I'm too busy unloading mortars into Sith to give two ***** whether or not I'm gimped. I enjoy playing on the Republic, because I like the faction more. That's all I care about, and that's all anybody should care about. I couldn't care less whether the Empire has more players.
Also the whole appearance thing is completely subjective.
I think Republic looks better because everyone isn't decked out in black/grey and red...with a purple here and there.
I have played both and I can say I have enjoyed the feel of the Republic better. Dunno why...but rolling into a instance with a trooper, two Jedi, a Smuggler just feels right...