There’s a dumb new word being used on the dumb internet that’s meant to describe a new trend in male fashion: Lumbersexual. You probably saw it mentioned on The Guardian, or The Daily Beast, or Jezebel, or Buzzfeed (Introducing The Hot New Trend Among Men: “Lumbersexual”, their headline reads), or Cosmo, or on something called Gear Junkie, from whence the strained portmanteau seems to have originated. Is lumbersexual the new thing for men? they all ask. And the answer, is, of course, no. This is decidedly not a thing.
None of which is to say that the accoutrements of the purported trend aren’t in ample supply — the beards, the flannel, the rugged outdoorsy aesthetic transplanted to the urban environment — because that much is evident. It’s just nothing new. In fact the very premise of it, the idea of the appropriation of masculine signifiers, a performative sort of manliness, are the exact same things we’ve been using to talk about the run of the mill hipster for over a decade now.
Consider the description from Gear Junkie:
He looks like a hardened outdoorsman but his flannel feels soft to the touch. He will open your beer with an omni-present Buck knife. He is a master of the retro Instagram filter. His flannel is coated with a waterproof DWR coating. His laid back style has been honed with more effort than he would like you to know.
Smh at this hipster up here right?
In fact, the header image they use to lead the piece might seem familiar to you…
That’s because it’s been used over 1,000 times on various sites to illustrate what a hipster is.
I won’t deny that there’s silly fun to be had in laying out a taxonomy of contemporary style sub-genres, but the rapid pace at which this one has been picked up by the listless content creators who deliver us our daily boorishness penance seems deliberately obtuse.
Buzzfeed, the King Midas of trend-spotting if gold were turds, explains a bit more. Lumbersexuals, they write, “have a CALCULATED look with the desire to be (and be seen) as rugged and the hetero-normative version of ‘manly.'”
In other words, it’s a guy in a trucker hat, drinking beer originally favored by working men, and parading around in the trappings of the working class: vests, work boots, knives on the belt and so on. That’s a definition that could be pulled from any of the four dozen NYT Style pieces on this very type of dude stretching back over the last dozen years.
In fact, trying to further differentiate this genus of hipster from the general populace isn’t even in itself new. The Awl wrote of The Urban Woodsman two years ago. And as The Daily Beast piece points out, this is a page pulled directly from the playbook of gay culture, males dressing up in male drag.
But the rough-looking, dependably butch lumbersexual, despite his honest-guy uniform, is a drag queen, just as we all are. On go our costumes every day, and so it especially is with those whose uniform is dedicated to looking like they care least of all what they look like. The lumbersexual is the biggest drag queen of them all.
The most unique characteristic of the Lumbersexual, however, is his big, burly beard, a trend so new and noteworthy that we’ve already seen its time declared over, reborn, and declared over again. As for the flannel and distressed clothing, that’s merely a tentacle of the ever-present eternal 90s of the hipster mind.
In other words, Lumbersexual is nothing more than a relaunch of a familiar brand, like slapping a fresh label on an old can — the PBR of fashion trends! — for people too stupid to remember it’s the same thing we’ve been drinking in this whole time. In other words, not a thing.