It's Time to Kill These Ridiculous Modern-Male Archetypes
Men's fashion was once known for its no-frills functionality. But today, there are as many fashion archetypes as there are variations of beard trimmings on a Williamsburg barber's style chart. Hundreds of hyper-specific sets of looks pepper men’s magazines and click-through listicles, pressuring us to buy a $400 leather shave kit that might turn us from "Urban Bon Vivant" to "Urban Troubadour"... or vice versa.
These categories increasingly prove to be utterly random. You may find yourself in one of these fashion ghettos by unintentionally pairing two seemingly random pieces of clothing. A leather jacket and sneakers? Welcome to hipsterdom. Has laundry day left you with a knitted hoodie and sandals? You're now a "metropolitan hemphead." Don't care about fashion and shop at Walmart? Sorry friend; thou art normcore.
What follows are five such archetypes that have long outlived their existence -- if, in fact, they were ever real in the first place. It's time to retire these overdone labels.
AKA: Urban Lumberjack, Outdoorsman, Woodsman, Burly Bourougher
Features: plaid. Rigid denim. Plaid. Heavy wool sweaters. Presumably over plaid.
Surely you’ve heard this term and experienced the subsequent gag reflex. According to some, a crisis in urban masculinity created the “urban lumberjack” aesthetic that pushed men's fashion away from the androgynous and toward the rugged simplicity of yesteryear. In actuality, a bunch of people started wearing plaid shirts near buildings. The spike in unmanaged facial hair may also share some of the blame.
As far as we can tell, this entire aesthetic amounts to wearing a certain form of plaid -- which also intersects with hipsterdom (more on that later!). Basically, the standard lumbersexual is an “outdoorsman type” with two to five roommates and an acoustic guitar hanging from his wall. As plaid has become ubiquitous to all styles, it is now high time to retire this pattern-based personality and what may be the vilest word in recorded history since “yeast.”
AKA: Your uncle Bernard, Mr. Americana, Dad Fashion, Wal-Martians, The Wyomingite
Features: tucked-in polos, jeans < $100, comfortable shoes
Granted, this one isn't restricted to men; although men are overwhelmingly its targeted audience. The agreed-upon definition of normcore is as the "artificial adoption of things that are in widespread use, proven to be acceptable, or otherwise inoffensive." In other words, ultra-conformists trying to make normal things (i.e. jeans, polo shirts) interesting once more. You see the catch-22 there, right?
The main problem with normcore is this: the line between a Pinterest-level normcore aficionado and regular person from Iowa is all but indistinguishable. If normcores are out there, it’s impossible to tell. That person you’re making fun of might just be wearing some comfortable jeans. From the onset, this trend seemed too meta to be true; as if custom-made for extensive deconstruction and mockery by a YouTube vlogger.
AKA: Sportsman, Olympian, Golf Fashion
Features: ‘Under Armour’ everything, 4-figure workout gear, sweatbands + blazer combos
In case you hadn’t heard, fitness is having a moment in fashion. What started as yoga pants begrudgingly becoming an acceptable piece of casual wear is now an incredibly lucrative branch of fashion that overcharges for comfort, style, and advanced fiber science advertised as being able to dissolve your sweat to Narnia.
The drenched clothes you keep in a separate plastic bag at the bottom of the hamper now come in highly fashionable, color-coordinated (or color-blocking), stench-defying, micro-whatever patterns that are grossly overpriced. In an age when all smartphones are now considered equal, these clothes fulfill a dire market need: that of wearing a status symbol.
At its most useful, the sportscore-adept can look good while running a few post-workout errands. However, the cross pollination of fashion and fitness has lead to the wanton pairing of sweatbands and blazers, basketball shorts and collared shirts, dogs and cats living together... it’s an all-around bad scene.
AKA: St-Marksman, Millennial Brat Pack, Pre-Scenester, that guy you don’t like
Some words have been used so much and in so many contradictory ways, they cease to carry any meaning at all. “Hipster” -- like “pornography,” or “healthy option” -- is a label without content. At its most universal, a hipster is a person dressed in an ostentatious or ironic manner that you happen to dislike. To go by a recently eavesdropped barista's wisdom: ”Cool, but trying to be.”
The hipster is an openly affected fashion persona. Unlike so many others hoping to incorporate an “I’m-just-expressing-myself-brah” effortlessness into their very curated looks, there's something admirable about the fact that the person you might refer to as a hipster is openly showing his or her hand.
We’ve had our fun, so it's time to retire this tired title. The word isn’t even limited to fashion -- or people! -- anymore. There are hipster bars, hipster neighborhoods, hipster professions, and even entire hipster boroughs and cities (Brooklyn, Silverlake and Portland, we are looking at you!). At this point, the hipster is in the eye of the beholder.
AKA: Fashion Forward, Modernist, Tony Starking
Features: technology used as fashion, any clothing item that would set off a metal detector
What fresh hell is this, you ask? Despite its name, there’s nothing new to future-leaning fashion archetypes. In past iterations, it amounted to predicting -- with a wide margin of error -- what fashion might look decades down the road. This archetype is today most commonly defined by elements of electronics being proudly displayed as fashion accessories. Think, for instance, of the person wearing oversized Beats By Dre headphones as a status-showing necktie instead of actually using them to listen to music. The futurist is shiny-meets-techie with a note of impracticability.
Leather gloves, metal-studded caps... We understand the appeal, it being 2016 and all. This is the future that was supposed to have silver jumpsuits! And while that fashion trend has yet to catch on, we most certainly have metal-studded leather gloves, bright colors, light-up sneakers...
The problem is how goofy it looks. More so than any other archetype listed, this one feels like a costume. There’s a thin line between the future and a Saratoga Springs Comicon -- and that line is a pair of Mirrored Wrap-Around Shield Sunglasses.
In the end, it’s good to remember these archetypes are as artificial as the underpaid fashion interns assembling them. The trends are best approached as artificial constructs; not anthropological observations. As a conscious, modern dresser, you are in charge of your own vibe. And said vibe should never -- not once -- involve lumbersexuality.
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Ben Philippe is a writer based in New York City. His current attire of undershirt, cargo pants, and Nike sandals make him a prototypical "Wednesday Walkabout," coming to H&M in the fall of 2016. Find him on Twitter: @GoHomeBen.