The commodification of manliness has reached a new zenith: a peak where testosterone is watered down into brand-name everything, where it’s increasingly difficult to discern between the manly men and the posers without holding a wood-splitting competition.
We’ve castrated Paul Bunyan, using nothing more than a flannel shirt.
The lumbersexual is here for at least another fall/winter season, and that’s not good for anyone -- especially the women who want to date them.
The impressive impersonation of manliness that lumbersexuals achieve with a costume of beards and outdoor clothes is like any other fashion trend in which we play adult dress-up. But other trends don’t put such an emphasis on primal brawn -- and no other modern fad gets straight girls’ pulses pumping like the lumbersexual. Because let’s face it: lumbersexuals are hot! Their appearances remind us of a time when men were big and strong and built things not from Ikea.
But what we’re actually getting is a mirage: a deliberate hairdo, callous-free hands, a desk job, and an utter ignorance of the natural world. Men who know how to pound nails, split wood, and live off the land have unwittingly lent their no-nonsense, outdoorsy wardrobes to dudes who don’t know the first thing about how to fell a tree or wrestle a bear. They can’t even wrestle bears, these guys! And this rush to exude manliness during an era of uncertain masculinity has caused us to lose its very essence.
Superwomen still need supermen
Women in America have reached a cultural milestone: we now live in a country celebrating strong, independent females who can take care of themselves. Yet these superwomen are at their best when matched with true supermen. We need guys full of brawn, and grit, and everything else it takes to keep pace -- an alpha-plus to our alpha. Feminists have tried being big-ox to the metrosexual beta. And guess what? Supporting emasculated boyfriends with failures to launch while we brought home the bacon wasn’t that cool after all. The metrosexual was puny, high-maintenance. But a lumberjack? Well there’s a guy who looks like he could not only bring home the bacon -- he could butcher the whole pig.
Except they’re not real. So how are women -- how is anyone -- to know where the manly men are, when our programmers are rocking flannels and Carhartts?
“Lumbersexuals are sort of popularly teased in the same manner we collectively tease hipsters -- as only superficially exhibiting any of the qualities they are assumed to have,” said Tristan Bridges, assistant professor of sociology at The College at Brockport, SUNY. “What is thought of as ‘manly’ changes, though. Masculinity is not stable.”
Bridges is right: ideas of what men should look like and how they ought to act certainly shift over time. Guys sporting clothes with puffed-out chests, hose, embroidered pieces, and frills were considered the pinnacle of masculine during the European Renaissance, when little difference was seen between heterosexual and homosexual men. Victorians saw manliness as control over brutish masculinity: religious, polite, protective of the family, wholesome, enterprising, and hard-working, with simpler fashion staples like tight-fitting coats, top hats, and short hair. In these cases, successful men wanted to transcend an image of brash burliness. Pomp, frill, and luxurious fabrics achieved a look of aristocracy.