Forest Journal: The fine art of distinguishing NH's real men

By Jack Savage
NH Forest Journal
January 03. 2015 3:26PM
Pop culture has now given us the 'lumbersexual,' an ax-toting, woodsified version of the metrosexual. (ISTOCK)

Take one flannel shirt, one Mike Napoli beard circa October 2013, mix in an iPhone 6 and some workboots, then add an overpolished ax and flavor with homebrewed craft beer and you've got the latest lifestyle fashion trend for men: the "Lumbersexual."

You think I'm making this up. But go ahead, Google it. I dare you. Unless you're somewhere in the vicinity of Pyongyang, your friendly neighborhood Interweb will bring you the full monty search results, from GearJunkie and Gawker, Buzzfeed and Jezebel, The Atlantic and Time, and even Cosmo ("Are You Dating a Lumbersexual?").

Buzzfeed plunge-cuts to the heartwood, defining the breed: "Wood. Nature. Beard. Leather, denim, plaid and flannel. These are the cornerstones of lumbersexual men."

And apparently not just any denim. Selvedge denim, woven using old-fashioned techniques on antique looms.

Think Brawny paper towels and Paul Bunyan.

Cosmo tells us more: "In the early 2000s everyone was buzzing about metrosexual guys. You know, the guy who didn't have to borrow your eye cream because he owned a whole medicine cabinet full of his own. Well, that guy has now slapped on a flannel and is probably chopping down a tree in a forest while smelling like 1950s pine trees and he's being called a Lumbersexual."

I'll have to ask someone slightly older than me what 1950s pine trees smelled like, and exactly how their scent differed from today's pine. Better-perfumed, I presume? Alas, the spicy aroma of Cold-War pine is apparently another casualty of climate change. Maybe if we call it "Selvedge Pine" and hand-fell it with a two-man cross-cut, we could sell it for a couple thousand bucks a board foot.

What started this trend? Did Oprah appear in public in plaid? Was it Scott Brown tweeting pictures of his pickup truck? Did Tom Brady buy a tree farm? Has Bieber gone Carhartt?

GearJunkie's Tom Puzak attempts to explain: "Whether the roots of the lumbersexual are a cultural shift toward environmentalism, rebellion against the grind of 9-5 office jobs, or simply recognition that outdoor gear is just more comfortable, functional and durable, the Lumbersexual is on the rise."

Used to be that all you had to do to signal your rugged, rural mansomeness was to drive a truck and know what 4WD means. And it didn't even have to be a pickup - an SUV would do the trick, for what's not manly about "Sport," "Utility" and "Vehicle"? But then soccer moms exchanged minivans for Ford Expeditions and SUVs became "sport-utes." By the time Porsche and BMW started making their SUVs, it was all over. More is demanded of the manly men of 2015.

As it turns out, the Lumbersexual's "1950s pine" is apparently masking the not-so-subtle scent of a poser. As Tracy Moore writes on Jezebel, "... it's a nice look, but somewhat misleading - reading these (descriptions) feels like meeting a retro sexy librarian type who isn't actually into books. With the Lumbersexual, the very things that might draw you to such a manly dressed man are likely to disappoint when you discover he won't be building a campfire, crafting some bookshelves, or investigating that weird noise outside the tent."

Here in New Hampshire, where we all but invented the woodsy, can-do look of a handy, hale and hearty fella, the emergence of the lumbersexual man presents a problem. How do we tell them apart? Well, I asked this question of some observant, discerning women and came up with the following 12 tips on how distinguish a real New Hampshire man from the carefully crafted catalog version:

1. The Lumbersexual lets his beard grow and cultivates the style in order to attract good-looking women. The real New Hampshire man grows his beard and chooses his clothing in order to ward off women who only look good.

2. If you find yourself faced with a bearded, flannel-clad man, ask him how many belts he owns. The Lumbersexual will think for a moment, then answer with a number, like five. The real New Hampshire man won't understand the question.3. Bearded man in denim rides a bicycle to the coffee shop? Likely Lumbersexual. Drives a pickup to the dump? Probably a real New Hampshire man - that's where he got his one belt.

4. If you are the daring type and can get close, take a good sniff. As we learned, the Lumbersexual smells like vintage pine. The real New Hampshire man has about him the aroma of combusted two-stroke with undertones of off-road diesel. If you like that smell, you are probably a woman from Maine.

5. If you see a bearded man in plaid using a flip-phone, that is not a Lumbersexual. That is his dad.

6. Both take pride in their woodpiles. Lumbersexual men stack their wood neatly by the cord, away from the house so that it won't attract termites and wood ants. Real New Hampshire men stack wood on the porch so their real New Hampshire women don't have far to go when they fetch it. Chivalry is not dead.

7. Beard oil? Lumbersexual. Bar oil? Real New Hampshire man.8. Real New Hampshire men know that cutting your own firewood warms you three times. Lumbersexuals know that to get Windows to work, you have to reboot three times. If your bearded, plaid and denim man laughs at this joke? Lumbersexual.

9. The lumbersexual man enjoys splitting wood, wielding the refurbished ax he bought at an estate sale. A real New Hampshire man has a love-hate relationship with the chore and curses the balky hydraulic splitter he borrowed from his neighbor. One of them keeps the woodstove warm all winter.10. The lumbersexual man might spend a weekend lining the closet with hand-planed tongue-and-groove cedar to keep the moths out of his flannel shirts. The real New Hampshire man? He really doesn't need a closet.

11. Look carefully at the flannel. Is it creased? If so, that's neither fish nor fowl - what you've got there is a Connecticut lawyer who retired to New Hampshire and has decided to run for selectman.

12. Real New Hampshire men are members of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests who volunteer as land stewards. Lumbersexual men just wear the hat.


Jack Savage is the executive editor of Forest Notes: New Hampshire's Conservation Magazine published by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. He can be reached at, or follow him on Twitter @JackatSPNHF.

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