Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's a Man's World 


Image via Everyday I Show

It's a man's world. Despite all that's changed in the last 25 years. It remains a man's world, though I might venture it is an emasculated, de-sexed, indecisive man to which this world belongs. Perhaps in reality, it's a eunuch's world, and if you read the fine print, he's just renting it.

At some point, I don't know when, in parallel to "man-scaping" and shaped eye-brows, there was a movement to re-assert manliness. Of course, institutions such as Esquire and Playboy continued and may lay claim to such a movement, but speaking for myself, I think there was just a critical mass of men becoming a certain age. An age where boyishness is boorish, when you notice a white hair in your beard, when you've realized that you're not going to become the man you wish you'd be (or that perhaps your father ever/never was) by mere osmosis. It will take some effort. You see in your closet the cast-offs of your youth. You look around your work place and see your place in it. You look in the mirror and see a stranger. To that end, you reject the platonic boyfriend within, you turn your back on the impish, merry pranksters of film, and you sucker punch the inadequate, incompetent, impotent fool of man portrayed with such guile and hucksterism on every billboard, magazine, television ad, radio spot, bus vinyl appliqué, Web banner pop-up and poster screwed above a urinal. You decide to fight age with exercise and knowledge, no longer compromise on the tools of that war, cleanse your body of artificiality, wash out the hair dyes, let your hair grow where it grows, quash blemishes with the fact that you simply don't care, assert yourself into your city, insert yourself back into your life, ignore the petty, push over the fence-sitters and focus on the impenetrable forces that make this world suck while simultaneously bear-hugging all that is good and right. Then, apparently, you make a Web site and visit your nearest haberdasher.

I had once planned a Web site entitled a Man's Guide to Man. It was intended as not merely a collection of manly wisdom but also to offer some insight into the deep, dark, bat-shit filled crevice called the male mind. Yee may be Venus, but don't buttonhole me as Saturn. After really thinking about it for awhile I realized it was not only unnecessary but it was being overdone and undone by the crowd. There were just too many blogs, Web sites, magazines and films all pondering, "Are we not men?"

Where did it begin? The modern mind shift always begins in some type of media. HBO was there. Tony Soprano's anxiety was offset by the Wire's anger and levelled by the fierce brutality in a town called Deadwood. Those corporate brutes have lately been furnished with fine suits and cocktails on Mad Men. Stories of professional athletes have always looked for doping scandals or records, but lately took a turn to watching in awe those that performed beyond injury and then asked them for a book recommendation (see Jens Voigt's blog entry Saying No to the SAG Wagon). Of books, Michael Chabon wrote Manhood for Amateurs. Graphic designers returned to offset printing like a physical rite of passage, and one in particular decided selling hand made axes was a true expression of the tool every man needs. I'm still not sure where it began, or where it will end

A surprising source and instigator has been Andy Spade. Yes, that Andy Spade. Husband of Kate and brother of David. Not just through his own company, Jack Spade, but also for J. Crew who brought Spade in as a consultant to help revive the brand. The "new" J. Crew looks pretty much like "Jack Spade" brought to the masses. There's definitely a tribe of men who want you to know how to behave, drive, dress, and drink like a man. Not a dandy, not a poser, not an interloper, but a long-hand writing, axe-wielding, ice-in-your-Scotch, boot-wearing, pocket-kerchief folding, fast driving, all sport, meat-grilling, book-reading, gadget-toting man.

Who's to say if it's a trend of a season or two, or whether this return to men of yore style will mark this decade different from the previous. You know what I mean. The men of today can no longer wear sweat pants, drink Zima, "frost their tips", live with their parents, or stalk on Facebook. Maybe those days are gone. Maybe not. It's up to you, because you are a man.

You can add another Web site/blog devoted to the wellness of the modern man: Kempt is very much like original blogs in that the posts are very short and to the point, and very focused, as I've said on the culture and couture of men.

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