Back when I was in college, if you walked into a coffee shop like Stoney Creek Roasters (the hub of the hipster subculture), you could infallibly forecast what every male barista would be wearing: 1) skinny jeans, 2) Toms (or the occasional Vans), 3) V-neck shirts so deep-cut you could see his solar plexus, 4) his grandmother’s sweater, 5) and hair styled with enough product to glue Humpty Dumpty back together again.
But as I walked into Jubala Coffee with my wife a few months ago, I smiled to myself as an observation I’ve made before struck me once again. A shift has indeed taken place. As I looked around at the baristas (granted, still retaining some tell-tail signs of hipsterness), every one of the guys was wearing 1) a plaid flannel shirt 2) Chukkas, top-sider’s, or distressed boots 3) and almost all of them sported a full beard.
You have to have lived under a rock for the last several years to have not noticed a trend among guys, especially in the thirties-and-under crowd. Sadly, the church caught on long after the movement started picking up – instead of leading the way. But, fortunately, some pockets of Christian men have finally begun following the lead of some manly Christian leaders. The trend I’m talking about is that movement to recover traditional values and concepts of manliness – “throwback masculinity” if you will.
This trend has, in large part, been confined to matters of style – bringing back work boots, plaid flannel shirts, and full beards – while retaining the same feminized, weak-kneed core under that slightly more masculine exterior. However, there has also been a somewhat more noble movement alongside this strictly fashion-related shift. That movement is sometimes dubbed the Menaissance.
You can find elements of this shift in many different areas of secular culture, but perhaps most conspicuously in advertisement. Companies have discovered that to reach a significant portion of the male population more effectively, they simply must tailor their ads to have a more traditionally masculine approach. One great example is this “MANifesto” from a 2009 Dockers ad.
“Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never had to cross the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar, and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to wear the pants.”
Does that not ignite something in the hearts of men? Even a secular jean manufacturer like Levi Strouse & Co (which owns Dockers) recognized that something was wrong with society, and knew that in the hearts of men a restlessness was kindling that would inevitably drive them back to the traditional values exemplified by men like John Wayne and Teddy Roosevelt.
Now, I’m happy about the impact of the Menaissance, but I have noticed something that may be worth cautioning men about. I have heard phrases like – “The demise of the metrosexual, and the rise of the retrosexual.” And hey, I’m all for that. But it seems to me that the original rise of the “metrosexual” came out of a call from women for gentler, more caring men, in a time when an overabundance of machismo and misdirected testosterone had turned men into brutes, and caused women to despise what the ideal of a manly man had become.
Of Man or Woman?
Now that it is becoming a little more en vogue to have a more masculine tone about you, I can’t help but wonder if this is also driven ultimately by what women want. I think that a man should try to be what a woman needs him to be, but it seems to me that this catering to women’s desires got us in trouble before – not because it was wrong of women to desire gentler and more loving men, but because fitting into a woman’s picture of the perfect man should not be our driving motivation.
What I mean to say is that I don’t know if women are the best ones to determine what men need to be. God determines that. And I don’t think that the ultimate motivation for seeking to recover traditional manly values should be that it is what women are now desiring, or that it is now the cool and fashionable thing to do (’cause that will change in another 10 years). We should be striving to be everything that God has called us to be.
The Menaissance (even if not known by that title) has certainly done a lot to place the lost values of manliness back into a prominent place in culture. I would urge men, though, to not simply jump on the bandwagon of the fashion trend. We need men who are willing to truly live out what it means to be a man. We need men who will bring stability to a world of ever-shifting unsurety, consistency to a culture of non-commitment, and staying power to a nation where men retreat. We need men with steadfast courage, ironclad conviction, undomesticated manliness, and a fierce love for God.