on hating subcultures

Throughout the 20th, and now the 21st, century, subcultures in the West have been met with pushback from the mainstream culture. From beatniks to hippies to hipsters, popular culture has had a less-than-positive view of these “counter” cultures.

A subculture is an identifiable group with its own set of cultural traits that exists within a larger culture. In the United States, to paraphrase Grant McCracken (2009), subcultures like beatniks and hipsters have been defined, in general, by their “coolness,” which separates them from the seemingly mundane aspects of the larger ‘American’ culture . It’s this coolness, according to McCracken, that makes the larger culture view subcultures in a negative light.

(This doesn’t apply to all subcultures. It only really applies to the “cool” or “hip” subcultures. There are plenty of subcultures that aren’t hated by mainstream pop-culture, car cultures for instance, however these are a discussion for another day.)

Over the last decade and a half there has been a steady stream of subcultures being portrayed in pop-culture. First, there was the metrosexual, who arose with the popularity of the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and was mocked on South Park. This group was the target until a man taking care of his appearance became accepted and eventually mainstream. Then, there were the almost universally-hated “hipsters” (a term that has meant something different in just about every decade in the last century, adjusting to whatever was ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ at the time) that, by some accounts, even hipsters hated. (Not that anyone would dare to define themselves as hipster.) Now that hipster fashion and tastes have found their way into the mainstream, nobody really hates them… or bothers to make mention of them for the most part.

Now there is another subculture that everyone can get behind hating: “The Lumbersexual”.

Part hipster, part metrosexual, and part flannel enthusiast, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a man that enjoys the aesthetic of “lumberjack fashion” – flannel shirts, blue jeans, leather boots, and beards – but living in an urban environment, wearing close fitting clothes, being covered in tattoos, and spending a lot of time maintaining their hair and beards with grooming product. The Lumbersexual also enjoys a DIY attitude/aesthetic, brewing his own beer, making soap, carving wood. Doing anything that is considered “crafty”.

Subcultures change through time, the same way that the larger culture does. Rules and norms change and adapt to the environment and preferences change based on in-culture and outside influences.

As aspects of a subculture become more prevalent or adopted by the popular or mainstream culture, media attention to the subculture subsides (it’s only entertaining if everyone is poking fun at something, once it’s you doing some of the same things, it’s your personality, or identity). When the outlier becomes the culture, what is left to “hate”?

Just as metrosexuals and hipsters were the target of mainstream ire, Lumbersexuals have filled in that space. What is interesting is that men gravitating toward a ‘manlier’ aesthetic is seen as negative. Every man wearing a flannel shirt can expect to be asked where his axe is, or how many trees he’s actually cut down. Is the outdoorsy, do-it-yourself, masculine aesthetic a reaction to urban life? Is it urban men being drawn to the masculine identity of the lumberjack-as-quintessential-American-male?

It’s hard to say.

What we do know is that Lumbersexuals are already old news. A lot of male actors are wearing flannel, jeans, and boots. It’s only a matter of time before everyone is Lumbersexual, and therefore no one is Lumbersexual. Then Lumbersexual will be pop culture. Then it will no longer be cool. Then, we’ll move onto hating the next thing until we like it, too.

Works Cited:
2009 McCracken, Grant. Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation. New York: Basic Books

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