#1
Am I alone in thinking that scratch plates just look pointless/crap? I once had a LP copy and immediately binned the scratch plate. What function are they supposed to serve? They look stupid & cheap, and how is anyone supposed to accidently scratch the part of the LP the scratch plate covers (whilst playing, I mean)?

Always wondered this, sorry...
#2
People pick differently. Some people do hit the plate, some people anchor their picking hand to it, etc. Some people think it looks good.

I'm sure you're not alone in thinking it looks crappy, but you can find someone who agrees with absolutely anything on the internet so that's not exactly a shocking revelation.

So I guess the answer to all of your question is that some people agree with you and some people don't and there's not much more to it than that
#3
I think they look great, depending on the style you're going for.

For example, i think this one is a really classy guitar:




On a modern one, with an out-of-the-ordinary paintjob and uncovered pickups or active pickups, i'd probably remove the pickguard too.
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#4
To me, it depends on the guitar.

I think it'd be cool to have a painted pickguard on some guitars, though some guitars without at least the impression of a pickguard don't look right to me.

Take the tele - I would never choose a pickguardless tele over a pickguarded one, if it was only for the looks.

Some people actually find them useful not to hit the body with the pick, which could/would result in a scratched body.
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#5
I don't really like pickguards on Les Paul but the look good on Strat and Tele for example. But yeah, it's about preference. People have different techniques and also I think many people think they look cool. I don't really like too modern looking guitars (some of them are cool, though, but for example more modern looking Les Paul style guitars are ugly IMO) and removing the pickguard makes the guitar look a bit more "modern".
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