TIME Opinion

Confessions of a Lumbersexual

Jordan Ruiz—Getty Images

Why plaid yoga mats and beards are the future

Several years ago I was riding in a van with two female friends in the front seats when one of them pointed out the window and yelled “Wait! Slow down…is that him?” We were passing the bar that employed her ex-boyfriend.

“I don’t know,” said her friend who was driving. “A guy in Brooklyn with a beard and a plaid shirt? Could be anyone.”

I looked down over my beard at my shirt and both girls looked at me and we all laughed.

I’ve had a beard most of my adult life and my wardrobe is comprised largely of cowboy cut, plaid shirts and Wrangler blue jeans. On cold days I wear a big Carhartt coat into the office. In my youth in Oklahoma I did cut down some trees and split firewood for use in a house I really did grow up in, but in those days I dressed like a poser gutter punk. I nurture an abiding love for outlaw country and bluegrass, though, again, during my actual lumberjacking days it was all Black Flag, Operation Ivy and an inadvisable amount of The Doors.

After a decade living in urban places likes Brooklyn and Washington, I still keep a fishing rod I haven’t used in years, woodworking tools I shouldn’t be trusted with, and when I drink my voice deepens into a sort of a growl the provenance of which I do not know. I like mason jars, and craft beer and vintage pickup trucks. An old friend visiting me a few years ago commented, as I propped a booted foot against the wall behind me and adjusted the shirt tucked into my blue jeans, that I looked more Oklahoma than I ever did in Oklahoma.

I am a lumbersexual.

The lumbersexual has been the subject of much Internet musing in the last several weeks. The term is a new one on me but it is not a new phenomenon. In 2010 Urban Dictionary defined the lumbersexual as, “A metro-sexual who has the need to hold on to some outdoor based ruggedness, thus opting to keep a finely trimmed beard.” I was never a metrosexual and I’m actually most amused by Urban Dictionary’s earliest entry for lumbersexual, from February 2004: “A male who humps anyone who gives him wood.” But I do think defining the lumbersexual as a metrosexual grasping at masculinity gets at something.

It doesn’t take a lot of deep self-reflection to see that my lumbersexuality is, in part, a response to the easing of gender identities in society at large over the last few decades. Writing for The New Republic nearly 15 years ago, Andrew Sullivan observed “many areas of life that were once ‘gentlemanly’ have simply been opened to women and thus effectively demasculinized.” The flipside of this happy consequence of social progress is a generation of men left a bit rudderless. “Take their exclusive vocations away, remove their institutions, de-gender their clubs and schools and workplaces, and you leave men with more than a little cultural bewilderment,” writes Sullivan.

If not a breadwinner, not ogreishly aggressive, and not a senior member in good standing at a stuffy old real-life boy’s club, what is a man to be?

On the other hand, the upending of gender norms frees men in mainstream culture to do things verboten by a retrograde man-code once enforced by the most insecure and doltish among us. We carry purses now (and call them murses, or satchels, but don’t kid yourselves fellas). We do yoga. That the ancient core workout is so associated with femininity the pop culture has invented the term “broga” only goes to show what a sorry state masculinity is in. The lumbersexual is merely a healthier expression of the same identity crisis.

Which is, I think (?), why I dress like a lumberjack (and a lumberjack from like 100 years ago, mind you; real lumberjacks today, orange-clad in helmets and ear protection, do not dress like lumbersexuals). As a 21st-century man who does not identify with the pickup artist thing or the boobs/cars/abs triad of masculinity on display in most 21st-century men’s magazines (Maxim et al), is not particularly fastidious or a member of any clearly identifiable subculture and who is as attracted to notions of old-timey authenticity as anyone else in my 20s-30s hipster cohort (all of you are hipsters get over it), I guess this is just the fashion sense that felt most natural. I am actually fairly outdoorsy, in a redneck car-camping kind of way. Lumbersexuality just fit right, like an axe handle smoothed out by years of palm grease or an iPhone case weathered in all the right places to the shape of my hand.

There is a dark side to this lumbersexual moment however. It’s an impulse evident in Tim Allen’s new show Last Man Standing. Whereas in the 1990s, Tim the Tool-Man Taylor from Home Improvement was a confident and self-effacing parody on the Man Cave, complete with silly dude-grunting and fetishizing of tools, Mike Baxter, played by Tim Allen in Last Man Standing, is an entirely un-self-aware, willfully ignorant reactionary. The central theme of the show is Baxter in a household full of women struggling to retain his masculinity, which is presumed to be under assault because of all the estrogen around. He does this through all manner of posturing, complaining and at times being outright weird. In an early episode, Baxter waltzes into the back office at his job in a big box store modeled off Bass Pro Shops and relishes in the fact that it “smells like balls in here.” The joke is a crude attempt at celebrating maleness but it rings distressingly hollow to anyone who has spent any time in rooms redolent with the scent of actual balls. In later seasons the show softened but the central concern of a man whose masculinity is under assault because he is surrounded by women speaks to this moment in our popular culture.

If my beard is a trend-inspired attempt to reclaim a semblance of masculinity in a world gone mad then so be it. Beats scrotum jokes.

TIME Africa

Africa Fashion Week Showcases the Continent’s Best Talent

The growing trend of Fashion Weeks across the African continent challenges the notion that global fashion starts in the northern hemisphere

The lights dim on the catwalk as a capacity crowd quiets in anticipation. A pounding drum rhythm builds suspense as, backstage, stylists swarm the waiting models, applying last-minute dabs of foundation, glittering lip-gloss and bursts of hair spray. Next to the catwalk, professional photographers jostle for space with fashion bloggers preparing to snap candids with raised iPhones.

The scene could come from any of Europe or America’s frenzied fashion shows, but for two key differences: the models are mostly black and the designers all African. Welcome to Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg, an annual event that offers a sharp rebuttal to the idea that international fashion begins and ends in the northern hemisphere. “When it comes to fashion design, Africa is the next frontier,” says Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a women’s health doctor and wife of South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe who founded African Fashion International, which organizes the event, in 2007.

Now in its sixth year, Fashion Week Africa—which recently picked up Mercedes Benz’s sponsorship in a sign of its growing prominence (the company also sponsors fashion weeks in Australia, Russia and Mexico)—is a showcase for Africa’s top designers. Headlining designer David Tlale of South Africa makes regular appearances at New York’s fashion week, while Mozambican Taibo Bacar and South African Hendrik Vermeulen wowed audiences in Milan and Rome earlier this year.

The message from Johannesburg is clear: Africa is no longer just a source for ethnic inspiration and fashion shoots, but a fount of original talent that may just give the established global brands a fresh dose of creativity, Tlale tells TIME. “The industry needs fresh blood. Armani is tired. Galliano is trying to resuscitate himself. McQueen is gone. Gucci is failing to reinvigorate and Prada needs a new creative team. It’s time for the big fashion investors to start looking to Africa. Not appropriating our themes, but taking on our design talent.”

The first obstacle may be overcoming expectations. When Tlale, arguably Africa’s best-known designer, first showed in Paris in 2007, reviewers needled him about his line’s lack of leopard print. It still happens today. “There is so much more happening in Africa than animal prints,” he groans. “The time for showcasing the big five is over.” He is talking about the big five safari animals, but he could just as easily be referencing Africa’s big five fashion clichés: Mandela shirts, animal skins, vibrant Ghanaian fabrics, Ndebele beadwork and the red plaid and beaded collars of the Maasai.

Take the clothes on the catwalk in Johannesburg on Oct. 29 to Nov. 2: from diaphanous trench coats to daring hotpants, they have nary a whiff of the African stereotype. Tribal motifs made an appearance, but they were translated into muted knitwear that could almost pass as Nordic.

As much as international fashion design could use a jolt of African creativity, Africa, which has become dependent on imported fashion, needs the economic stimulus of domestic production. In South Africa, the clothing manufacturing sector used to be the country’s biggest employer, even more than mining, according to Anita Stanbury, of the South African Fashion Council. But in the early 2000s changes in the law allowed Chinese imports to take over, and the industry all but collapsed. South Africa’s fashion weeks, of which there are six year round, are one way to encourage interest, and investment, in local production. South African fashion retailers only buy 25% of their product locally, says Stanbury. If they bought 40%, the number of clothing manufacturing jobs in South Africa would nearly double, from 80,000 to 150,000. “That is a huge reason why we should support the domestic fashion scene,” says Stanbury. “It gives us the opportunity to pull people out of poverty, and make them consumers in the market.”

The domestic economic benefit is one of the main reasons Moloi-Motsepe started with fashion, but pride plays a part as well. She believes it’s time for African fashion to take its place in the spotlight. “We see ourselves as global fashion players,” says Moloi-Motsepe. Just as she pairs Prada with creations by local designers, she is waiting for the day she spots a Londoner mixing Stella McCartney with Tlale. Global fashion, she says, would be better for the cross-pollination.

TIME fashion

Emilio Pucci at 100: Brilliant by Design

On his 100th birthday, LIFE remembers the Italian designer known for striking, geometric patterns and his wonderful use of color

Emilio Pucci, the Italian designer known for striking, geometric patterns and wildly (but always tightly conceived) variegated colors in his fashion work, was born 100 years ago today, Nov. 20, 1914, in Naples. A member of an old Florentine noble family, Pucci studied in the United States (the University of Georgia and Reed College in Oregon); flew as a bomber pilot in the Italian Air Force in World War II; served in the Italian Chamber of Deputies; and, in his long career as a designer, founded and guided a celebrated label embraced by movie stars (Sophia Loren), style icons (Jackie Kennedy) and royalty (Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway).

His influence, meanwhile, extended well beyond the runway, working with NASA on the distinctive Apollo 15 mission patch, for example, and the American airline, Braniff Airways, on a complete re-imagining of its aesthetic in the mid-1960s.

“Gaiety is one of the most important elements I brought to fashion,” Pucci once said. “I brought it through color.”

[See more about Pucci in the time.com piece, ‘Prince of Prints’]

[See all of LIFE’s galleries]

 

 

TIME portfolio

Go Behind the Scenes of Africa’s Fashion Shows

During his 25-year-long career, Swedish photographer Per-Anders Pettersson has covered a wide range of international news events: hunger in Ethiopia, civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana and South Africa. His pictures won praise and awards. But it wasn’t until he embarked on photographing fashion shows in Africa that he found his beat.

In the last four years, Pettersson has photographed close to 30 shows in Africa, gaining full-access usually by virtue of becoming a familiar face.

“Partly [why] I jumped into this was because I’ve done so many of the normal African stories for so many years,” Pettersson tells TIME, referring to his previous work on the continent. “The feel-good African story fascinates me.”

Pettersson’s images are not only set to challenge stereotypes in African fashion, which include animal prints and ethnic designs, but are also meant to confront the “Western gaze,” a media misperception in which Africa is but a war-torn continent rampant with poverty, diseases and ethnic conflicts.

Back in 2009, Pettersson had originally set out to photograph Africa’s new middle and upper class, a fast-growing population in recent years that had attracted little media attention. He received an assignment to photograph a fashion show in Johannesburg, where he thought he’d find some subjects for Rainbow Transit, a photo book on daily life in South Africa after the nation’s democratization.

Pettersson was immediately drawn to this world of fashion: glamorous models in color-rich fabrics, elegant catwalks, and the people he had come to find: well-dressed locals at fancy after-parties. Ever since, he has been documenting the boom of Africa’s fashion industry.

“I feel the story is not only about fashion but also about the new growth in Africa,” he says.

Although South Africa is the capital of Africa’s fashion scene and runs six fashion weeks a year, Pettersson says that more shows are popping up throughout the continent – a sign that Africa’s economy is developing and people’s buying power are growing.


Per-Anders Pettersson is a Swedish photojournalist who has been documenting Africa for the past 20 years. Read LightBox’s piece on his book, RainBow Transit, published by Dewi Lewis in 2013.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at Time.com. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Ye Ming is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

TIME fashion

Top Model and Face of Prada and L’Oreal Found Dead

The cause of death has not yet been determined

A prominent model who had featured in high-profile campaigns for L’Oreal and Prada was found dead Thursday by her worried brother, who broke down her apartment door when she stopped answering her phone.

Katerina Netolicka, a 26-year-old Czech model, was lying dead in the bath at her apartment in in the Czech Republic town of Litvinov, Australian news portal news.com.au reported.

She shared the home with with her boyfriend of five years, 29-year-old ice-hockey player Jakub Petruzalek, who was in Russia with his team when she was found. The exact cause of death has not yet been ascertained.

Litvinov is a town of 27,000 and also the birthplace of model Eva Herzigova.

Several Twitter users expressed their sadness at Netolicka’s untimely death.

[news.com.au]

MONEY fashion

Old Navy Slips Into Plus-Size Controversy

The retailer has angered some customers by charging extra for plus-size women’s clothes but not for plus-size men’s.

TIME Body Image

Old Navy Explains Why It Charges More for Women’s Plus Sizes

US-ECONOMY-OLD NAVY
An Old Navy clothing store is seen in Springfield, Virginia,/AFP/Getty Images) SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

Almost 20,000 people petitioned the company to stop

Old Navy is under fire for its double standards when it comes to plus size clothing prices. While men pay the same price for regular and larger sizes, women get charged up to $12 to $15 more for plus sized items.

Almost 20,000 people have signed a petition asking Old Navy to change its practices. Renee Posey, who started the Change.org petition, notes that while she was “fine paying the extra money as a plus-sized woman, because, you know, more fabric equals higher cost of manufacture,” she was alarmed that the same standards didn’t apply to men, inciting that “Old Navy is participating in both sexism and sizeism, directed only at women.”

Old Navy’s explanation? A spokesperson for Gap Inc., the retailer’s parent company, issued a statement to TIME (among other outlets):

Old Navy is proud to offer styles and apparel designed specifically for the plus size customer. For women, styles are not just larger sizes of other women’s items, they are created by a team of designers who are experts in creating the most flattering and on-trend plus styles, which includes curve-enhancing and curve-flattering elements such as four-way stretch materials and contoured waistbands, which most men’s garments do not include. This higher price point reflects the selection of unique fabrics and design elements.

So more detail equals more money.

Spokesperson Debbie Felix didn’t respond to questions about Posey’s rebuttal about why the extra cost doesn’t apply to regular women’s clothing that includes the same fabrics and “figure-enhancing elements.”

A look at Old Navy’s petite section shows that the retailer charges the same amount for its smaller sizes as it does its “regular” sizes.

[BuzzFeed]

MONEY fashion

Women Are Spending Big Bucks for Big Backsides

The famous physiques of Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian are behind a booming business in...behinds.

TIME fashion

Calvin Klein Never Called That Model ‘Plus-Sized’ — Twitter Did

Internet users are outraged over a "plus-size" campaign that never happened

On Sunday, Twitter drew from its bottomless well of outrage and took aim at Calvin Klein for apparently calling a beautiful, slender model “plus-sized,” which in certain circles is the moral equivalent of eating a baby orphan.

One problem: Calvin Klein never called Myla Dalbesio plus-sized. The campaign wasn’t a plus-size campaign, and the line of underwear isn’t for plus-sized women. The Twitter controversy was actually ignited by an interview Dalbesio gave to Elle, during which she describes her thoughts on being cast as a “plus size” model for other brands — not Calvin Klein.

In fact, she even said in the interview that she was impressed during the shoot at how she wasn’t treated differently from any of the other models. “I’m not the biggest girl on the market but I’m definitely bigger than all the girls [Calvin Klein] has ever worked with, so that is really intimidating,” she said. “No one even batted an eye.”

She continued: “It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus size girls.”

At size 10, Dalbesio is bigger than the sample-sized models, but smaller than most plus-sized models. That’s why she thought being included in the Calvin Klein shoot was such a big deal. “I’m in the middle,” she said. “I’m not skinny enough to be with the skinny girls and I’m not large enough to be with the large girls and I haven’t been able to find my place. This [campaign] was such a great feeling.”

Dalbesio confirmed to TIME that “plus size” was “never part of the picture in any way” while she was working on the Calvin Klein shoot. Calvin Klein said in a statement that “these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.”

But those on Twitter who were annoyed missed the part where Calvin Klein never called Dalbesio plus-sized, probably because they never bothered to actually read Dalbesio’s interview. All they needed was the brand, the “plus-size” label and the picture of a Dalbesio holding her stomach to go into full-on outrage mode:

True, it’s problematic that Dalbesio considers herself “bigger” than all the other girls Calvin Klein has ever cast. But the brand made a big step forward here by putting a model who would otherwise be cast in the “plus-size” category in an industry with serious body-perspective issues, into their “normal” campaign. It’s not as groundbreaking as casting a model who’s size 14 or 16, but it is progress.

TIME fashion

Frank Gehry’s Shelf at Louis Vuitton’s London Flagship

Frank Gehry has selected personal favorites for his 'Curated Bookshelf' at Louis Vuitton's London flagship. The shelf is located in the first-floor librarie.
Frank Gehry has selected personal favorites for his 'Curated Bookshelf' at Louis Vuitton's London flagship. The shelf is located in the first-floor librarie. Jessica Klingelfuss

Gehry joins a line of creative luminaries including Cindy Sherman, David Bowie and Harland Miller

wallpaper*-logo

Gehry-mania continues apace in Europe. October saw the launch of the architect’s retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, followed by the grand opening of his ship-shaped Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d’Acclimatation. Ahead of it all, Wallpaper* HQ recuited the master builder to guest-edit the October 2014 issue.

This week he unveils another project — this time on the first-floor librarie at the New Bond Street flagship of his patron du jour, Louis Vuitton. Following a line of creative luminaries including Cindy Sherman, David Bowie and Harland Miller, Gehry has joined the brand’s program of ‘Curated Shelves,’ a component of its luxurious London maison, which pays homage to the brand’s long tradition of patronage of the arts with specially commissioned works and collectibles. He has hand-picked a diverse collection of classics old and new for a feature wall in the librarie, nodding to each stage of his 50-year career with a literary emblem.

What’s most interesting about the project is, of course, the material Gehry has chosen to represent him in this context. It paints him as an avid consumer of culture with a particular fondness for European thinkers: Camus, Cervantes, Santayana. He is also a generous promoter of his peers, gathering monographs from Vija Celmins, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg and Pierre Boulez, all of them close personal friends.

No single selection is altogether surprising, though as an ensemble they piece together a rationalization for Gehry’s multifaceted postmodern spirit. They also form a worthy canon for a curious creative mind — a canon that any of Gehry’s own monographs could arguably stand alongside.

This article originally appeared on Wallpaper*.

Read more from Wallpaper*:

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser