(I’m writing something every day for #100days. This is post 69/100.)
There was a great series of Carhartt ads running during the NBA Finals this year.
They were targeted directly at “The Working Class”.
And meant to discredit, as blatantly as possible, dudes like me.
I haven’t been to Soulcycle yet, but I did get a legitimate invite recently to ‘Speedo Soulcycle’. Details below:
According to Carhartt, real men don’t go to the lake.
As it so happens, I just spent a wonderful 4th of July weekend up at Lake Tahoe.
Tennis is also frowned upon, apparently.
Which is an issue, since I’m a big tennis fan, a former member of SF Bay Club Tennis, and author of the popular post — Seven Simple Ways To Be A Much Better Tennis Player.
Real men aren’t into ‘recreation’ apparently either. But this past weekend at Sea Ranch was actually super relaxing.
I can’t explain why I love this Carhartt campaign so much, given how deep in the anti-market I am.
There’s a classic description, often used in Australian conservative press, describing their enemy as ‘inner-city latte sippers’.
Once again, they could not be describing me more perfectly. I love coffee, coffee shops and the inner city.
I remember going to boxing training with famed Aussie hardman Mark ‘Chopper’ Burgess. He’s pictured shirtless here in Iraq, where he was instructing the post-Sadam interim Iraqi Police Force on the use of force.
I remember Chopper taping my hands before my first session and looking up at me sneeringly:
— “Looks like the only things these hands have ever punched is a fucken keyboard”.
And he was spot on!
But despite, and maybe because of, the repeated desecration of my masculinity, I loved training with Chopper. I still keep my keys on a ‘Chopper’-branded keyring.
The point is, I represent the hybrid of an inner-city, latte-sipping, soft-handed, keyboard-punching, peace-lake-tennis-and-recreation-loving man that has somehow come to embody all that is wrong with manhood.
The Marlboro Man, toiling on the land, doing a hard day’s work for a fair day’s pay, distributing his own kind of rough justice to all around him, stoic and unmoved by the seasons… that Man would barely recognise my kind.
The things that Carhartt and Marlboro men embody don’t necessarily serve us well in the modern world.
Recent history has shown the staggering leverage and scale that technology allows dedicated, intelligent people to create in a very short space of time.
Carhartt Man is missing a trick not diving into the detail of an optimised Product Management process.
The jobs the Marlboro man did aren’t generally well paid any more. They don’t offer great lifestyle, great choice for families, or any great cultural richness. If you actually had to go do the Marlboro Man’s job, it’d be cool in a nostalgic way for about half an hour, and then you’d just spend the rest of the day wishing it was over.
And Mr. Marlboro, if he really thought about it, would probably love the complex palette of a Hario pourover made with a freshly ground Ethiopian Single Origin.
For all their strengths, the MarlBROS missed one major skill.
The greatest male challenge for my generation, is to handle our emotions in a non-implosive way.
Our Dads’ Dads were in wars. So our Dads had to deal with real, 1000ft stares at the dinner table.
Some of them managed to overcome that emotional distance and restriction. Many more did not.
But we’re the generation of praise and openness and prosperity. We get a clean slate, a fresh start at being real men.
Real men with real emotions that have real consequences for ourselves and the people around us.
We get to love our partners with clarity and affection.
We get to learn how to talk through the difficult things, the dark secrets, the deepest fears, the unsettling insecurities.
We get to be loving fathers to our children.
We get to talk to each other about the parts of our lives that are difficult. The doubts we have, the pain we endure, the pasts we must unravel.
We get to share weakness. We get to learn how to stay in the hardest conversations long enough to resolve them. We get to be stoic and strong and open and honest and humble and fragile, all at the same time.
We get to cry. And not just at funerals.
And the part that’s brave, the part that’s manly, the part that requires power, is the will to face up to what is real.
Because that’s hard. Real is hard.
Having your Dad die is real.
Falling in love and helping the person you love be the best version of themselves. That’s real.
Providing for your family, sticking up for what you believe in, sacrificing for the people you love.
Doing what you want to in the face of adversity. Holding strong, so the people leaning against you don’t fall.
What’s not real is shying away from what you feel and ending up some fractional presence in an empty relationship. Full of regrets, and lies, and deceit and thick tar inside you that clogs up the whole system.
What’s not real is ignoring what you want and ending up some fractional presence in a job you hate, with people that bring you down and a purpose that disintegrates like a sandcastle in a rising tide.
That’s not real.
Real is the intestinal fortitude to speak up, and out. To acknowledge the things inside you and the way they shape the world around you.
To not shy away when things get hard, or complicated, or heavy with sentiment.
Real men used to be fearless to the outside world.
But for our generation it’s about being fearless to what’s inside.
I’ll take a latte.
But I’ll also take the truth, however hard it might be.