The sex was good. “A little bit rough, in the best way,” says Emily*, a slender, 26-year-old blonde who bedded a scruffy, muscular Alaskan named Matt while he was vacationing in New York not long ago. After too many dates with wishy-washy Brooklynites, she found Matt’s assertiveness and hardy, Man vs. Wild looks (less Christian Grey and more Brawny Paper Towel Guy) a turn-on. And that was before she found out Matt actually worked for a logging company. “Clean-shaven is not my thing,” she explains. “Give me broad shoulders, give me a beard. I want a man who can make things.”
She’s in luck. The lumbersexual (like his quirkier cousin, the beardo) first appeared in hipster enclaves like Bushwick, Portland, and Austin several years back. Before long his calloused, manly fingerprints were all over the popular imagination, and fashion-forward men everywhere were donning $375 flannel shirts and raw, meticulously pre battered denim in his image.
Now dating sites are hopping on the trend: LumberMatch and Bristlr pair the burly and the hirsute with the women who love them. Not familiar with the type? As writer Tom Puzak put it when he coined the term last fall, the lumbersexual seems “like a man of the woods…his backpack carries a MacBook Air but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s ax.” In urban centers, he is likely a startup bro who’s simply abandoned his razor. And he is giving the metrosexual a run for his money.
Not since the days of westward expansion have women so eagerly fetishized the thick musculature and red-blooded mind-set of the rugged outdoorsman. Take the popular blog Your LL Bean Boyfriend, which displays photos of strapping models in nubby, shawl-collared knitwear with the tagline “He will build you a table and then have sex with you on it.” Or the bewhiskered indie rocker Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who kicked off his solo career in an isolated cabin in the wilderness.
Actress Megan Mullally found her lumbersexual mate-for-life in actor and boatbuilder Nick Offerman, of Parks and Recreation fame. Before she met Offerman, Mullally says, “I had dated these androgynous, semigayish rock ’n’ roll drummer types.” The first summer, Mullally visited Offerman in Minnesota: “Nick had this idea to take a romantic ride onto the lake at midnight on this pontoon. He left the headlight on as we were sort of drifting, and when he went to start the motor, it was dead. So he rowed us to shore with one paddle. It took four hours. And that was my first taste of the superhero within.”
Michael Kimmel, Ph.D., a leading masculinity scholar, says that by choosing to dress like woodsmen and seafarers, lumbersexuals are “evoking workplaces that were all-male [and] required a tremendous amount of physical strength.” He calls the trend “the sartorial equivalent of Fight Club.” Lumbersexuality serves as a welcome release from the oppressive cubicle-dwelling lifestyle - even if the bulk of time a lumbersexual spends in the great outdoors is devoted to drinking craft beers on a bar patio.
Now the fantasy has crept into the mainstream: See Julian Edelman’s beard, by far one of the most viral takeaways from the Super Bowl - second, perhaps, to the most swooned-over farmer ever to lose a puppy. Meanwhile, reality series that explore gritty work environments - Deadliest Catch, Black Gold, Ice Road Truckers, Alaskan Bush People - have become highly rated TV staples.
Hollywood, too, has been falling at the steel-toed work boots of the lumbersexual. Take Matthew McConaughey, who has been sporting an unkempt beard that might read as “hermit in the woods”…were it not for the stunning wife at his side. Chris Pratt may have toned up for Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s his affable scruffiness that grabbed the attention of millions of women in the first place. Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy may boast a serious man bun, but he’s still the platonic ideal of a rustic bad boy. And Game of Thrones is a veritable cavalcade of raspy-voiced virility.
So what does this mean for men who make their livings well beyond the confines of Greenpoint or Silver Lake, who know their way around a crankshaft and can split a piece of timber, who hunt and fish and may never once have thought of a pipe wrench as a fashion accessory?
It’s time to take full advantage of your look.
Because these other guys with the checked wool A.P.C. shirts? They’ve been biting your style and reaping the romantic rewards for far too long. Women don’t only want a pale facsimile of a vigorous manly man: They want the genuine article.
Julieanne*, 29, a sexy Southerner, just calls them “country dudes.” Based on her personal investigations, she finds the type is generally well endowed and skilled in bed. “They have been almost uniformly super-psyched to get me naked, in a vocal but not aggressive
way,” she enthuses, “and very interested in making sure I’m having a good time.” She fondly recalls “repeatedly fucking an avid duck hunter in the back of a pickup truck in a rural Georgia forest.”
Turns out that hard work - the kind that doesn’t require a mouse pad - might actually pay off after all.
*Names have been changed
Photos by Ryan J. Lane / Getty Images