Positive Masculinity on TV

4 December, 2011

Positive masculinity on TV is a rare find these days. I’m entertained by shows like Modern Family, the Big Bang Theory, and the Office, but none of these has any example of a good male role model I’d want my sons to look up to.

On the opposite end there are shows that portray masculine, alpha males who are entirely morally ambiguous. There’s a lot to be learned about proper frame and growing a spine in shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire; but at the end of the day, it feels like you’re cheering on the bad guy half the time (because you are).

That being said, there are a few shows that I’ve stumbled upon recently that have really piqued my interest and portray positive male role models. None of them is perfect and all three are tainted by writers still adhering to the modern zeitgeist of feminism, but the good in these shows far outweighs the bad.



Was on NBC and only lasted two seasons – which is too bad because this is a great show. My wife and I just finished watching the entire series on Hulu and we both enjoyed it.

Life follows the story of Charlie Crews who joins the LAPD as a detective after serving 12 years of a wrongful life sentence. He was framed as a cop and sentenced to life in prison but was proven innocent after 12 years.

It follows the typical cop formula of each episode containing its own crime but still telling a larger story overall. What makes Life so good is how Charlie handles adversity. He seeks out justice on his own when the system fails him but he never loses his frame. He converted to Buddhism in prison and uses his Zen practice to always be in control and impervious to the majority of emotions that come from working in a high-stress job like LAPD homicide. Crews doesn’t bury nor does he ignore his emotions, he controls and channels them. It’s a perfect example of the balance illustrated in the saying “A man who is controlled by his emotions is a child. A man who has no emotions is a robot.”

Manly traits: Frame control, emotional control, strong sense of justice and fairness, ability to get back up after being knocked down, confidence without excessive bravado.

White Collar


Neal Caffry is a world-famous con artist who ends up teaming up with the FBI agent who caught him. I like both of these characters quite a bit. Peter Burke – the FBI agent- is a good example of your average man who loves his wife and his job and does his best to take care of both. No flash, no complaints, just going after what he wants and doing it well.

Neal on the other hand, is a great example of a likeable cad. Woman love him, everything always goes his way, he’s handsome and dresses impeccably. (For a site about men’s style, this is the show I recommend most to step up your clothing game.) He’s also another great example of frame control. Rather than using Zen and being willing to make everyone else uncomfortable while in his own frame, Neal is the perfect example of amused mastery. He’s so used to everything working out for him, that it’s rare to see him even break a sweat. I’m only a few episodes into the series and I’ve seen him con his way into and out of a good number of situations.  These are streaming on Netflix.

Manly traits: Frame control, amused mastery, adaptability, excessive confidence without arrogance, stylishness.



Of the three, this is my favorite. Airs on FX with season three starting in January, Justified follows US Marshall Raylan Givens as he’s sent back to work in Harlan County Kentucky. Givens is a bit trigger happy by modern standards but would’ve been considered relatively tame a hundred years ago. He’s quiet and in control. Great example of a Sigma male.

The majority of this show takes place in the sticks of nowhere Kentucky. The people are poor and have strong Southern roots. Essentially the men are men with the women being feminine in comparison but tougher than any man in suburbia. Of the two seasons already aired, there are steady recurring characters and a main antagonist with minor side stories each episode.

Givens is another great example of you – guessed it – frame control. The man never loses his cool. Guns, girls, whatever, he’s calm and collected. He’s also unhesitant when it comes to making quick decisions. He trusts his instincts and acts accordingly.

Givens is also a bit of a peacock. His trademark is slim jeans, boots and his omnipresent cowboy hat. He stands out as much in Kentucky as he would in California in his get up, but he pulls it off well and owns the style. He wears the clothes rather than letting his clothes wear him.

Manly traits: Frame control, strong sense of justice, stoicism, dry humor

There are a lot of similarities in these three shows besides the fact that they’re all cop shows (just realized that as I started typing this article). The most obvious is that these men are in control of themselves and it helps them exert control over the world around them. They do not let other people get under their skin; and if it does happen, they don’t show it. In their interactions with enemies, women, and superiors they all bring people into their world and their frame of mind. It’s a constant DHV.

Another glaring similarity is their confidence. While all three gained their confidence from different experiences, they all have confidence because of experience. These are men who know what they’re capable of and act accordingly. They’ve had their teeth sharpened and don’t live in the world of the hypothetical. They’ve taken risks with both failure and success as the result. They know what they’re made of and won’t be treated with any less respect than that worth.

While Justified is my favorite, any one of these is great for a lazy Sunday or an evening before hitting the sack. And while life isn’t like TV or the movies, there’s a lot to be learned from these characters and how they act and react to their given situations. Let’s hope TV keeps giving us a few gems like this to help temper all the other garbage out there.


Stealing Ideas

8 November, 2011

It’s no surprise to most men that anything found from a top-tier designer is going to look overly effeminate or too stylized. Even if they do design the occasional piece that looks masculine, it gets snatched up by effete hipsters who ruin all traces of masculinity in it (the lumberjack look anyone?).

But that doesn’t mean a man who likes to look like a man can’t take some cues from these designers and find something to wear that will make him stand out and still look like a man.

Here’s an example I found the other week.


As “hard” as he tries to look, this guy is relatively girly. But take a look at his traditional hunting vest. The leather is used to pad your shoulder from the butt of a shotgun. It’s in camo and he’s wearing it over  a tweed jacket. It even has cargo pockets on it. All of these are very traditional and very masculine in both style and function. So what separates this vest from one you’ll find at Cabela’s? First it looks like it’s made of wool instead of some modern synthetic blend. And second, is the fit. This is tailored to hug this guy pretty closely. I would assume that, were it not over his jacket, it would still look fitted but be roomy enough he could breathe.

For some reason, puff vests are huge right now. Men’s magazines are talking them up and it seems like every style blogger has a post featuring them. I like the way they look. But I’m going to scour eBay until I can find a traditional shooting jacket. It’ll be a quick trip to the tailor and I’ll have something that is unique, stylish and unquestionably masculine.

Steal ideas.

Better than a T

18 October, 2011

While button-up shirts, vests and suits have their place, there is room in a stylish man’s wardrobe for something a bit more dressed down. Yes a well-made T-shirt can be a part of that, but there are better options out there. Here are a couple.


The polo is the most common and recognizable of the T-shirt upgrade. The main standout is that it has a soft collar. There are usually two but sometimes three buttons. Never do up the top button and don’t ever wear a tie with one of these. It’s a casual shirt.



For me, the henley is a step up from the polo in both uniqueness and overall masculine appearance. I’ve heard it called lumberjack underwear and there’s no problem with having that kind of manly association. Essentially it’s a polo without a collar and can come in both short and long sleeve styles.


And speaking of long-sleeved, the crew-neck thermal is the last of the easy upgrades. What used to be long underwear is great as a layer on its own – especially in the fall. Throw on a tweed jacket and scarf over this guy and you’re set for any activity inside or out during October and November.

None of these options are anything ground breaking but I guarantee they will make you stand out without making you look metro. They’re stylish and masculine which means they’re exactly what you want.

The trick is the same as always, finding something that fits right. For short sleeves, you want the sleeves to hit somewhere in the middle of your bicep. Too low and it looks sloppy, too high and it looks like you’re wearing a child’s shirt. The other length aspect is where it fits on your torso. The rule with the polo is the same with any other casual shirt, it should fit just below or at your belt. Again, if it goes too low it looks sloppy and too high is mid-riff territory. Lastly, you want it to fit your torso. Slim cut, athletic fit, custom fit – whatever the name for it – it just needs to fit your body instead of blousing around you. Thankfully, this cut of shirt is getting easier and easier to find.

The best thing about these shirts is how cheap they are.

The First Step

13 October, 2011

Revamping your wardrobe is a daunting task. It takes a lot of guys a good, long time just to convince themselves it does need to be changed; and once they’re willing to do so, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that they have to buy and how they’re going to find it. Most don’t even know where to start and,while there’s no right or wrong answer to that particular conundrum, I recommend starting from the bottom – a man’s shoes.

Most shoes are situation appropriate. Investment bankers shouldn’t wear Vibrams to work any more than an NBA player should wear driving shoes on the court. For the most part, the appropriateness of a given shoe is relatively cut and dry until you get into casual wear.

The casual shoe is arguably the most difficult to wear. Casual meaning going to the movies, grocery shopping, a walk, a fight, the bar, class, the bank or wherever else a man isn’t required to dress up or down. Because there are so many options and because there isn’t a fast rule about what is and isn’t appropriate, it’s easy to make mistakes or just go with what’s easiest.

If you want to start updating your wardrobe to stand out from all the AFC’s out there, start with your shoes. Here’s what you should avoid wearing in most casual situations.

Flip-flops: These are appropriate for the beach, the pool or the spa. That’s pretty much it. I know they’re comfortable and your feet feel liberated but these are not every-day shoes. They look sloppy and lazy and that’s the impression you’ll give off if you’re wearing them anywhere that isn’t close to water. Yes girls can wear them beyond that. No it’s not fair.

Crocs: I hesitate to say that there is ever a time when these are appropriate. However, I know there are certain jobs like working at a hospital or in a kitchen that require a man to be on his feet all day. Don’t ever, ever wear these out in public.


Running shoes/basketball shoes/gym shoes: Jerry Seinfeld was never an icon of style so it’s a shame that this particular look of his has permeated as much of society as it has. Other than flip-flops, this is the most common offender. I’ve seen guys wear these to weddings, church and on dates. They don’t look good on anyone and they won’t look good on you.


Skate shoes: Don’t get me wrong, I have a pair of these that I wear whenever I take my bike out to the skatepark or when I’m going camping. Aesthetically these aren’t nearly as offensive as others on the list. The big problem with skate shoes is they make you look young, and a woman’s hypergamy is going to turn her off to a man who looks like a teenager.

If you look at all of these shoes, the lowest common denominator appears to be two-fold – comfort and affordability. While I can’t make the argument that the more-stylish options will be more affordable, I can tell you they are equally, if not more comfortable.

None of the following options is any more or any less appropriate than the others. Alter them for the time of year and for what it is you plan on doing, but choosing any of these will set you apart from all the other guys in the room.

Chuck Taylors: These are the most casual of the good options. Chucks can be worn by almost anyone in any situation. Because of that, they aren’t going to make you stand out as much, but they will make it look like you have an idea of what you’re doing.

Boat Shoes: Boat shoes are becoming more and more popular lately. They’re perfect in the summer but the darker versions seem to transition well in the fall and spring as well. I recommend more-muted colors in the fall and brighter versions in the spring and summer.

Desert Boots: I just got a pair of these and they’re the perfect balance between formal and casual. They both dress down a suit and dress up a pair of jeans equally well. These are my go-to shoes if I have to wear something to both formal and casual events. As always, darker is a bit more dressy than light.

Loafers: Most loafers look better sockless so these are a warm-weather option. As far as comfort goes, these are going to be your best bet. They’ll fit and feel like your slip-on Vans without making you look like you’re in junior high.

Driving Shoes: I don’t personally own a pair of these but I’ve seen men who do and they wear them quite well. They’re thinner and lighter so you can feel the clutch and pedals beneath your feet when you’re driving, this also makes them great shoes for running to the grocery store or going in to cash a check at the bank. Easy on, easy off.

Bucks: Bucks are where you start to get a bit more out of the ordinary in footwear. At least that’s the case for now. I’ve seen more of these this year than in years previous. They serve the same function as desert boots in that they help dress down formal and dress up casual. The only time I don’t recommend bucks is in the snow. They can be worn with or without socks and come in a variety of colors for both the material of the shoe and the sole.

Brogues: Don’t own a pair of these yet but I’m hoping to. These are perfect for autumn and winter. What sets these apart is how substantial they are. These are the shoes you wear when you’re going to the state fair or traipsing across campus in the fall.

I would say that 99% of men can wear any of the shoes above and make them look good. It’s hard to get these staples wrong and all of them will look good with almost any clothing choice. However, there are some other, more advanced options for those who want to peacock a bit more.

Slippers: I’m not talking about bunny slippers. Slippers means the real deal, the kind of shoes you can only find second-hand or pay top dollar for. Given how thin and delicate they are, these are best worn in good weather and in circumstances that don’t require any real physical effort on your part. These are as dandy as it gets.

Espadrilles: The most common version of these are Toms. If worn wrong, you look like a try-hard hipster and/or completely effeminate. If worn right, these are a great casual shoe for summer that looks more exotic than a pair of Chucks or loafers.

Vintage Sneakers: Again you run the risk of falling into hipster territory with these. I’m personally not a fan, but it is possible to pull off a pair of vintage shoes without looking like you’ve never eaten a steak.

Sandals: I’m planning on trying these out next summer. These are more dressed up and catch more attention than a pair of flip-flops and are also appropriate in more places. It seems to me that the biggest risks are not looking like an Aztec or that you stole them for your woman.

Heartiste pointed out…

5 October, 2011

… so many things that are wrong witht his picture. The way the guy is dressed is just as awful as everything else. No one’s going to ever take this dude seriously.