A couple of days ago, I was watching a podcast on YouTube featuring Mark Rippetoe and Brett McKay of The Aft of Manliness. While the podcast was Rippetoe’s Starting Strength show, McKay was on to talk about manliness. Considering my own work on the subject, it was obvious that I would be watching.
During the show, Rippetoe posited the idea that young males, so-called Millennials, are desperate for masculinity. They want to be real men so badly that they’re emulating them in their clothing. They wear jeans and flannel shirts and sport thick beards like lumberjacks, and Rippetoe argued that it’s because they want to be men and wearing flannel is easier than doing squats.
He may have a point.
After all, this is the same generation that has managed to make the man bun a thing. While it looks ridiculous, and it’s mocked by those of us who are a bit older than your average Millennial, it might be a symptom of something deeper.
This meme, designed to mock the man bun, may actually hint at why it’s becoming popular.
Toshiro Mifune may well be one of the most recognized “samurai” in the world since he played so many of them in his career. His look was based on period artwork showing samurai during the era his films took place, so he kind of is the embodiment of “samurai” in many people’s eyes.
However, the samurai were men by any definition you want to use. Strong, brave, loyal, and competent in their skills, they were also stoic badasses.
Perhaps the man bun craze, as stupid as it looks to many of us, is just an expression of young males crying out to be all the things the samurai were just as the “lumbersexuals” may well be crying out to be the type of masculine that lumberjacks stereotypically are.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where seeking out masculinity is almost a counter-cultural act. The media is inundated with cultural memes screaming about how men can be anything and act any which way they want and still be men…and if you disagree then you’re some vile cretin.
Meanwhile, we have the bulk of an entire generation that seems desperate to grab hold of some form of masculinity while the culture that feeds their minds screams at them how wrong they are to want it. So they compromise. They put on the outward trappings of “man” and continue acting in a culturally approved manner rather than embrace the four virtues essential to masculinity.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all Millennials are created equally. While there are the lumbersexuals and man buns sipping lattes and bragging about listening to music no one else cares about, there are men (and women) who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way by embodying the four core virtues as members of the armed forces. Strength, courage, loyalty, and competence are their stock and trade, after all.
Even outside the military exist a number of young men who fail to conform to the stereotype of their generation. I’m blessed to know several, both in real life and via social media.
Unfortunately, those are a minority of their generation.
Luckily, there’s still hope. Generation X was a bunch of no-account slackers who wouldn’t amount to anything…but we took this neat idea called the internet and turned it into something amazing. We took a simple idea like a bookstore or a search engine and created global corporate behemoths.
The Millennials will most likely find their way. They’ll look back on the lumbersexual style the same way I do with grunge…odd that both were flannel, but I digress.
This new generation has plenty of time to find themselves, but we should also hope they recognize this desire–assuming that Rippetoe is correct like I think he is–and embrace it for what it is.
Humanity could use more actual men and fewer males without an understanding on what it means to be men.