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Fashion, Feminist/Gender Theory, Society and Politics, Visual Cultural Theory

The Lumbersexual Proves That Masculinity Is In Crisis – And It’s a Good Thing.

First published on Fanny Pack.


What’s happened to the metrosexual man?

At the advent of the new millennium it seemed as though the laddish, matching-tracksuit-wearing man of the ’90s was becoming deeply unfashionable, replaced by an all-new slicker, cleaner, prettier model. The metrosexual man wore chinos and tight jeans. He wasn’t afraid to use moisturiser. He wore expensive underwear. His chin was stubble-free and his trainers were designer. His bed-head hair was quiffed to perfection. He worshipped at the altar of Beckham.

Lad and Metrosexual

(From left to right) Lad’s fashion and Metrosexual icon David Beckham. (Sources: The Guardian & Irish Central)

But now, like the ‘lad’s lad’, the metrosexual man is a dying breed: hunted out of high-fashion by a strange new type of man that emerged out of the wilderness late last year. He’s grown his moussed-quiff out into a top-knot and thrown out his over-priced razor to let his facial hair grown wild like a sexy lawn. He has tattoos of Mexican skulls and ’40s pin-up girls on his arms. He wears flannel, wife-beater vests, and American Apparel hoodies. His glasses make Christopher Reeves’s ’70s frames look embarrassingly undersized.

You know this man. You’ve probably seen him drinking imported beer outside of a bar decorated with sheet metal and taxidermy. Or maybe you’ve seen him rifling through a rack of over-sized denim jackets at a thrift store. This man is the lumbersexual.

Lumbersexual styled model

A Lumbersexual-styled model. (Source: neverlikeditanyway.com)

But is the lumbersexual just another fad of the past year, or does he represent something deeper about the current ‘crisis of masculinity’? In a world in which the male suicide rate is climbing at an alarming rate, could something as superficial as a fashion statement really help stabilise this crisis? Should we even be calling it a ‘crisis’ in the first place?

The lad and the metrosexual may be two opposite ends on a spectrum of conventional (and broadly heterosexual) masculine behaviour and fashion, but what they share is authenticity. The men subscribing themselves to them are subscribing to forms of masculinity that they recognise within themselves – either careless or aspirational.

The lumbersexual is purposefully inauthentic, and could only exist now. Since the start of the new millennium, we’ve been sliding into a cultural zeitgeist in which irony and recycling has become the widest accepted currency in pop culture and fashion. A zeitgeist in which tackiness is the new chic and new ideas are old ones in disguise. Trends like the lumbersexual are a perfect culmination of this ironic re-appropriation: a delicately mixed recipe of romanticised blue-collar Americana, a vague sense of tribalism, and a dash of punk for good measure. An on-point lumbersexual has got his keys to his vintage truck in one hand and his brand new iPhone in the other. The perfect hyper-masculine costume for the 21st century. A parody – not an homage – of masculinity.

Even the Metrosexual King has succumbed to Metrosexuality

Even the Metrosexual King has converted to Lumbersexuality. (Source: blogspot.com)

This trend could be seen as either a new wave of broad exploration of what it means to be a man in our society today, or symptomatic of a deep-seated ‘crisis’ of masculinity that so many have speculated about in the last year. Columnist Katie Glass certainly seemed to indorse the latter in her article for September’s Sunday Times magazine, in which she voiced her concern for the increasing male suicide rate in the UK (which is currently a bigger killer than murder, road accidents, and HIV/AIDS combined) in relation to women’s progress:

“It’s hard not to see male suicide in the context of feminism. That while young women grow in confidence as feminism has evolved from dry academic discussion to being featured in Vogue, as women come together on social media […] nobody gives the same empowering message to young men. […] Young men are victims of patriarchy too.”

To assert that the empowerment of women has lead to the disillusionment of men to me is a patriarchal statement in itself, but I do agree with her that the patriarchy is also the culprit in this case. And it seems that most of the data on the gender divide concerning suicide rates supports this idea. Professor Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman noted in another similar article for the Guardian last January that:

“Even in their choice of suicide method, males and females act out culturally prescribed gender roles.”

Despite more women being diagnosed with depression and attempting suicide than men, women tend to opt for less violent means such as over-dosing, whereas men more often choose firearms or hanging and therefore have a much higher suicide success rate.

So, how exactly does donning a plaid shirt and buying beard oil combat suicidal thoughts? How do we help men fight the crisis of masculinity? Well, for starters, what if we thought of it as less of a ‘crisis’, and more of a deconstruction? Think of previous iconic trends that have briefly torn up the rulebook for men’s fashion: from the longhaired hippies of the ’60s, to the glam rockers of the ’70s, to the new romantics of the ’80s. Or what about looking outside of conventional heterosexual masculinity altogether? Think of drag queenscross-dressers, and ‘gender-fucks’ like Conchita Wurst. Whilst feminine fashion and behaviour has allowed for fluidity, mainstream masculinity – although fluctuating occasionally – has generally remained stubbornly rigid, and the men who challenge it always perceived as more scandalous than women who do the same.

Conchita Wurst redefining masculinity

Conchita Wurst: redefining masculinity. (Source: ibtimes.com)

This is why trends like the lumbersexual matter. Not as a genuine expression of ‘back to the good old days’ grunting and unwashed hyper-manliness, but as an ironic costume. Men dressing up as men like some kind of weird reverse drag act. Fashion – as ephemeral as it may seem to some – matters. The way we dress and project ourselves matters. Masculinity doesn’t need to be saved or preserved; it needs to be torn down and rebuilt. It needs expanding and exploring. It needs redefinition. If our construction of gender runs so deeply through our psychological governing that it even affects how we choose to kill ourselves – and how ‘successful’ we are at it – then surely that alone is proof of how urgently we need to change this construction – for both genders.

If we want to save generations of young boys from feeling helpless enough to take their own lives we need to stop telling them to ‘man up’, or even ‘woman up’; we need to tell them to shirk oppressive gendered expectations in favour of simply being more comfortable in their own skin. To explore their own sense of what it means to be a man, just like Caiden Henson and his proud lumbersexual father, Paul:

Caiden Henson dressed in his choice of Hallowe'en costume - Disney's Princess Elsa.

Caiden Henson (3-years-old) dressed in his choice of Halloween costume – Disney’s Princess Elsa. (Source: dailymail.co.uk)

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50 thoughts on “The Lumbersexual Proves That Masculinity Is In Crisis – And It’s a Good Thing.

  1. Fijay says:

    Oh …I so love this post ..my father was a working class ‘mans man’ …I married a ‘metrosexual’ …..I am now a single Mum to 2 boys ….I too noticed the rise of the beard lately …..haven’t a clue what this beard revolution is all about ..but love your ideas

    Like

  2. I never thought to examine lumbersexuality within a larger context, but I think you brought up some good points about gender stereotypes and the patriarchy — everyone suffers when gender lines are rigid and unforgiving.

    Great post! 🙂

    Like

  3. Whether or not its “a crisis” is rather subjective. Clothes and fashion really do constitute identity. Having an identity crisis is far much deeper psychologically and socially than a masculinity crisis. Besides, masculanity and feminity are concepts that were constructed by social ideologies. It seems as though there is a change in these concepts. However, maybe it really is something that the society should revise, and as you mentioned, it might just be a phase that will dissolve with the upcoming generation.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’d agree that there is a masculinity crisis going on. I’m a 45 year old man, and when I say man I mean a real man. One who takes care of others as well as myself. A responsible and compassionate man. An intelligent man. A man that can take things apart and put them back together. A man that cares for his body and mind. A spiritual warrior of a man, not a victimized man struggling to find peace within because my parents were hippies and never attended a school play or threw me a birthday party. All that is in the past, and I owe this life all I’ve got if I want to be happy with it. Personally I find the metrosexual fashion statement to be silly. Rugged, yes. But it’s a costume. One that says, “I’ve never fit in anywhere until now, so let’s drink craft beer and eat bacon and call ourselves men.”

    Liked by 8 people

  5. Pingback: The Lumbersexual Proves That Masculinity Is In Crisis – And It’s a Good Thing. | Librarian to be. . .

  6. Fijay says:

    As the daughter of a north of England ‘working class man’s man’ who married a ‘metrosexual’ and is now the single mother of 2 sons ….Yep …..loved this post ….I too had noticed some kind of ‘beard revolution’ going on with young ‘hipsters’ and wondered what the hell is THAT all about:D:D:D
    …..and have NO idea but LOVE your thoughts on the subject:D:D:D

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GoneGirl says:

    This is so contradictory. The underlying message is fucked up – at least you are consistent.

    BTW: The queer cheerleader in your comment section is the best part!
    If my son were gay, I’d love & accept him just the same. BUT, he’s not prancing around in a dress.

    I did miss the school play- 1st one ever.
    And you can fuck off.

    Like

  8. Interesting post. I ask myself the question however: How do all the guys even know about all these trends to jump on? I just realized at some point how everybody is having a big beard now. Who decides that as a trend to follow? Why should anyone follow?

    I never understood this “follow the masses” thinking. Why would someone like to change into some crazy concept instead of just being your true self?

    I think this is the awakening that has to happen. Expressing oneself in his/her truest form and being proud to be this unique human. Not being afraid to be different.

    Until this “follow the others/masses” thinking doesn’t stop, nothing will change – no matter the trends name.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve never thought of lumbersexual this way… But I have to say that it makes a lot of sense. It’s a two sided “masculinity,” but many people are distracted by the fact that there is this ambiguity and freedom hidden in it.

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  10. We are always redefining masculinity. The dandy of yesteryear gave way to the dude, which gave way to the young warrior of the Two World Wars, which gave way to the definition of manhood of the 40s and 50s, which gave way to the unruly hippy, the lounge suits of the 70s, and so forth. However, we are also seeing the visibility and increased tolerance of many subcultures co-existing simultaneously. The emo, gothic, and scene men are different from the hipster and lumberjack, whose values differ from men who prefer their manis and dressed up outfits. With the slowly increased visibility of trans men (like Aydian Dowling), it shows, too, the expanding definition of masculinity. Men are no longer narrowly defined in what they can and can’t do, wear or not wear, etc. it’s expanding, and that’s a good thing!

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  11. Well, this was a rational discussion of the male suicide phenomenon. I applaud you from refraining to blaming feminists and recommending bringing back the Patriarchy. It didn’t solve the problems.

    Throwing away the fact that suicide is not a problem but a right, we are facing an era where males are more confused than women. Women have a clear group to be belong to, to be proud. They have support networks.

    Men don’t. Men don’t have much of an idea to hold on to that’s not portrayed as misogynistic. So no surprise many of them opt out. Why shouldn’t they? The best we can do for them is, first of all, give them a painless way to die.

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  12. steveisanchez1 says:

    I’m glad I came across this post. Imitation is Flattery. I live in Flagstaff AZ. A college town. So we get to see a lot of the trends first hand, fortunately they only seem to last a year or two. But the hipster and this lumber BS. IS JUST HILARIOUS! These are men who can’t even change their own tire on their car but they want to seem to portray themselves as rugged outdoor men…probably because they know how to pitch a tent outside thier car and build a fire. But the reality,in my opinion, is a staggering loss of what a Man’s man is. And America will pay for it. For some reason these men these days are afraid to get dirty. Afraid of real work. They feel I titled to everything just for thier existence…They have no idea that America was built by men who got up and worked for them selves and the people around them.. But more importantly, for a better future. These Men that had to do everything because no one is going to do it for them. But now. With a decade of parents doing everything for thier child is clearly destroying what that ruggedness really is. I am a builder. I gets guys left and right who think they are men. They all look rugged. But can’t even show up if there is a little snow on the ground. Can’t move a pile a wood. Operate a shovel. They want to get paid to be there..not to work. why do they dress this way. It’s a visceral feeling. A part of them knows that they are just a big sissy and missing a true part of what being a man is. So, they grow a beard, have a craft beer and try to satisfy the depression with other like minded,entitled, Sossies trying to mimmic the men the really wish they could be. But just too lazy.

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  13. This is doubtless a controversial statement: as long as god is male and society is patriarchal, nothing much will truly change. Yes, there have been a variety of superficial changes but not truly substantial changes. All I have to do is listen to my high school students, particularly males.

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  14. There is so much to be said about the subject(s). But, it goes to say that people are being busy looking cool rather than being themselves, or at least those who thrive on social media. That has and will always be true. It is just because the media focused on it that we see it. My man has been asked if he wore his clothes ironically… Because it is plaid. He wears is for work, never taught that wearing clothes could be ironic. I mean you like it or you don’t… No? The grunge era wore it because it was cheap clothes, it gave a style. Now you and looked good enough, the proletarian, or working class wear it because that is just the motif they have on work clothes. I mean, at a certain extent, it is just the style that has fallen in the popular fashion and media for now. All in all, masculinity is a temper, is a personality, it is not a gender. It is interesting and nice to talk and hear about gender and roles and stereotypes, but it was never an issue for me as I grew up, it never will be. It a mix of avant-garde, value village and good looks and tastes with a huge touch of marketing.

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  15. As time goes by the meaning of masculinity has really changed. Nice post, it made realized (well just for my point of view) that masculinity means something else and it already leveled up, well aside from referring to “manliness”, it could be having the inner strength to show people who you really are. Masculinity in accepting what you really want even though you know “human beings” wouldn’t understand it. The way people dress up is actually a good example. 🙂

    Lumbersexual weakens the ancient sense of masculinity which is actually good since it terminates the standards and I think standards are subjective to people and through that you could be somebody.

    nice post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  18. I’ve loved warm plaid chamois (or flannel) over-shirts for years. I don’t shave because it’s hard work, and I avoid haircuts because they’re expensive. One of the few things worth the money is a very good beer, wine, or whisky — right up there with comfortable shoes, a good mattress, and just the right toilet paper.

    The thing I don’t understand is why, all of a sudden, people are mimicking my patented look. I mean, it’s not like I’m _that_ influential.

    But they are, and so now there’s a label being applied to me — and I’m not at all sure that I like it.

    So smile when you use that term, hipster. ;o)

    Like

  19. I love this read, I think it’s really important to instill the idea that gender is not necessarily the most important thing to a person’s nature – especially for a child. I think the early years are the time to be laying down this foundation, and at least this generation might be a little more understanding about the whole gender-fluidity and identity thing.

    I’ve written a little snippet/overview on my blog about my own views on the general notion of Feminism, I’d love it if anyone would like to give it a read and leave me some feedback letting me know your thoughts!

    Like

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