you noticed that many of my fashion shots these days are head-and-shoulders-only? Or head-and-torso-only? That’s because I can’t find decent fucking pants and footwear on a reasonably regular basis. Or because all I’ve found is a new skin and some hair. Maybe some eyes.

Can we turn this around a little? God, I have no idea how many (if any) clothing designers read my blog, but show me what you can do, my sartorial darlings. Blow my mind and make me throw my L$ at you. Want some ideas? Check out my HOWL Pinterest board, because—if you can bring stuff like that to SL—you will  make me howl. (And yes, right at the bottom of that page you’ll see something that one designer has  brought into SL, and that I and many others jumped on the second we saw it.)

Because there’s nothing sartorial about fucking sweatpants…

Livia ain’t just for girls, and that’s the Truth

Take a look at this hair, my sartorial darlings.

Is that not as delicious as sin?  My god, when I saw it at Uber I had to try it, but when I put it on I had to have it. It’s the new (yes, yes) female ‘Livia’ hair from Truth, but it looks fucking gorgeous on guys, and what’s more: it fits almost perfectly at the back, too (unlike many other female hairstyles). There’s a teeny bit of poke-in between the shoulders, but the rest of the hair is long, tousled, and voluminous enough to disguise that.

Add to this the fact that—as with all Truth hair—you get a multi-style HUD alongside the great colour HUD, and you’re onto a winner. With the style HUD you have options for which side of your hair is over your shoulders (or not) plus multiple options for those “you sexy muthafucka” bangs that drape so beautifully over your eyes.

I swear, if you guys don’t grab this and then have a stab at perfecting your “come hither” looks, I shall be so disappoint, son. This hairstyle is just made for sending your partner (or prospective parter) weak at the knees, so don’t let the ladies hog it all to themselves! ;-)

I, uh, guess I’d best stop waxing rhapsodic about Skell’s barnet and take a quick gander at the rest of him. *sigh*

In the words of Mary Poppins…

Oh, well... If we must, we must.

The necklace is new from Mandala, and also out at Uber. As with all Mandala items, there’s a fantastic customisation HUD allowing you to change each of the links in the necklace. Male and female fits are included in the folder, and the male one didn’t need even one iota of adjustment (which is a refreshing change from so much other jewellery in SL).

The eyes are stunners. Again, out at Uber, they’re by S0NG, and are available in a Catwa fatpack only. I will note here, that every applier that I’ve tried by S0NG appears to sit a little too high up on my Catwa rigged eyes. This is easily fixable with the Catwa Eyes & Tears HUD, which allows for fine-tuning of texture position and size, as well as specular and many other things. Added to that: it also contains a ton of free additional eye appliers by Catwa (and you can create copies of it to overwrite those with your own appliers, giving you one—or more, depending on your eye applier habit!—HUD with everything in it).

The lash appliers—though they’re not easy to see here—are from a beautiful hand-painted set by Stardust, at Uber. I picked up both the Catwa and Lelutka options. Definitely worth it, as they’re fine and delicate enough for male lashes, so they’re pretty much unisex.

Yeah, you’re looking at that skin, too, ain’tcha? Well you’ve got Insol to thank for that, and please do  thank them, because they’ve started making some beautiful, porcelain-like male appliers at last! I’ve long envied the lovely female appliers that have been released from there, so it’s fantastic to see male appliers coming out, too. This one is ‘Tyson’ in tone 01, out at Kustom9. Matching body appliers can be found at Bold & Beauty (LM is in the Insol folder).

I’m going to note something here that did make me side-eye just a little, though. You know me: I speak out about what I love, but I’m also not afraid to speak out when something strikes me as wrong or unfair. And the body applier issue here is a little unfair. Bold & Beauty sell female body appliers to match Insol heads, too. And when I say they sell them… I actually meant they sell them… for FREE. Yep. The female Bold & Beauty body appliers, for multiple female bodies, are absolutely free at the store.

The male appliers? Hrrr… those are sold in fatpacks for individual bodies, and at L$350 per pack. I picked up the Omega version, since I was unwilling to shell out L$350 for the Slink appliers, followed by another L$350 for the Signature appliers, etc. So yeah: the ladies get their appliers free, but the guys have to pay. That said, though, they’re absolutely fucking fantastic appliers and—since I consider L$350 for a fatpack of body appliers a good price—it might seem that I’m griping for no reason. Rest assured: the gripe only comes because of the disparity in cost between male and female appliers. Why do the ladies get theirs free, while the gents have to pay?

Anyway, back to the fashion. This tank from Justice is out at the current Sense Event, and comes with fits for the four primary male mesh bodies (check out the credits for a full list) and several pattern options. It’s great to see more and more clothing being rigged for Signature Geralt, too. Keep that up, please, designers!

White Widow have the tattoo appliers out at Cosmetic Fair, with multiple colour options (sold separately) for the ‘gems’. They also have leg tattoos in a similar style that—rather wonderfully—look like garters. Didn’t pick those up, but I was tempted ;-)

The piercings were recently released by Catwa, in one massive pack for either men or women (L$460 each). Each pack contains rigged piercing sets for all Catwa Bento heads, with a huge customisation HUD that allows different metal colours as well as hide/show options for each piercing. My set here is quite minimal compared to the full option!

Get your arses over to Uber, lads, and let your hair down ;-)

Credits

Head applier: Insol – Tyson (T1 – Catwa)
Body applier: Bold & Beauty Homme
Hair: Truth – Livia (multitone 1)
Necklace: Mandala – Chunky Chain Necklace (unisex)
Eye appliers: S0NG – Texas Eyes (Catwa)
Lash appliers: Stardust – Aurora Lashes (Catwa, Lelutka)
Tattoo appliers: White Widow – FallOut (black – diamond) (Belleza, Maitreya, Omega, Sig, Sking, Slink)
Eyeshadow applier: Zibska – Terrwyn (Catwa, Lelutka, Omega)
Top: Justice – Jonathan Shirt (ebony) (Geralt, Gianni, Jake, Slink)
Piercings: Catwa – Bento Face Piercings* (rigged for all Catwa Bento heads)
Head: Catwa – Skell* (Bento)
Body: Slink – Physique Male

*review copy

When the one you want is only in the fatpack…

There are times, my sartorial darlings, when I both shake my fist and make with the grabbyhands simultaneously (and believe me that ain’t easy). I’m not a fan of several new trends that I’m seeing among designers of male avatar customisation items in Second Life (one of which is the no-demo shape, but that’s for another post). The one that’s been bugging me lately is the ‘fatpack-only colour/pattern’ or the ‘you have to buy a pack of six to get the colour you want, and the other  colour you want is in a different pack of six’ model of selling.

*imagine Skell uttering Marge Simpson’s throaty “hrrrm” growl here*

However, occasionally, an item is so good (and there are enough patterns/special fatpack-only colours that I like) to make it worth springing for the full version, so I guess I’m as guilty as anyone else of proving that this selling method does occasionally work, and thereby of perpetuating it. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (as the cool kids say).

Anyhow, this shirt, by Tori Torricelli at The Mens Dept this month is one of those certain-patterns-in-the-fatpack-only items, but c’mon.  Did you seriously think I could pass up a pattern like that? And the shirt is so well-made, fits so beautifully, and has several fitting options for each mesh body that it’s rigged for, so it was worth the L$1500-ish asking fee for the very generous fatpack HUD.

And, knocking it out of the park (as per usual) with these stunning glasses at the current Ultra event, is Haysuriza. I own several pairs of their shades, and they just keep getting better and better. Fantastic customisation options (frames, lenses and opacity, down or on the top of your head, etc), and these are the first shades I’ve seen that allow you to actually open the arms out  at the side of your head, as opposed to just stretching the whole linkset sideways to accommodate a wider head. For that alone I would highly recommend them (and I wish more creators would give us that option) but, as you can see, they’re so damn good to look at that you need to buy them anyway, y’hear?

Cigarette and lighter (plus the next pose) are available singly or in fatpack form by Animosity at The Mens Dept. Fork out for the fatpack and you’ll get a bonus petrol can and blazing flames, for all your pyromaniac needs ;-)

Cuff by Swallow, necklace by The Forge (IIRC that necklace may  be a freebie, or at the very least a free gift at the store for members of L’Homme Magazine  Readers’ Group), hair by Vango, and mesh ears by L’Etre. The background is by Weekend Ruiner, who is now selling on Marketplace. I strongly  recommend anyone who loves taking fashion or posed shots of their avatar to shell out L$500 to buy his Big Box of Stuff. Inside it you’ll find 300 items, including all kinds of photo sets and booths, most of them with incredible projected lighting. (Seriously, enable Advanced Lighting and play around with Windlight on these things.)

Credits

Shirt: Tori Torricelli – Brooklyn Shirt* (Gianni, Jake, Slink, Enzo)
Pants: Tori Torricelli – Uptown Jeans (Gianni, Jake, Slink, Enzo)
Glasses: Haysuriza – Goggles Protection CX Gold
Hair: Vango – Oliver (grayscale)
Cuff: Swallow – Harl3y Quinn Suicide Bracelet
Necklace: The Forge – Rockstar Necklace
Ears: L’Etre – Horn Mesh Ears
Skin applier: Birth – Maverick (tone 01 – Catwa)
Head: Catwa – Daniel (Bento)
Body: Slink – Physique Male
Poses: Wrong, Animosity
Background: Weekend Ruiner – Dead Ender

*This pattern is only available in the fatpack

And, since I’ve been on a Kesha kick lately, with her stunning album Rainbow  on repeat, have a song to belt out whenever you need a boost:

What does the (silver) fox say?

Okay, it’s not full-on silver fox. I’m not at Anderson Cooper levels here, but the minute I saw this new facial hair from Mister Razzor—out at Sense Event until June 8th—I had  to have it.

Mister Razzor is fast becoming a new favourite of mine for facial hair, and it’s easy to see why. The subtle salt-and-pepper effect is stunning (and yes, an all-black version is also included for those of you who don’t want to age gracefully) but be aware that you might struggle to find a similar hair texture. I lucked in with Exile’s perfect grayscale HUD, which includes this distinguished texture option.

Mature male skins do exist in Second Life, but they’re a rarity. Session have a couple of great ones, as do VYC and Aeros, but my favourites are from Stray Dog. I already own their Sean skin (which I used both for this look—which, to my great pleasure, got me likened to Bowie—and this ‘Luke Evans in Dracula Untold‘ look that I put together for a jewellery ad shoot for Chop Zuey, together with some additional ‘age wrinkles’ appliers from Izzie’s) but I pounced on this new Stray Dog ‘Gian’ skin, out at Man Cave this month. It includes options with and without those brow furrows, as well as the usual brow/browless etc options.

In fact, the look was so classy I had to dress it up even further with my favourite Deadwool suit (the one I’m wearing in the blog’s background image; I love it so fucking much, my sartorial darlings) and then I dug through my old Kalnins eyewear folder for these classic specs.

Ageing gracefully? Damn right. Skip the Just for Men and embrace your inner silver fox ;-)

Credits

Facial hair applier: Mister Razzor – Jeffrey (Catwa – black version also included)
Skin applier: Stray Dog – Gian (Catwa – tone 04)
Hair: Exile – Shape of You* (grayscale)
Suit: Deadwool – Peak Suit (royal – black pin)
Glasses: Kalnins – Astor (no longer available)
Eye appliers: Avi-Glam – Elysian Eyes (fjord)
Brow appliers: Birth – Arched Eyebrow Appliers Tintable (Catwa, Omega, Signature)
Head: Catwa – Daniel (Bento)
Poses: Wrong

*review copy

Guest Post: Matty Luminos – Shadowrunner

This, my sartorial darlings, is the first in a (very) occasional series of guest posts on Virtual Bloke. Please welcome Matty Luminos to the blog :-)

Decades ago, before the internet existed, roleplaying was done with paper, pens and lots of funny-shaped dice. One of the games I used to play back in the 1980s was Shadowrun, and that was my inspiration for today’s post. Shadowrun was set in a dystopian cyberpunk future that merged science fiction with fantasy. There were hackers and gunfighters but there were also elves and dwarves. And magic. So I worked a little magic of my own and stepped forward in time, and here I am, in 2248. Still looking pretty good for my age, don’t you think? I’m wearing the new Geralt body from Signature, which I utterly love, along with Catwa’s Justin head and Egozy’s Zladim skin in Fair. The pointy ears are from Mandala; I’ve had them for years and still love them.

The feature piece of this outfit is this awesome leather jacket with t-shirt from Rebellion, made for Gianni and Slink bodies. It has superb detail in the materials-ready texturing and several colour options in the HUD. I just love the glowy trim along the seams. I chose black with blue trim, and put the rest of the outfit together to match. The back of the jacket features an embossed “biohazard” emblem that really pops with advanced lighting settings on.

Complementing the jacket are these padded leather pants from A&Y which is pretty much THE go-to store for anything cyberpunk. These pants have a HUD and while you can’t change the colour of the main pants (there are separate colour packs available) all the trimmings, straps etc, are infinitely customisable with the tinting HUD. There are fits for Gianni and Jake here, with both normal and shorter, boot-cut versions of both. Jake fits the Geralt body best.

Also from Rebellion are these “Resistor” Kicks and as with the jacket, the attention to detail in these shoes is exceptional. The pack includes Slink fit and a pair of unrigged mesh, along with a texture hud for the fabric side panels. I just had to include a close-up shot to show you how awesome these shoes are.

Since this is The Future, the technology of prosthetic limbs has advanced considerably, so I have this awesome shiny new bionic hand from Poisoned Diamond. It’s unrigged mesh and fully modifiable, is available in several colours, of which I chose white for maximum customisation. I turned some of the faces bright blue, hit that Fullbright tickybox and woah! It’s electric! Though you can’t see it all here, it covers the arm up to the elbow and there’s an included upper-arm attachment as well. The pack includes both left and right arms. It’s just a pity the hands aren’t bento.

Wait, what’s this? Blue hair? Yup. This is “Valhalla” from Adoness; I think it’s actually made for girls but I don’t care. I got the “Naturally” pack which includes a range of fairly normal colours including my usual dark red, but also includes white, and since the pack also includes a tinting hud, I went a bit crazy. I have to give a special shout-out of thanks to Cruella Pennell of Adoness, who helped me with an issue I had with a faulty HUD, she was quick to resolve it and very helpful. And she liked the sneak preview of one of the pics I sent to her.

The last piece I’d like to mention is this nifty visor from Paragon. It’s a pity you can’t see it in the pictures but the texture on the glass is actually animated and it’s very, very cool. It’s no-mod (resizable by script) and different colours are sold separately but at just L$10 each, even the whole set is a bargain. Each pack includes a left and a right eye version.

*Rolls dice* Uh-oh. Looks like I failed my time-travel check. I’d better get back to 2018 before I cause a paradox.

Credits

Body – Signature, Geralt
Head – Catwa, Justin
Skin – Egozy, Zladim Fair
Eyes – By Snow, Elven Aqua
Cyber arm – Poisoned Diamond
Jacket – Rebellion, CYBA (Gianni, Slink)
Shoes – Rebellion, Resistor Kicks (Slink, Unrigged)
Pants – A&Y, Nephilim Cyber Pants (Gianni, Jake)
Hair – Adoness, Valhalla
Gun – CHI(T) SKOVL White
Ears – Mandala
Visor – Bluecross Paragon
Poses – Imitation (with gun), Izumiya (without gun – no longer available)
Location – Prime 3D

About Matty Luminos

Not too long ago, Skell posted on the official SL forums asking for volunteers to contribute to his blog. I love Skell’s style and I’ve been following his forum posts for a while, so I jumped at the chance and was delighted when he said yes.

I’ve been in SL since 2006 (if you count my first avatar) and for 11 of those 12 years, I’ve pretty much stuck to the same look; red-haired elf/neko, one-handed since mesh hands became a thing. Hell, for a good chunk of that time, I hardly ever even changed my outfit, except to upgrade it to mesh. Recently though, I’ve started experimenting with different looks, from furry to fallen angel. You can see some of my experimentation on my blog and my Flickr feed.

In RL (yes, I know it’s a dirty word) I’m a mature, geeky gay guy from north-west England, I live with my long-term partner and work on the IT helpdesk for a well-known insurance company. When I’m not working or on SL, I’m usually in the pub. I don’t look like an elf in RL. More like a dwarf, to be honest.

=^.^=

The Androgyne Compromise, or Happy Unbirthday, I Guess!

I’M 5 TODAY!

Or, at least, that’s the kind of proud exclamation on the badges/pins sported by the oversized birthday cards my grandparents always sent me when I was a wee Skelly. Well, technically, Virtual Bloke should have been wearing that badge yesterday, but since I’ve been sick as hell this past week I missed The Big Day by one day. So Happy *airkiss* Belated *airkiss* Birthday, dear blog.

I knew this anniversary was coming up, and likewise I knew I’d have to Do Something Special for said anniversary. But could I think of anything special? Could I bollocks :-/ I’ve been somewhat silent here of late anyway, but still fairly active on Flickr. Life’s been a busy thing, my health isn’t exactly the greatest right now (and yeah, you don’t want to hear me bitchin’ and moaning about that anyway) and so SL fashion has taken a little bit of a backseat for a while.

When I log in these days much of my time is taken up helping in the Catwa support group, since Catwa herself very graciously offered me the opportunity to become one of the CSRs for her store thanks to all the help I’d already been giving in-group. It’s a rewarding job, since—as regular readers here will know—helping guys to look good in SL is a passion of mine, and while I help out all genders in the group I tend to specialise in helping the pixel menfolk out there sort out issues with their Catwa heads and get themselves looking great. But, unless I close the group chat and actively push myself to ‘take a day off’ from it (there are no set working hours as a Catwa CSR—I can come and go as I please—but there is  me and my damnable wish to help people all the time!) I often don’t get anything ‘fashion-y’ done because all of my attention is going either to group chat or IMs where I’m helping someone one-on-one.

That said, one thing that I have  managed to do in the last couple of months is the thing that gave rise to the slightly head-tilting title of this post: The Androgyne Compromise.

Say hello to Syd:

Syd joins the ranks of my alternate personas (not alternate accounts; they’re all Skell himself but with different base looks) alongside others such as The Rocker and The Gentleman Bastard. Syd has finally given me the chance for full-on, in-yer-face androgyny in Second Life again, replete with heels and a faceful of slap… but he comes at a price. And that price is the ‘compromise’ part of the title.

Syd gives all that glorious genderfluidity back to me, but he cannot do that with my original shape. You see my kind of androgyny is Skell’s usual very male shape—broad shoulders, long and lean swimmer’s torso, slim hips, and giraffe legs—topped by a beautiful face. But because of the way that Syd is created he has, by default, a smaller and more bishōnen shape. Without completely Frankenmeshing your avatar and disguising where heads, waists, and necks don’t meet, and shooting images from specific angles only, it’s nigh-on impossible to create multiple looks using a male mesh body and a female mesh head. Yes, there are ‘unisex’ heads (Catwa has three of them, for example) but those are all female (and very femme-looking) heads that also contain one male neck fit option.

And when I say Frankenmesh I really mean it. I know of one well-known androgynous blogger out there who has worn multiple mesh bodies and alpha’d out sections of them, so he could have the lower half of Maitreya Lara (for the heels and some amazing pants) and the upper half of, say, the TMP male body (for the masculinity), and he’s had to hide the very obvious mismatch at the waist with clothing. That’s a fantastic workaround for photoshoots, but given how resource-heavy mesh bodies and heads are to begin with (remember: each one comprises at least THREE copies of itself, to account for all the layering options) one simply cannot walk around SL wearing two mesh bodies all the time. Your avatar complexity would be through the goddamn roof, and nobody but those on NASA-level computers would see you anyway.

So Syd is my compromise. Since Slink has not brought out a male heeled foot (despite all of the begging and notecards from many of us guys who would love one!) we have no choice but to compromise. And that compromise involves the following:

  • The Maitreya Lara body on a female shape
  • Your female mesh head of choice
  • The V-Tech (Valentine Technologies) ‘Boi’ flat chest mod for Maitreya Lara
  • A fuckton of shape-fiddling to reduce the Lara hips to as little as possible
  • An even bigger fuckton of swearing as you finagle multiple appliers and relays to get the look you want

But hey… HEELS! Not to mention all of those amazingly-hot variants of pants that the ladies get, while us guys are assumed only to want either ripped and/or baggy jeans, or sweatpants.

(Sweatpants. Jesus fucking Christ, don’t get me started ranting about sweatpants, my sartorial darlings. My health is lousy enough as it is right now; I don’t want to add a fucking coronary to the list.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. HEELS!

*happy sigh*

You have no idea how good it feels to be able to wear what I want  to wear (when I’m in the mood to wear it; Syd’s not a permanent persona, after all), after years of seeing thousands of heels that only female avatars can wear. I have a very small handful of ‘these fit guys too’ heels that I’ve been trotting out time and again (and by ‘very small handful’ I literally mean about two or three pairs) and if I’m getting fed up with wearing those all the time, then others must be getting fed up seeing me in them whenever I want to wear a more andro outfit.

That said, I’m going to share those items with you now, in case you’re on the hunt for heels that work with male bodies.

Cubura brought out their Men Boots (Slink, Signature, Adam, TMP) and their Metal Boots (Slink, Signature, Adam). Their Tomas Boots are rigged for Signature and Belleza (male and female) as well as for Maitreya, but the MP ad claims they also fit Slink. Sadly, though, Cubura no longer rigs any of their clothing for Slink, having dropped support for it and moved to only Signature, Belleza Jake, and Maitreya Lara. A lot of Cubura’s clothing items lean toward the cute femboi look (not something I’m into, even if the clothing has black options) but they do have one or two stellar items, such as their Arcangel Shorts, which I’ve worn a lot (although I need to wear Signature body to get into them).

Here’s Skell in both the Men Boots and the Arcangel Shorts from Cubura:

Violetility have their Penta Platforms, which come with long and short ‘stocking’ options. Since these are far more specialised in look they don’t work with everything. They haven’t come out of beta, and there are some small issues at the back of the thigh on the longer versions, but they’re definitely worth getting.

Pre-mesh head, here’s Skell wearing the Penta Platforms on the Slink male body:

Sadly, other gems are no longer available, such as these hot as hell platform boots sold by Boys To The Bone, which were only sold at Romp! one time (although BTTB do have other unisex items available on their Marketplace store, such as the Tabi Heels).

Also, check over Blackburns Marketplace store. They’ve been rigging more for female mesh bodies lately, but their earlier boots (such as these FREE Laced & Strapped Leather Heels, the studded Edda Wedges and Heels at just L$29 each, the Spike Booties at L$49 each, etc.) are sculpted but still look fantastic, they’re modifiable to fit bigger blokey feet, and they’re cheap as hell.

Next, don’t forget the full-perm suppliers such as Meli Imako. I’ve found resizeable goodies such as the Mesh Punk Platform Boots, the Mesh Chelsea Stiletto Ankle Boots, and the gobsmacking Mesh Super High Heel Knee Boots. All for pretty damn good prices.

And, finally, RIOT’s fucking amazing  Trixie Heeled Socks for Men, which were out at Shoetopia a while back (and I hope to god are now out at the RIOT mainstore) which allow men to wear female shoes.

Anyway, I guess that’s my Blog Birthday gift to you freaky boys out there: a list of some of the great heeled footwear that guys can wear. So let’s move back to Syd, because he’s threatening to poke my eye out with his mascara brush, the little bitch…

Yeah, you masc old fucker. Give the pretty boy his limelight.

Syd has enabled me to look at my inventory in a whole new light. The hair he’s wearing in the pics above and directly below is an old style from Monster that never really worked 100% to my satisfaction on Skell. I did use it for one look, but it didn’t see the light of day again thereafter. Which is a shame, because it’s a great style. Yes, it’s an old flexi job, but it still looks amazing.

Those strapped gloves for Maitreya were the first things I bought, after spotting them. (Okay, okay. You win. About eight pairs of heels were the first things I bought. But I meant clothing  here, okay? Not footwear!) In fact, those gloves were what sparked off my final decision to at least try  the Maitreya-n-VTech option. However, I didn’t wear them in the first outfit that I put together. Instead, I went hunting for V-Tech compatible clothing, and I came across the Grima Marketplace store. And Syd’s look (and name) were born.

C’mon, he was always going to wear black, but his bitchy, mouthy, punky personality came about because of the clothing options in that store. And his name (in case you hadn’t already guessed) is a bastardisation of one Sid Vicious’s moniker. Now, thanks to Grima, this was his first look:

The face took quite a bit of tweaking to get it from feminine to masculine. Syd wears Catwa’s Catya head, which—alongside Catwa’s Sofia head, and her new Eva head—lends itself very well to a more masculine androgynous look, with a bit of slider work. Look for heads that have a more ‘mature’ look to them (‘pixie’ chins will work for the more cute femboi avatars, but if you want the kind of “is that a boy or a girl?” type face, then look for something that starts out looking a bit less… well, ‘girly’, really).

The hips… oh boy, those were a whole other matter. I spent hours tweaking the sliders, going from hips to love handles (the latter being crucial to get right) but I finally landed on something that was slim enough to be male, since the androgyny that I’m aiming for is ‘beautiful man’.

The more I tweaked, the happier I was:

Mesh clothing for the upper body is still hit-and-miss. Unless you find a designer that offers tops especially rigged for V-Tech (and, as I’ve already mentioned, many of those tend to prefer creating the more pretty femboi stuff) anything that goes onto the front of the torso and is Maitreya-rigged will usually have built-in-boobs. The ‘rock-n-roll’ jacket shown above is V-Tech rigged, and thus the bottom part of the torso (over the top of the pectorals) is flat. The Maitreya-rigged version assumes that breasts will begin at that point, and it swells out to accommodate them.

In short: appliers are your friends. Tattoos can assuage that “JFC must I be bare-chested all the time?” feeling, and of course there are applier tops around that—if you dig for them—will give you all kinds of options.

Skins are another issue. I opted for a Glam Affair skin, mainly because that’s the Maitreya body default, and because Pink Fuel offers V-Tech appliers that match Glam Affair. I’ve yet to play around with Omega stuff, but I have all the relays ready to go (Catwa, Maitreya, and V-Tech) so it’s only a matter of time before I set aside a few hours and go nuts with demos to see what I can do.

But those heels are worth it, right, Syd?

Oh fuck yeah, mate. Thanks!