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The "Lumbersexual", a contemporary American identity

One of the stranger identities is what a journalist has called the “Lumbersexual”. This is reminiscent of the “Metrosexual”, an affluent, fashion-obsessed young man found in large cities. The lumbersexual is, however, obsessed with fashions of the rugged outdoors. He wears the uniform of the lumberjack. As the journalist put it: “He’s a lumberjack with a killer sense of style.” It’s a look coming straight out of rural Minnesota.

With his plaid flannel shirt, hiking boots, jeans, and a beard, one knows that this man’s heart is in the north woods. He’s a modern day Paul Bunyan, at least in his personality aspirations. But something is awry.

The journalist puts it this way:

“He’s old enough to grow a beard but not so old as to hold hints of salt in the black pepper. He longs for the days when life wasn’t complicated by big-city dreams, when a man could eke out a living off the land. But the closest he’s gotten to downing a tree is stuffing his face with buche de Noel.

The lumbersexual has an evergreen heart, but he’s a desk jockey trapped in the concrete jungle. His raw masculinity must be practiced after hours. When you actually find him in the woods, he’s staring into the distance, wondering if Valencia is the right filter for this sunset Instagram post...

Don’t confuse the lumbersexual with his progenitor, the lumberjack. Instead of sawing wood, he’s more likely to be sitting at a faux-worn wood table at the corner coffee shop, building his wilderness photography website on a MacBook Air. His is an air of thoughtful contemplation as he strokes his Trotsky beard-stache, waiting for a medium sugar-free soy chai latte.

This guy will take a lowball of Bulleit Rye (neat, duh) to go with his six-ounce filet mignon and roasted fingerlings. The lumbersexual is a meat and potatoes guy, but he’s no farmer. He’s got taste, style, and a je ne sais quois that makes you think he could star in a Fleet Foxes video.

The lumbersexual’s idea of a mountain climb is hauling a keg of Summit (beer) up three flights of stairs. Though is web coding gig doesn’t provide the brawn to match the style - and an LA Fitness membership is out of the question - that doesn’t deter him from rolling up his wool sleeves and mounting a pair of antlers he got at Urban Outfitters in his cubicle.

At his apartment you’ll find books like How Stay Alive in the Woods, Into the Wild, and The Hatchet with barely broken spines sitting next to dog-eared issues of GQ and Esquire (magazines). Hanging over the lumbersexual’s mantel is a decorated ax that hasn’t seen a tree save for the one killed to make it, and his closet has enough flannel to outfit the cast of The Red Green Show.

To get that fresh-from-the-forest aroma, he has a bottle of Juniper Ridge’s wilderness perfume, which offers scents like Big Sur Trail Resin and Siskiyou Backpacker.

‘There’s a lot of things that are packaged like “Beard this’ and “Lumberjack that,’ says Juniper ridge owner Hall Newbegin. ' We’re going out into the mountains ourselves. We’re putting our hiking boots on, and harvesting plants in a sustainable way, and putting the real stuff in a bottle from the mountains of the west.’

The lumbersexual is into authenticity.

An honest day of work starts with working some oil into the bristles along his chin, rendering his digits soft and supple as he mounts his bike and rides toward the city lights.

Unfortunately, the one thing he can’t buy is calluses.

‘The calluses on my hands and the scars from accidents in the woods are very real,’ Flygt says. ‘I’m not a guy trying to pull off a look’” ...

And the lumbersexual ain’t no novice.

He flashes a toothy smile beneath his studiously curated beard, a well-trimmed mass of brown that’s cut close to the chin so you can still imagine his chiseled jawline. He’s got an undercut - floppy and gel-thick on top but shaved close to the sides - that he runs his tattooed hand through, rumpling the longer parts on his crown in a frankly my-dear-I-don’t-give a damn-about-my-hair way.

Finally, the lumbersexual checks his iPhone and begins his retreat, headed home to the neighborhood of the moment, the North Loop (of Minneapolis).”

You get the idea. This man is living between worlds. On one hand, he is a product of the media and commercial worlds. On the other hand, his mind inhabits a time of pioneering woodsmen.

This is no lonely eccentric. The lumbersexual personality, born in urban Minnesota, has made his way to such places as New York City and Los Angeles and proved to be a profitable market for manufacturers of camping gear. If you live in the big city, someone like this may be living near you.

Source: “Meet the Lumbersexual. Part Metrosexual. All Sartorial Man” by Tatiana Craine, City Pages, March 4-10, 2015

 

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