Colleges tend to be breeding grounds for new cultural trends. The logic makes sense; colleges tend to be full of young people who are coming into their own adult identities. They tend to experiment with new fashions, ideas, and cultural norms, and are less likely to fear repercussions of deviating from those norms. And because college students have more time to engage with each other (and have exposure to more diverse sub-groups), it’s easier for new social ideas to spread.
Among the more recent cultural developments is the rise of the so-called “lumbersexual,” a subtype of hipster. The name comes as an extension of two existing concepts; the stereotypical lumberjack, with rugged masculine features, and the metrosexual, a straight man with effeminate features and/or a taste for fashion.
So just what is the lumbersexual phenomenon, and how did it come about?
Key Elements of Lumbersexual Culture
So how can you spot a lumbersexual on your campus?
There are a handful of key identifying characteristics:
- Facial hair. The facial hair is telling. The average lumbersexual tries to display a look that’s distinctly unshaven, rugged, or stereotypically “manly.” Accordingly, they tend to have big, full beards. However, they also tend to take care of their beards; they aren’t marked by unkempt, dirty facial hair. Instead, they let their facial hair grow out for weeks at a time, keeping it tidy with a safety razor, and ensuring it looks clean and orderly with beard oil. It’s supposed to walk the line between “dirty” and “clean” facial hair looks.
- Location. Lumbersexuals could appear practically anywhere, but they tend to be more common in big cities and suburbs. Remember, lumbersexuals emerged as a kind of offshoot of hipster culture, so wherever you’d expect to find a hipster, you can probably bank on finding a lumbersexual. That said, you might find some lumbersexuals in more rural areas, especially if they already work in an outdoor profession.
- Clothing. The average lumbersexual attempts to wear clothing that suggests an outdoorsy lifestyle. The warmer, thicker, and more durable the clothing is, the better. High-end clothing isn’t a priority here, but lumbersexuals do try to keep a clean and tidy appearance, so you won’t find them with many tears, holes, or other indications of wear. Look for flannel shirts, wool gloves, and a Carhartt beanie or pants.
- Food. You may also be able to spot a lumbersexual based on their food choices. Though there will naturally be some individual discrepancies, most lumbersexuals attempt to eat organic, locally sourced, or farm-fresh foods. Some will even attempt to raise their own meats or grow their own crops. You can also frequently find them lounging at local coffee shops.
Where exactly did this movement come from?
- Deviation from the norm. Hipsterdom, in general, arose as a way to incentivize deviating from the norm. Historically, hipsters have prided themselves on wearing clothes, donning accessories, listening to music, and eating foods that break away from the mainstream (so much so that being “anti-mainstream” became their most noteworthy feature). And because lumbersexuals are a close cousin of hipsters, it makes sense that they would similarly want to break from the norm. For the urban or suburban middle-class college student, growing out a beard and pretending like you work outdoors is a way of deviating from the norm.
- Environmentalism. Environmentalism has become increasingly popular with college students, as the threat of global climate change increases and rising awareness of other environmental threats, like pollution. Dressing and acting like a lumbersexual doesn’t necessarily mean you care about the environment, but it does gently imply that you do; a connection to the outdoors could imply that you grow your own crops and/or respect nature, which can carry clout in a collegiate environment.
- Functionalism and minimalism. Lumbersexuals also like to emphasize function and minimalism. They aren’t going to shave unless it’s necessary, so their beards represent both time savings and simplicity in their own lives. Their clothes, while often aptly-fitted and relatively new, are designed with practicality in mined. This stems from sentiments like anti-materialism, minimalism, and frugality that are increasingly common in younger generations.
- Redefining masculinity. The lumbersexual also attempts to redefine masculinity, by exploring binary concepts associated with the gender. For example, the lumbersexual is both rough and polished. He is both clean and dirty. He is both rural and urban. He is both natural and artificial. It’s a way of getting the best of both worlds.
The Deeper Meaning?
So what does the lumbersexual stand for, and what does it mean for our culture overall? Unfortunately, not much. Lumbersexuals don’t have any underlying meaning to their identify, nor do they associate themselves with any particular political movement or ideology. Instead, their priorities tend to be functional, practical, and at times, superficial.