How Writer Neil Strauss Became Style the PUA

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Who is Style the PUA? How did author Neil Strauss get this name

Style the PUA was the alternate identity of Neil Strauss. Strauss was given the name Style in the PUA community once he joined and began researching, meeting gurus, and forming his own methods. Find out how Style’s PUA nickname helped him dive into his alternate identity and the PUA world.

How Neil Strauss Became “Style” the PUA

Neil Strauss, aka Style, a journalist and the author of The Game, always struggled with women. Since he was a teenager, he felt self-conscious and awkward around the opposite sex, which led to rejection, creating a vicious cycle.

Despite years of failure, Neil still wanted to date and have sex with women—he just couldn’t figure out how. Neil assumed that it took natural charisma and confidence to pick up women, and that he simply didn’t have it.

Then, in the early 2000s, when Neil was in his early 30s, he got a call from a book editor who wanted him to write a book modeled after The How-to-Lay-Girls Guide, a manual for picking up women. The guide sourced advice from dozens of pickup artists (PUAs), and it had been circulating in an online community of men who exchanged tips and advice in the art of seduction. 

Neil took the assignment and began a two-year journey, during which he became a member—and then a guru—in the world of PUAs and wannabes. This book chronicles the two years Neil spent in the seduction community, the characters he met there, and their various hijinks. Along the way, he exposes readers to many of the methods that pickup artists (PUAs) use, as well as the history and context of this underground community.

The Seduction Community

When Neil plunged into the seduction community’s online world of websites and message boards, he discovered an entire subculture. People used aliases—Neil’s would become Style the PUA—and they used a jargon that included terms such as: 

  • AFC: average frustrated chump
  • AMOG: alpha male of the group
  • HB: hot babe
  • PUA: pickup artist
  • Sarging: picking up women

Neil Strauss, or Style, quickly learned about these terms. Members of the community wrote posts sharing strategies, divulging details of their exploits, or asking for advice. Beyond the virtual world, men in cities around the world gathered weekly to share techniques and then go to clubs together to put the tactics to use. 

The community’s leaders were a handful of PUAs who had reached guru status, each of whom taught disciples his distinct set of rules and principles of the pickup game. The gurus used a combination of psychology, magic tricks, and hypnosis to seduce women. 

Neil decided he wanted to meet all the gurus, and he planned to integrate techniques from each. The first guru he met was a Canadian magician named Mystery. 

Style Becomes a Full PUA

Mystery was a celebrated PUA who had written more than 3,000 posts on the community message boards. Mystery started offering workshops for PUAs-in-training shortly after Neil Strauss aka Style joined the community; naturally, Neil had to sign up. 

For $500, attendees would get a four-night basic training that included: 

  • Lectures on Mystery’s principles and techniques
  • Field training in bars and clubs, as the trainees were coached through putting Mystery’s strategies to practice
  • Debriefing after each night’s outing

Mystery was only the second guru to offer workshops—the first was Ross Jeffries, a pickup pioneer who we’ll talk about shortly. However, while Jeffries led seminars, Mystery was the first to bring trainees into clubs for real-time coaching. 

Although Neil was investigating the community for his book assignment, he also earnestly wanted to learn from the PUAs. He hoped that this could signal the end of his struggles with women. However, Neil was also embarrassed to admit that he was so bad with women that he was now paying for advice from self-proclaimed experts. So, Style the pickup artist was born.

Honing His Skills

Neil had been frequenting bars and clubs, practicing his craft with other men from the community. Between his practice and his posts to the online message boards, Neil was quickly moving up in the seduction community. 

When Sin—Mystery’s wing from his workshop—decided to leave the community to join the Air Force, Mystery wanted Neil to step in and wing his upcoming workshops. 

Neil was so eager to take the opportunity that he agreed, even though the next scheduled workshop conflicted with a trip he’d planned to visit Belgrade to see his old friend, Marko. Neil refused to miss out on this chance to apprentice with a guru, so he convinced Mystery to hold his next workshop in Belgrade. 

But if Neil was going to wing the workshop, he’d need an alias—nearly everyone in the seduction community had one. Mystery dubbed him Style the pickup artist.

Improving His Game 

It had only been a month since Style’s pickup education began while attending Mystery’s workshop—and soon he’d be helping Mystery lead a workshop. Style as a PUA began training rigorously to improve his game in the six weeks before the next workshop. 

Style read books on a range of related subjects, including: 

  • Social dynamics 
  • Flirting 
  • Body language
  • Sexual technique 
  • Women’s sexual fantasies
  • Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), per Jeffries’ method
  • Magic and mind-reading, per Mystery’s method

Based on what he read, Style also: 

  • Corrected his gestures and posture to make himself appear more confident 
  • Took singing and speech lessons to make his fast, muffled speech slower and clearer
  • Wore bright clothing and flashy accessories for peacocking, including fake piercings, feather boas, and light-up necklaces

Style the pickup artist went out constantly with Grimble, his wing Twotimer, and Jeffries. Style studied their sarging techniques, and he tried to emulate them. 

Success Reveals Style’s Inner Doubt

One day, Style nervously approached a woman in Office Depot. Following the prescribed routine, he negged her, showed her an ESP trick, and made up a false time constraint. 

Style asked the woman how they could continue their conversation, and, to his surprise, she offered her phone number and email address. PUAs never give their phone numbers and never ask for a woman’s number directly—they must get the woman to offer her number. 

The woman had claimed to be a model, so when Style got home, he looked her up online. He discovered that he’d just scored the Playmate of the Year’s phone number. 

Although Style was thrilled, he felt unworthy. He’d learned the strategies, but hadn’t yet built the confidence to back them up. He never called. 

Style the PUA: Creating a Lifestyle

With his article on the seduction community and his new assignment to interview Tom Cruise, Neil was reclaiming some of his old life—but he was keeping one foot firmly planted in the community. 

Style Shifts His Focus to Inner Game

Neil couldn’t have gotten a better assignment: Tom Cruise was a model for the seduction community. He was effortlessly confident—a quintessential AMOG. In fact, most of the men in the community studied Cruise’s characters to improve their body language. 

In the film Magnolia, Cruise even played Frank T.J. Mackey, a seduction guru that Ross Jeffries claims to have inspired. However, Cruise told Neil that his character was not inspired by anyone in particular; rather, Cruise and the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, had developed Mackey’s character. (Shortform note: In the movie, Mackey instructs his seduction students to “respect the cock” and “tame the cunt,” while a banner that says “Seduce and Destroy” hangs behind him.)

Cruise lamented that a guru like the fictional Mackey could seduce men into thinking that seduction tactics are the best way to approach women and initiate relationships. To Neil, it felt reminiscent of how Dustin had warned him about the corruption of the seduction lifestyle.

Neil stayed silent, but, internally, he pushed back against the attack on his community. Neil didn’t see anything wrong with learning the game; how was learning the game of seduction any different from studying and practicing other skills, such as writing or driving a car?

On the other hand, Neil was getting tired of regurgitating the same lines for every pickup. He wanted to be authentic and he wanted that to be enough to attract women. 

As Neil talked to Cruise, he found Cruise to be centered, grounded, and comfortable with who he was. Cruise also encouraged Neil to embrace himself. Cruise was inadvertently helping Neil gain the inner game—confidence and self-worth—that he’d been missing. 

The Game Is About Lifestyle

For Style’s birthday, his friends in the community threw him a party at a Hollywood club. Between friends, PUAs, and former lovers, about 300 people showed up. 

Style the PUA dominated the club all night. People were constantly pulling him aside to talk to him, and women were handing him their phone numbers—and he hadn’t recited a single line of game. 

Style realized that he’d been too myopic: He and the other sargers had been focusing on mastering the game simply to pick up women at clubs. But, the real purpose of the game was in creating a lifestyle that was interesting, exciting, and fulfilling. Men with that lifestyle exuded confidence and vibrancy that naturally attracted women. 

Style was ready to graduate from sarging and build this lifestyle. He decided it was time for him and Mystery to create Project Hollywood, the seduction headquarters Mystery had described when he came out of the hospital. 

Style Exits the Community

Before Style left the community, he met with one last guru, named Eric Weber. While Ross Jeffries earned the title of godfather of the seduction community in the 1980s, Weber had laid the foundation for future PUAs with his 1970 book, How to Pick Up Girls.

Weber had since gotten married, had kids, and left the game. Style sought his advice on how to get out of the community. Style as a PUA was over the lifestyle of actually being a pickup artists.

Weber told Style that the primary tool to get out of the community was confidence. Weber warned that men who don’t attain that inner confidence become obsessed with the game, in a futile attempt to fill their psychological holes. 

On the other hand, men who developed enough confidence and self-worth no longer needed validation from women—although, Weber admitted, even he still had moments of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy every now and then. 

Style Leaves With Everything He’d Come With—Plus Confidence

During Style’s two years in the pickup world, he had: 

  • Met with the top gurus
  • Learned every line, routine, and trick—and then developed his own
  • Enjoyed success with women—including the number and attractiveness of the women he picked up, dated, and had sex with—unlike anything he’d ever thought possible for himself
  • Developed confidence in his ability to navigate social interactions
  • Risen to celebrity status within the community
  • Entered into a relationship with a woman with whom he felt an unprecedented connection

The game had helped Style recognize the assets that he already possessed, which built his inner confidence. 

Like Weber—and everyone—Style would probably have moments of self-doubt. However, he would always know that he had within him the traits and abilities that he previously believed were out of his reach. 

(Shortform note: In the years after this book’s publication, Neil was treated for sex addiction, among other mental and emotional conditions. While in rehab for this addiction, a doctor told him that his years in the seduction game had deeply ingrained his dysfunctional behaviors.

After receiving treatment, Neil got married in 2013 (not to Lisa) and had a son. In 2015, he published another book about his recovery from the seduction community, titled The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships. He no longer leads seminars on seduction techniques, but rather on how to be happier and more confident.)

Style was a PUA identity for Neil Strauss, who authored The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Though he originally entered the Pickup Artist community to write and research, Style the PUA eventually became a key part of the community.

How Writer Neil Strauss Became Style the PUA

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Neil Strauss's "The Game" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Game summary:

  • The secrets of the Pickup Artist community in seducing women
  • How key Pickup Artist leaders fought with each other and split the group apart
  • What author Neil Strauss took away about women from his years of training

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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