Attention, all men who’ve ever worn flannel and stompin’ boots! There’s a weird new trend in the world of clothes and facial hair, and it’s something called the lumbersexual. If I’m not mistaken, this means looking like a rugged, but immaculately kempt man with a thick beard, flannel shirt that hasn’t the slightest sap residue, and secretly soft hands made swift by much Instagram use. According to the Internet, this style is taking over for the metrosexual, and I find myself tentatively approving of this desire to bring the woodsman into the urban artisanal coffee shack.
Some may think that lumbersexuals are a slight to legitimate choppers of mighty trees, but really the movement is pleasantly and beard-ily playing with gender roles (in fashion), as the metrosexual did before this current pretend interest in log cabins. There’s a quaint honor in ironically reacquiring the ridiculous notion of masculinity through beard and flannel use.
“Men are given a harder time than women when they play with gender through style,” astutely comments Holly Baxter in an analytical piece on the surge of lumbersexuals. “The metrosexual threw caution to the wind and started carrying his moisturiser round in his manbag; the lumbersexual now serves us up a hypermasculine aesthetic with an unashamedly ironic grin.” If anyone sees a twig thin man wearing the flannel of a man who could punch a tree into kindling and thinks of this trend creature as a phony, they’re missing the point.
Gender roles, as a thing, are ridiculous. The man makes the man, not the clothes; or, better, the human makes the human, and clothes are just whatever is most comfortable or looks the best. A virile, thrusting man-beast may look absolutely darling with a chic shoulder bag, but may balk at the possibility because of stereotypes. Rigid membranes around gender roles are trying to yield to all kinds of different styles, and lumbersexuals are actually helping that because the tacit message is, “we can take a supposedly super masculine outdoorsy thing and blend it with cute iPhone covers, expensive caffeinated beverages, black and white photography, and never ever even thinking about hurting a tree.”
In an enjoyable piece about this new but obviously also old fashion, Peter Lawrence Kane at The Bold Italic wrote about the shift that occurred when men began identifying as “straight men.” According to Kane, “straight guys hug each other a lot more than they used to.”
“This move back to a more overtly masculine style – which like metrosexuality, is still consumption-based – builds on that, rather than canceling it out.” I agree with Kane, in that a balance can be found between rugged looking clothing and beards, and the ability to hug it out with a fellow man. And Kane is right in pointing out that the whole discourse on metrosexuality and lumbersexuality, terms that are extremely aesthetic in nature, are part of the whole consumerist mindset anyhow.
Jezebel vehemently brings that up in their point/counterpoint cross section of lumbersexuality. Writer Tracy Moore analyzes what lumbersexuality means in the broad scheme of male sexuality, and goes as far as defining it as a higher level of confusion on the matter, if I understand her correctly. So we have two camps, it seems; some folks stand behind the folksy look revival, and others see it as an attempt to hide behind the fantasy of fist fighting with bears while hair ripples across your biceps. The identity of the lumbersexual, to Moore, covers up a “modern type of cowardice.”
“The whole thing smacks of a trendy joiner mentality,” says the Jezebel scribe.
Ultimately, as said before, clothes are clothes, and what’s underneath is far more important, especially if you have awesome scars or muscles. But if not, who cares, because you also have a brain or two. Comfort, really, should be the object of clothing; a truly comfortable man or woman can exude confidence and power in a rainbow bathing suit, turtleneck blazer, and stovepipe hat. Why, if you rock that while flashing a confident grin, you transcend metrosexuality, lumbersexuality, and any other fashion sexuality that purports to exist. Whichever clothing suits you, wear it like a boss. Just, you know, don’t try to pull off a gold medallion with your name on it.