Lumbering Onward



            I try to keep up with current events, especially the really important issues, so as I was reading the paper the other morning, I heard something on TV that caught my ear. Mrs. G. was watching one of the morning shows and the affable hosts were talking about a new style trend for men, and since I’m nothing if not all about the latest fashions for men, I had to listen further.

            “Have you heard about lumbersexuals?” one host asked of the other. He had not, and neither did I, but I was curious. I had heard about metrosexuals—guys that like expensive shampoo, and who actually enjoy shopping—but lumbersexuals was a new one on me. I also wondered who comes up with these portmanteau words and how much they get paid.

            Since everybody in the studio audience seemed a little vague on what a lumbersexual was—and really, why wouldn’t they be—the host had to explain it further. “Lumbersexuals are men who look like lumberjacks. They have beards, they like outdoor clothes, and they wear plaid flannel shirts, denim jeans and work boots,” the host explained. Nowhere in that Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 8.22.26 AMexplanation did she mention an ax or a chainsaw or actually knowing which end was which on these things, but when she was done, I looked down at myself.

            Check, check, check, check and check. This can’t be good. The practical, comfortable clothes and grooming habits I’ve enjoyed my entire adult life now had a name? And it’s a goofy name? I wasn’t in love with this. Not one bit, but a quick glance in my closet and in the mirror confirmed that the raw ingredients were all there

            The next day, I stopped off to buy some coffee at a place where only hardcore javaheads go to buy coffee, and I offer no apologies for this. I have been exposed to really good coffee and as such, I can’t go backwards. I’m not going Chock full o’ Nuts now. I can’t. If they ever closed this place, I’d have to drive to Guatemala every other week.

          BOOTS  There were two guys working behind the counter, and both of them looked as if they should be serving coffee over a campfire in the Canadian Yukon. I never would have noticed this before, but the guy who waited on me was dressed the same as I was; only decidedly more tailored. I haven’t worn jeans that tight in, well … never, and where does one find a flannel shirt that snug without it looking small? Was this a lumbersexual? I was going to snap a picture and text it to my hipper, city-dwelling daughter to confirm this sighting, but that would have been too obvious, so I took some more mental notes with my mentally dull #2 pencil.

           He had the same haircut my parents forced me to get when I was seven—buzzed high over the ears, parted on the side and slicked up in front—and a full beard that had been combed and shaped so carefully, it was as if I was staring into the face of a chrysanthemum. Other than the styling details, he looked kind of like me, if I had fallen down the rabbit hole and came out the other end via the Ralph Lauren store.

            “Good morning, sir,” he said politely, “just the whole bean today?”

            I said that it was, and then changed my mind and asked for a cup to go, which gave me a chance to wander around and observe what was going on. As an older guy who lives in the rural part of the county, these trips into the city are always fun. I feel as if I’ve gone to Europe or maybe 1960. I can never tell.

            As I walked around pretending to look at fancy Italian kettles, I became aware of the other guys who looked like the coffee guy—jeans, flannel shirts, beards, Carhartt jackets—but none of their gear looked as if it had ever seen the type of work that fostered this style. When I was in construction, everybody looked like this out of a three-peat combination of necessity, comfort and indifference. Is it simply fashion now?  That’s OK because I’ve seen much worse, but when I think about the image versus the need, it’s akin to buying a big, heavy pickup truck and doing nothing with it but hauling groceries back from Trader Joe’s.

FLANNEL            “Thanks,” I said as he handed me my coffee. I swiped my card, signed on the iPad with my fingertip and headed back out to the car. “Son of a gun,” I said to accidental fashion icon L.L. Bean and his buddy, Eddie Bauer. It took about forty years for this look to catch on, but I’ve finally made it to the fashion big time. Well, sort of. I’d have to shrink everything I own and pull my head backwards though a lampshade, but for once in my life, I was at least parallel to the top of the style curve.

             Style is fickle though, so when this trend goes away in a year or two, many of these lumbersexual guys will probably shave and move on to jumpsuits, leather aviator caps and goggles, and start calling themselves pilotsexuals. Some will stick with it though, so speaking on behalf of those of us who have been bewhiskered and comfortable in plaid flannel shirts, jeans and work boots for decades, and have enjoyed the work that matched the look—welcome to the fold. You won’t regret it.


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