Hipster Masculinity

This morning I was chatting with a friend from back East online. He and I have never met in person, but we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and he pushes me to think better. During the conversation he complemented my newly-long beard and said his wife thinks I’m pulling off the whole lumberjack look pretty well. I thanked him and we started talking about the current beard revival. Apparently it’s so strong that Proctor & Gamble are losing noticeable amounts of money.

It got us talking about the current rebirth of the appearance of masculinity and the new era of guys – the hipster man.

hipster beard

He is typified by the aesthetics of a time when men were men. Spending any time online will lead to guys who have old-school haircuts, wear full beards or waxed mustaches, practice hobbies that used to be professions and require skill and minimal tools – things like leather working, soap making, wood carving, and others. They dress consciously and well, usually a level or two higher than most men on the formality scale. They like a simple aesthetic and are drawn to clean logos and companies that advertise a heritage. They love workwear and Americana and will romanticize the way the world used to look.

If you’ll notice, every single one of those things describes me. However, most guys will stop there. For the hipster man, masculinity is about playing dress up. It’s a way for him to adopt the aesthetics of a time when men were men yet still carry on with the modern, safe, female-approved attitudes that are so prevalent today. It’s a subconscious attempt at tricking himself into satisfying his innate, biological desires to act out his manly tendencies. He tells himself he can look the part, and even adopt the safe virtues, without becoming a threat to the current status quo.

By safe virtues, I mean the value of Self Mastery. I’ve referenced The Way of Men before and believe that Donovan’s breakdown of the four masculine virtues is spot on. He divides them up as Courage, Honor, Mastery, and Strength.

In the Internet age, the only “useful” virtue for most urban and suburban men is that of Mastery. The other three can make men dangerous and a threat to the safe society in which we live. As a result, the hipster man will only focus on the virtue of Mastery. He will become a talented musician, gifted artist, or skilled laborer.

This Mastery is a virtue, but it’s not enough to be good at being a man. It’s akin to saying a car has no need for acceleration or speed as long as the steering works.

The more dangerous virtues of Courage, Honor, and Strength remain enigmas to the hipster man. Courage is replaced with passive aggression. Honor is laughed at by a culture of narcissism and cartoonish individuality. Strength is for douche bags and gym rats – besides, all the girls say they like slim men anyway. The political correctness of our current culture will only allow the average man to look and feel masculine in a safe, non-threatening way. By criticizing or even demonizing the other masculine virtues, it ensures that most modern men are kept either stupid or weak, and therefore, more complacent and easier to control.

While I criticize hipster masculinity for it’s incompletion, I recognize the potential that’s there. I personally started focusing on manhood and masculinity only after I found a site that appealed to the old-world aesthetics. From there, I realized there was something missing from my life and started down the rabbit hole.

While a focus on looking like an old-school man and adopting his level of Mastery isn’t enough, it’s a great start and is one that should be encouraged. Not every guy who sports a beard and has ship tattoos will want to break away from the culturally-approved ideals of manhood, but many will. Rather than criticize the hipster man and tear him down for his lack of the other male virtues, we should reach out and help him see the benefits of continuing on the journey his clothing started.

Florsheim

  • Matt

    Dude in the pic looks straight out of the Village People

    • MasculineStyle

      Haha. That he does.

  • Dan Ellis

    This article is brilliant. I’m guilty of being overcritical of the Hipster movement. The breakdown of what these newer males are focusing on and lacking focus in caused me to reflect on what we all can do to be better individuals. +1 on this piece.

    • MasculineStyle

      Thanks Dan. Not all of the guys in this current stage would be open to expanding beyond it, but I think there are plenty who would.

  • http://www.jack-donovan.com Jack Donovan

    Agreed!

  • Dante Lehtola

    To me, the hipster look is synonymous with the Rakish style.

    • MasculineStyle

      I can see that, though my experience is that most guys are striving for the Rugged aspect more than anything else.

      • SH

        Nope, rakish is the dandy style with hats and walking sticks or the metrosexual Beckham style of the 90s. These guys are just feminine: style is for men, trend is for women, and all hipsters care about is trend, then they overcompensate by ridiculous big and unkept beards, which does not work unless you have broad enough shoulders to pull of the lumberjack style.
        Rant over

        • MasculineStyle

          A lot of these guys are wearing old-school classically stylish things – but you’re right that they’re just seeing them as trends, not as a permanent way to present themselves.

  • Fletcher

    “I personally started focusing on manhood and masculinity only after I found a site that appealed to the old-world aesthetics.”

    Sounds interesting. What’s the site?

    • MasculineStyle

      Art of Manliness. It’s how it all got started and I still think Brett’s doing great work over there.

      • Eric Cheatham

        Art of Manliness is one of the best websites I go to as well. Great article and well written. I never understood the whole hipster thing. I wear what I like whether trend or not but apparently with Hipster’s there is more to it…

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  • Jed Ullrich

    If you have a tattoo of a swallow you better have sailed 5000 miles or you’re a poser. Traditional tattoos have meaning and you shit on being a real man if you think getting a tattoo of that sort is simply aesthetic.

    • http://masculine-style.com Tanner

      You’re totally right Jed. The current return to masculinity is mostly form with no substance – which is better than no form and no substance, but not where we want to be either.

    • MasculineStyle

      Exactly. There should be both form and substance. Men used to understand that their appearance, even their tattoos and their hairstyles were easy ways or even subversive ways to communicate who they were and what they valued to other men. Trying to remove all substance from style is both vain and impossible.

      • Jed Ullrich

        I am a captain and have spent many thousands of miles underway aboard ship and boats. I’ve been wearing a beard for 10 years and I have no traditional nautical tattoos because of the overwhelming prevalence of posers. I have actually been thinking about doing away with the beard as they are so mainstream now I almost can’t bear it, however putting a blade on my face is yet more anathema to me.

        • MasculineStyle

          The problem with that approach is that you let the posers control the meaning of the look. If you’ve earned the swallows and you want them, then get them. If you love your beard, then wear it. Your body language, confidence, and demeanor will speak the truth to what you wear and make the other guys look like the fakers they are.

  • MTStulac

    I was in Chicago a couple of months ago and noticed how many guys in Wicker Park, a known Hipster enclave, wore full-on Civil War general style beards. It’s the latest in appearing ironic. They drank Pabst beer where microbrews were on tap, wore blue collar work shirts complete with name and/or company patches, though they wouldn’t be caught dead in a factory job, had thick plastic frames for fashion that we used to call “birth control glasses” in the Army since you’d look so dorky in them no girl would come within 500 feet of you. And so now they have these unwieldy beards, I guess for the irony of looking like a Kentucky bootlegger while living in complete urbanity. When a guy with hair slicked back like a 1920′s silent film star sports a bushy beard it’s as funny as it gets, kind of like a mullet for the front. One thing they still do is pin buttons of the most obscure bands on their black pea coats. First world problems – gotta love it.

    • MasculineStyle

      It’s not the aesthetic that bothers me. I’m sporting an old-school haircut and a longer-than-normal beard myself. It’s the inconsistency with what their perceptions of masculinity are. Being a man isn’t playing dress up. Your observation that they wouldn’t be caught dead actually working in a factory by like the look and feel of the old workwear is on point. Dress like that if it’s what you are and embrace the fact that it’s popular again. But don’t treat the appearance of masculinity like a costume.

  • vavavampire

    This is asinine. You’re not even criticizing a real person. You’re sitting on the internet heaping scorn on the “idea” of a type of person. I can’t imagine a less masculine waste of time. Stick to the clothes.

    • MasculineStyle

      What’s truly asinine is the idea that analyzing a group’s motivations for what they do equates to unmanly keyboard jockeying. There was no scorn heaped upon any of these guys. In fact, I explicitly stated that I come from a similar situation and that many of them can be fellow travelers. Any scorn felt is on you, not me.

      And if you want to read a site that just sticks to the clothes, there are hundreds of menswear blogs available. My whole purpose in creating this site is to meld the philosophy of masculinity with a man’s clothing and to understand the relationship between the two. How-to guides show up here, but they’re a dime a dozen on the Internet.

      • Matthew K

        MS, You are mocking a caricature you’ve created. You’re saying these “hipsters” may dress like real men, but you know that really, they aren’t. Take it like a man and don’t try to deflect criticism by being rude to VV.