“Lumbersexual”, a term that surfaced toward the end of 2014, caught my attention. According to a handful of media outlets, this phrase embodies a male type that is primarily defined by an abundant beard, a plaid shirt, a woolen hat, and a craving to live rather isolated in a forest shack.
While the description goes on to include traits such as “wishes he could chop wood more frequently – or ever,” I immediately understood that “lumbersexual” is simply a subspecies of the current hipster movement – to idealize the less than mainstream, and then to trend it to death.
Here’s the thing: I live in a neighborhood that has provided the inspiration for lumbersexual. Teton Valley is the home turf of hardy men, whether they are here to ski or to work outside as a requirement of their vocation. Many of these men, my husband included, do in fact have thick beards and wear plaid flannel shirts. They also, many of them, wear woolen hats. Believe it or not, all of these choices stem more from necessity than style.
And there is the difference.
These local lumbersexuals – I like to call them “men” – aren’t putting anyone on. They do not “aspire to be” outdoorsy. They are. They do not hope to have the experience of chopping wood simply so they can say they have done it. They have to chop wood or their homes would lack heat. Do you see where I am going with this?
While I find the lumbersexual to be an interesting derivative of the male hipster, what I find more interesting is the fact that anyone would want to style themselves after the men of which I speak. Again, I am talking about my husband (and most of the men we know in Teton Valley). Let me enumerate:
1. If you have a lot of facial hair, you will get food in it. I’m not saying that the mountain bound men I know do not immediately use a napkin to wipe said food off of their face. But I’m not saying that they do, either.
2. The plaid flannel shirt is appropriate for many an occasion here in the mountains. It can be worn while working on a construction site all day and some of the stains you acquire barely stand out in the pattern. It can also be an appropriate shirt to wear to dinner while on a date, especially in a low lit bar that has knotty pine accents. After dinner, you can wear it again while you are chopping wood for that evening’s fire. The next morning, if it passes a cursory sniff test, it can be worn yet again. No. Really.
3. Let’s do talk about the chopping of the wood. If you are chopping wood to keep your home warm, you have elected to participate in a rather hardy lifestyle. I know someone that calls it the “Pioneer Fitness Plan.” It is not for the weak. In my own neighborhood, the men that get their forestry tag so that they may then go and harvest full sized trees, load up the chainsaw’d pieces into a pick-up truck, drive them home, unload, use a log splitter to get them into choppable sizes, and then start swinging an axe are not concerned with image. They are concerned about the long winter ahead.
In my imagination, I see an aspiring lumbersexual who has grown the facial hair, donned the flannel shirt, and likes to talk about forestry subjects whilst sitting in a coffeehouse in Portland, Oregon. But if that guy embodied the true image, his beard wouldn’t be so coiffed, his shirt wouldn’t be so clean, and he wouldn’t have trouble swinging an axe at an elevation of 6200 feet.
I am guessing, if given the choice, the majority of lumbersexuals that are just pretending would prefer to simply use a thermostat to keep warm.