By Karina Meckel, Wednesday, January 26, 2011, at 8:30 am.
This is the second in a series of five. See Euro RSCG Worldwide PR’s latest white paper, “Male in U.S.A.,” for more analysis about the state of men in America today.
Is it back to nature for city boys these days? If you look around Manhattan or Brooklyn (the new old Manhattan), or Portland or L.A., you might wonder if there’s a casting call going on for Walden: The Movie. It’s hard not to notice the bearded, booted and flannel-shirted flocks trudging along the streets, in a sort of Paul Bunyan meets hipster (I mean echo-boomer?) aesthetic. Maybe it’s a backlash to the striped-button-downed, cologne-spritzed, well-coiffed look of the metrosexual, but men in cities these days are rocking the Urban Woodsman look hard—and old-school American brands such as Woolrich are reaping the benefits. (Note: Sometimes this look does not come cheap. A friend spotted a Woolrich section recently in the men’s department of the Bon Marché in Paris, with staggering prices for clothes that look more ready-for-fly-fishing than night-at-the-Costes.)
In addition to the fashion world, the art world is taking notice, too. Check out photographer Ryan McGinley’s series “Life Adjustment Center,” which takes Gus Van Sant–like models and adorns them with all sorts of animals, mostly in black and white, and nude to boot. A pretty young man poses with an alligator between his legs—an ode to nature and wildlife, an arty nod to man versus wild. But if animals as accessories aren’t your bag, check out the Eton Raptor, debuting soon—solar- or battery-charged altimeter/barometer/compass with AM/FM/WB digital radio, NOAA weather alert, alarm clock, chronograph and, yes, bottle opener. A Swiss Army knife for our times. Or maybe a state-of-the-art, tricked-out camper would interest you. To be stylish on your next sojourn through desert or mountains, consider the Deseo caravan to shuttle you to your next hike or campsite in postmodern style.
Style itself is a big part of the Urban Woodsman mystique. Clothing company PRPS has a seriously bearded gent in its 2011 look book that feels a bit Unabomber chic; note the stylish camo vest and the “rugged” chambray shirts, complete with dirt stains and paint splatters from a day of toiling in the rooftop garden or in an art studio somewhere in the wilds of Bed-Stuy or Bucktown. This look is prevalent on the left coast as well; check out SoCal hatmaker Brixton’s looks for winter, replete with the requisite bearded dude, sitting by a wooden ship’s helm that looks to be swiped from Hemingway’s El Pilar.
Perhaps you’re not planning a deep-sea fishing excursion off the coast of Cuba anytime soon (why bloody not?), but never fear. There’s a whole coterie of woodsman wonders to explore in U.S. cities, from butchering and woodworking to ice climbing and animal tracking. And no true UW would dare undertake such activities without the proper woodsy couture—stores such as J. Crew, Timberland, Billy Reid and Hog Mountain in Brooklyn stock clothes and accessories for your inner lumberjack, or what Hog Mountain calls redneck chic. That store—whose tagline is “A General Store for Men”—even sells Lucky Tiger grooming products, just like your Appalachian (OK, maybe Great Neck) granddad used to use.
Yesterday, I mentioned the Best Made Company in Tribeca, making custom axes for all those trees that need chopping or just to look cool on the wall of a UW’s apartment. I wonder how this all came to be. Was it Bear Grylls and his not-so-authentic survival show, or was it a reaction to too many perfect haircuts and male eye balm? (Euro RSCG helped popularize the term “metrosexual,” so we know how pervasive that way of being was.)
In our current deep forest of technology and uncertainty, the UW is retreating to nature to reconnect with himself—and his closet. I don’t see anything wrong with men knowing how to tie a monkey’s fist or start a fire. After all, for men foraging their way through life, only the strong survive. It’s best to gear up accordingly.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/melody.gates